With the release of his debut album “Love Via Music” and on the verge of a nation-wide radio release, I sat down with singer/songwriter Dave Owens to see exactly how he his bringing back “family” to his music and his fans.
For our readers, and myself included, give us the back-story on how you initially got into music. Was it at an early age?
I’ve always had music in my heart from the day I was born…it’s who and what I am. Everything around me has music in it!
When you started your career as a musician, did you have an influence or a personal role model that inspired you to be creative musically?
I’ve had many influences over the years but none as important as my grandfather. He was not only a great musician himself, but he was always encouraging me to pursue the music. We shared that love and I’m forever grateful for the time I had with him. Someday we’ll play again together…and I still get that “I can’t wait to show Papaw this” in my heart when I write something new.
My grandfather got me started with basic traditional hymns, blues shuffles, folk (“Let’s go ridin’ in a wheel barrel honey, taxi fair costs too much money…”), etc…the foundations of American music. Outside of those initial few years of playing at the dining room table, I’m mostly self-taught. I’ve tried to take a few lessons over the years but I was taught to learn through doing (watching, hearing) rather than formal study.
What about vocal training?
We have family in Kentucky and as a kid we’d drive up there quite often. My dad’s a huge Elvis Presley fan and we’d listen to his albums on the trips. I’d be trying to mimic my dad’s huge voice and he’d be trying to mimic Elvis! I have to believe that doing that gave me the endurance I have now as an adult. I also sang in various choirs over the years, but nothing formal. Again, it’s all about listening and finding my own voice, which in turn has helped me develop what’s expressed.
Do you remember your first experience performing an original song on stage in front of an audience?
I’m pretty sure my first “official” performance of an original in front of more than 25-30 people was at my high school senior year. I was asked to perform one after the ensemble’s final show. I’d performed for friends, family, and at a few social events prior to that though.
Instrumentally I know that you’re a very skilled guitarist…do you play any other instruments?
I’m always picking up other instruments! I’m currently messing with the piano more. I’ve always loved the sound of the piano and have tinkered with it since I was 10 or so. I initially got started on drums around 6-7 so rhythmic instruments are always getting my attention when I’m out. Banjo, mandolin, bass, would love to get a violin someday.
If you could perform alongside any artist or musician on any stage…who and where?
Right now it’d have to be Neil Young at Farm Aid – I’m a huge advocate of self-sustainability worldwide and would love to share the stage with such an incredible songwriter while supporting our local farmers.
You were born and raised in Knoxville, TN correct? Where are you living now?
I was born in Middlesboro, KY but we moved down to Knoxville when I was very young. My memories start with Knoxville so that’s where I’m “from.” We’re currently out in Wichita, KS…the people here are kind, laid back folks very much like out east.
What where the reasons for the move?
Love will make you do crazy things! My wife is from here and with all of the traveling we do with the music it made sense to use this as a center point for that. Having a loving family and beautiful spacious skies isn’t so bad either. I love the Midwest for many reasons, looking out over the world in such a free and open space can be quite inspiring…
It seems as though you’ve made some interesting contacts in the Knoxville music scene. Tell us about your relationships with Knoxville radio stations WFIV and WDVX?
I’m blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life who support what I’m doing. WDVX, WUTK, WJRV, and WFIV have been so good to me. I believe that musicians and radio have a mutual relationship of survival that can’t exist without one another. I still believe in the spirit of radio and am so glad they believe in me as well!
Congratulations on the release of your debut album “Love Via Music”, it must be an amazing feeling to finally release all of the songs to your fans that have been patiently waiting!
Yes, it was a huge sigh of relief to finally get those songs recorded properly! I’ve released a few acoustic EPs over the years but hearing ‘The Sneaky Song’ with trumpets blaring was enthralling!
Tell us about your song writing process on this record. How did you go about writing and choosing the songs that made the final cut?
All of the songs on this album outside of ‘Carry Me Home (Tennessee)’ were written several years ago – some, like ‘First Time You Smiled’ came to me in my early teens. I don’t have a process for writing…that door opens and it starts flowing. I never force myself into it. I’m not one of those people who wake up and say, “I’m going to write a song today!”
Choosing the material was pretty simple once I decided to get those songs out of my system. My initial idea was to introduce all new music but after discussing it with my longtime supporters, I knew I needed to get those out there so they’d stop tugging at my heart. The music is always evolving though…and I have notebooks and home recordings full of material with more being added nearly every day. My wife gave me a beautiful journal last year with “From the heart of Dave Owens” inscribed in it and I always feel obligated to fill it with words when I pick it up.
I noticed on your website that you took the time to personally address your fans in a blog post about the first track on “Love Via Music” called ‘Song in B’. There’s a real love/friendship/family that you have with your fans. How have your fans been interacting with the release of the new album?
Without them, I can’t do this. My supporters are the lifeblood of the music. What I love about them is that they’re always challenging me as an artist. I sent the album out prior to it’s release to several hundred of them who have been with me over the years and one of the first responses was “When is the next album coming?!” Soon…
What’s the story behind ‘Song in B’ and the writing process in particular?
‘Song in B’ is one of those songs that came to me all at once. I’ve embellished the lyrics here and there over the years but for the most part, it’s the same song that I wrote while stationed in Korea (US Air Force) back in ’02. I was walking around downtown by myself in the rain daydreaming about the woman who is now my wife, just wondering if she was looking at the same stars and moon I was. The melody and words were all “written” in my heart before I ever picked up a pen and paper.
What is the first single off of the new record?
I don’t believe in “singles” but the first song to hit radio in TN was ‘Carry Me Home (Tennessee)’ although some stations added ‘The Sneaky Song’, ‘Black Heart’, ‘Song in B’, ‘Tiny Hands’, and ‘When You’re Lonely’ to their rotation almost immediately.
What was the process behind choosing this song?
‘Carry Me Home (Tennessee)’ is my sort of love song for Tennessee. It’s quite different than the other songs on the album but I wanted to let TN know that despite the country going through some hard times, we’re all in this together.
Tell us about the background and recording process of your debut album “Love Via Music”. Did you record the whole album in Knoxville?
First, I have to acknowledge that this was a fully listener supported album. Nearly every penny used in the production of this album came from my supporters and I can’t thank them enough for that! One of the biggest challenges of being an independent musician is securing the funding to record, tour, etc. I was caught up with record labels there for a few years and it was incredibly freeing to be able to make this happen with my music family.
“Love via Music” was recorded at Brick House Studios in Wichita, KS in 7 days with a few additional days for mixing and mastering. I was fortunate that it all quite literally fell into place! My drummer, Ed Macy, used to perform with Martina McBride and is a local legend. Nathan Williams (trumpets) just happened to be in town from Poland and nailed ‘The Sneaky Song’…we stayed focused and moved forward every day with it.
Who was your producer and how much interaction was there between you and him?
This album was self-produced with the occasional suggestions from Craig Bebe (owner of Brick House Studios and sound engineer) and my wife. I tend to expand the music as I get deeper into it – most likely because I’m so used to the freedom of performing live. They kept me focused!
My good friend and Program Director for 106.1 The River, Bruce Patrick, had this to say about you and the new record:
“Dave Owens’ “Love via Music” release is just that…LOVE via MUSIC. You can feel his whimsical passion with every lyric, every string stroke and pluck, and every drum tap. Dave delivers a vocal warmth and passion that makes his music a great fit for my station.” – Bruce Patrick
How have you dealt with so much critical acclaim from your peers and the higher-ups with the release of “Love Via Music”?
Bruce was very kind with his words! It is extremely humbling and motivating. I’m very proud of “Love via Music” and am glad that the critics are being so warm with it.
Will you be following the release of “Love Via Music” with a tour of some sort? I hear there may be some possible dates in Europe?
Touring in the traditional sense of record an album, tour it, make some cash, make another album, tour it, etc isn’t my lifestyle as a musician. I’m always on tour and live for the next opportunity to perform live. I’ve been blessed in that this album has expanded my reach as a performing artist. We are working out the details of a trip to the UK again later this year…more to come on that!
Any other recordings or EP’s that we should know about from you?
I will be releasing my original EP officially sometime soon. There is another album out there called “Influenced” that I didn’t authorize and haven’t seen a penny from…so steer clear of that one! If you’d like to hear it, contact me and I’ll see what I can do.
How did you hook up with Tinderbox Music and how are you guys working together to release the singles from the record to radio?
I met Jon Delange at Tinderbox Music a few years back while working with my initial record label. We’ve developed a relationship over the years and see eye to eye on how to approach radio and marketing. Tinderbox doesn’t deal in “singles,” they promote albums. “Love via Music” is currently at over 300 stations and we’re adding more as it expands further.
I believe that every artist has a favorite original song to either sing or just play. What is your song that explains you?
This answer changes from time to time, mood to mood, city to city…so currently I’d have to lean towards ‘Tiny Hands’. The way that song grooves forward is exactly how my life is right now…groovin’ along.
Any big plans on the horizon…what’s next for you as an artist?
Right now we’re focusing on more live dates, licensing for TV/films, and collective ideas are forming for how we’ll approach the next album.
Where can we plan on seeing you perform next?
If you’re out west, I’ll be performing at Grace Hill Winery in Whitewater, KS for a charity event to support the Make a Wish Foundation on July 30th. We’re expecting to raise $15k+ so it’s an exciting event! I am constantly adding new shows to the calendar and hope to get back to TN sometime this fall.
Where can we buy a copy of “Love Via Music?”
Call me old fashioned, but I still love buying physical albums vs. downloading them. You can get a direct, signed copy of Love via Music at www.daveowensmusic.com and it’s also available on iTunes and other various online stores.
Any parting words of enlightenment?
Love one another!
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