Catch up with singer-songwriter Chris Bowen and listen to his latest single "Picture" off his upcoming debut album, Kings and Queens, to be released in 2017.
What got you interested in music?
Chris: It definitely started from early on, when I was just a little guy. My mom would always have the music going on and the radio playing while she was home and she would always sing to me and it was always a part of my life. Of course the radio was always playing to fill the air; my dad was in the service so it was a rarity that he was home. Music was always in the house.
Which musicians were you influenced by?
Back then it was just the classic rock that was on at the time and then, as I grew up and I was listening to more on my own and starting to find artists that I could relate to, those musicians that really stood out for me were, generally, the originators, which isn't a surprise; a lot of artists and a lot of people who love music tend to gravitate towards the originators of those genres that tend to last. For rock, it was Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, for me. When I started playing the guitar, my cousin had also been playing for a short while and he was like, "hey, you should listen to some of this Van Halen stuff that I've been playing," [laughs]. I was just starting to get into the real guitar rock stuff then and he played some Van Halen - he played "Eruption" for me - and I was like, "wow". And at the time, I was more interested in Alice In Chains and, when I heard Eddie Van Halen, that pretty much sealed the deal for me.
Is there anyone that you're hooked on right now?
You know, it's going to sound odd, and I still think it was such a terrible and tragic waste of talent, but Scott Weiland and his solo efforts, I just dove into when he started doing his own thing. I loved the eclectic mix that he had in his writing from this totally 60s vibe and he blended that with today's music and then there were elements of his grunge days still sprinkled throughout his songwriting; his Happy In Galoshes album, when he put that out, I was sold after listening to 30 seconds of a couple of the tracks. And then his Wildabouts, his last one, I just loved it. So I still play that all the time on my iPhone. I love it.
How would you describe your own sound?
It's always difficult to express this, actually [laughs], trying to talk it up and sell yourself. I think it's a mix of the influences that I had when I was little and what my mom had always played - that was the classic 60s vibe and some 70s vibe in there, and I try to bring that out in some of my guitar playing, instrumentally, throughout the songs and in the music that I write. But then, there's also more of a modern feel to the vocals and I try to keep up with what folks are doing, but I don't want to replicate anything, I try to stay creative and original with what I do. I think it's a mix between what influenced me the most - which was the grunge music - and a modern flair in the vocals - which I've been told has been reminiscent of a Jason Mraz/Gavin DeGraw type of vocal - and then, like I said, that classic 60s vibe with some of the instrumentation that's in the background that pops out if you really listen to it.
What were your inspirations behind your single "Picture"?
I just tried to think of something that has had an impact on my life, that from just listening to my friends and knowing people it impacts their life as well, and that's basically going through the trials and tribulations of a bad relationship. I'm sure everybody's had one, hopefully not a lot of them, but we all go through it from time to time. The inspiration for it was just something that I had experienced and it was waking up one day and realizing, "hey, I'm kind of better than what I'm going through, I don't feel that I should stay and continue on the receiving end of all of this negativity that I'm experiencing in my relationship". Standing up for yourself and moving on and having the courage and the confidence to say, "I can do this on my own and I can break free of this". The song takes you through that from the beginning where you hear the singer, which is me, you hear me talk about, I know what's going on, you can't fool me, you haven't treated me great and, look, I'm aware, I'm awake now to the way I've been treated. By the end of the song, the message is, it's time to take that picture off the wall, it's time to move on because it's not worth it to me anymore.
Could you tell us more about Kings and Queens and if that single is indicative of the sound that we will hear?
I think, yeah, you said it right there. The theme is more of that moving on and having the confidence and the courage to continue with whatever it is that you desire, your dream, and having the backbone to really pull yourself up by the bootstraps and continue forward. I try to keep that theme going, especially with the sound; you're going to hear a lot of the same mix of that 60s vibe in it with more of a modern flair to the vocals and I try to keep everything very uplifting and upbeat, but still giving that message of moving forward with your life; no matter the struggle, just use that struggle to propel yourself to the next phase because there's definitely enough struggle to go around, going through life, and I think people can learn from that, they shouldn't shy away from it. Kings and Queens is the title of the album but the title track is more of that, 'we're struggling but as long as we have each other and as long as we can do this together, we'll be fine, because we love each other and love will take you through it'. I try to keep that consistent through the album.
Is there one song off the album you're most excited to share?
There is one and it's a slower one. I quickly fell in love with it when I began writing the introductory riff and it's about letting go. That's all I really want to say about it, but it's about letting go and saying, again with that theme, it's okay to let go; it's okay to let go, it's okay to take a breath, what I've been doing isn't working so I'm going to change it up. The vibe that it comes across as is more of a 90s feel, but I try to keep the guitar very clean and, I don't know, I really love the way it just comes across. It's a very clean sound and it hit me. As you write, some things just stick out, and this one definitely jumped out and grabbed me as soon as I started laying down the first few riffs. I'm excited about that.
In one sentence, how would you sum up Kings and Queens?
It's a reflection of the experience I had making the album, but also an experience that people will be able to relate to throughout.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
Definitely a positive message. I want people to be able to relate to it, I want people to be able to smile when they walk away from listening to it and then come back and be able to find things that they may have missed from time to time when they listen to the music again. I'm very much into helping people as much as I can and music might not be able to be a huge source of physical help - I always go back to medical help with folks, I always want to help them financially or whatever - but at least help them find some emotional solace from time to time. It's an escape and that's how I see music, it's an escape from the every day crap that a lot of folks have to go through and it's a real escape; it's not like something where you turn on the TV and it's some reality show that's not real anyway - it's fake reality - that's something different. But, when you listen to music, you can dive in and you can let it take you away, and that's what I hope that, when the audience listens to this, they can do that and they can relate to it, maybe they listen to some of the words and it makes them remember a better time or think of someone that they love and puts a smile on their face. I would hope to God that they can get something like that out of it and that would make it all worth it for me.
Is there anything you want to add?
I'm really excited about the rest of the album coming out in, hopefully, the early Spring/late Winter season. We're working on it and it's always a process. It was really exciting for the single, I wasn't expecting any of the stuff that came along with it, like I was put on the Grammy ballot and that came out of nowhere for those three categories. It's already exceeded my expectations, so it's been an exciting process and I just can't wait for the rest of the album to get out to folks so they can hopefully like it and listen.