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Building A Career With A Publishing Deal
Will Bowen
I think I may still be in the stone age of music listening. I don't download music online and don't own an iPod. It's all CDs for me, even vinyl sometimes. I think this is the best way to listen to music, though it seems as if the "album" idea has been lost; it's all about the single these days. - Will Bowen
by Matt Mrowicki
 [Chorus and Verse] Will Bowen
Will Bowen
Will Bowen (© Mort Tucker Photography)

Northeast Ohio native Will Bowen started out his career has most young artists do; getting his first guitar, learning to play, experimenting with song lyrics and composition. And while many high schoolers play around the basement with friends to pass the time, Bowen worked to develop his style and set out to make his career in music.

In 2002, he released his independent debut album, Between The Lines, which began to really get things rolling. Less then 12 months later, he released his second album, This Lonely Mile. In between, he began getting the attention of both fans and industry types, both for his songwriting and for his live performance. Slots on top 10 lists and spots on compilation albums accompanied appearances opening up for Virginia Coalition and Art Alexis of Everclear. Bowen showcased at the Nashville New Music Conference this past June, and is a regular performer at the Grog Shop in Cleveland, where the CD release party for The Lonely Mile was held in October 2003.

Bowen's first big break, though, comes with the signing of a publishing deal he just inked with Pure Tone Records. What does it mean to have a publishing deal, you ask? Well, so did we in our recent interview with the talented singer/songwriter.

The big news with you recently is the publishing deal that you signed with Pure Tone Music. For readers who might not know what that means, can you explain the advantages for a songwriter to have a publishing deal, and what Pure Tone will be doing for you?

While signing a publishing deal was never anything I had imagined doing, it sort of fell in my lap and was a wonderful opportunity that I could not pass up. It basically means that I will be co-writing with other songwriters and artists for projects and artists other then myself. It is such a great opportunity for me as I will have the chance to work with other great writers and artists, meet countless industry people, improve my songwriting for my solo career, not too mention have the chance to make some money along the way.

Let's talk about your songwriting. When did you first pick up the guitar, and how long afterwards did you want to compose your own material? Do you consider yourself a natural songwriter?

I think I was about 12 years old when I picked up a guitar, so about 7 years ago. The key for me and my songwriting is that the guitar was solely a tool to write songs with, therefore I began learning how to write as I learned how to play guitar. I’m still not sure which came first. I honestly don’t think anyone is a truly natural songwriter. You need to write hundreds of songs and listen to thousands of songs before you should ever be content with a new piece. It’s the lack of development in artists these days that frustrates me more then anything. Lots of people have natural talent but not enough of them develop it properly.

Do you remember the first time you performed an original song in front of a crowd? Did you have to overcome stage fright or pre-performance jitters when you started out, and are you generally comfortable when playing on stage at this point?

The first time I ever performed an original song was in 8th grade in front of my school and parents. I was terrified to be honest with you. I’ve been performing my whole life but when it’s your own material it’s a whole new ballgame. Once I began playing regularly I quickly became comfortable and now rarely feel those butterflies. It’s more of an anxious excitement now; it’s what I live for.

Will Bowen
Will Bowen

Where was This Lonely Mile recorded; how long did the sessions take? Do you like the production process and spend a lot of time tweaking mixes and tracks, or do you like a more rushed, spontaneous feel?

This Lonely Mile was recorded in Cleveland at CloserLook Studios by Tyler Owen. While it’s not my dream album, it was a big step from my debut the year before. I locked out the studio for a month. We tracked for two weeks, and then I brought in Mark Owen from New York to mix it. I honestly am not a fan of the recording process, I’d rather be performing. However, I now know what it takes to make a good record and Mark is a perfectionist in the studio so we took our time and made the best of what we had. I’m just excited for the next one.

Talk about some of the musicians who recorded The Lonely Mile with you. Are they the same musicians who work with you live when you play with a full band, and how did you come to work with them?

My band is awesome. They all recorded on my debut the year before and have stayed with me since then. They all add such different elements to my music, not too mention they’re great players and great guys. Curtis Leonard is arguably one of the most talented guitarists in the country and you don’t just have to take my word for it. He’s toured with blues legend Buddy Miles and can play any style you ask him too. Tom Prebish is the area's top bluegrass bassist and plays with countless bands. Finally, Joe Rohan is one of the area’s top drummers who has played in funk bands, and rock bands as well as being a talented singer/songwriter in his own right.

You've performed a couple of shows recently at the Grog Shop in Cleveland. Where are some of your other favorite local venues to perform, and do you have any plans to do extended tours in other parts of the country?

I love playing the Odeon Concert Club in Cleveland where I have played with Art Alexakis of Everclear, Rusted Root, Virginia Coalition and a few more. I’m also excited for the opening of the new House of Blues concert club in Cleveland, which should be a great place to play. While I am tied down for the next few months writing out of town, I look forward to start playing the college circuit and traveling all over the country.

Several of your live shows have been taped and posted on the Internet. How had the concept of tape trading changed with the advent of the Internet and iPods, and what do you think about so many major artists embracing the release of some or even all of their live shows for fans?

I am excited about other artists embracing the release of their live shows. It can only expand a group’s fan base and in my opinion is a great way of showing who the truly great bands out there are. I hope that my live shows get out there and do the same.

Are you personally a big digital music person? Do you still prefer CDs, or have you gotten into the online music sites? What are your favorite ways to discover new music and artists?

I think I may still be in the stone age of music listening. I don’t download music online and don’t own an iPod. It’s all CDs for me, even vinyl sometimes. I think this is the best way to listen to music, though it seems as if the “album” idea has been lost; it’s all about the single these days. My definition of a great album is where the last three songs or so are my favorite and you’d be surprised how much it happens. I still discover new music on the internet though; I guess I’m sort of with it.

Do you have a long-range plan towards the development of your musical career, or are you very day-to-day about things? Do you have any back-up career goals, or have you decided to sink or swim as a professional musician?

My only long-range plan for my music career is to be able to play music for the rest of my life. While I don’t know what capacity this could be in, I know music will always be a part of my life. I’d love to be a successful artist and sell millions of albums and play stadiums of course, but sometimes you have to think more realistically and take what you can get. The advent of being a professional songwriter is certainly an example of this. I’ll keep working hard and passionately and see where it takes me. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason.

What's next for you in terms of recordings or other projects? Do you have any idea when there might be a follow-up to This Lonely Mile?

I’m going to take it easy now for a while and focus on writing good songs for myself and other artists. After I am confident enough in what I have accomplished. I’ll start work on a new project that I know I’ll be proud of and that hopefully a lot of people will enjoy. I might start recording next month or next year; there are too many things that go into it to make a decision now. The most important thing is that [I’ll] start when I’m ready.

[ Website: www.willbowen.com ]

Matt Mrowicki
Matt Mrowicki [publisher@chorusandverse.com], is an Internet entrepreneur and owner of Chorus and Verse. In 2002, he founded Impression Technologies LLC (www.imprtech.com) a digital design company offering website development, graphic design, online marketing, social media and technology consulting. He has been interviewed on topics ranging from how bands can best use their websites for promoting their music to current trends in social media. He has successfully launched over 100 websites and branding projects for clients and continues to develop new online opportunities and promote effective uses of technology and online media.
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