Steven Bowers has solidified his reputation as a gifted songwriter, singer and producer.
His latest recording, "Beothuk Words" (2011), was produced by Dale Murray (Cuff The Duke, Christina Martin, The Guthries). Recorded at Murray's studio in Port Howe, NS, "Beothuk Words" features nine compositions and many talented musicians including multi-instrumentalists Kev Corbett and Dale Murray, Keith Mullins (drums, percussion), Fleur Mainville (fiddle), Brian Murray (banjo), Daniel Ledwell (trumpets) and guest vocalist Christina Martin.
Regarding the title [Beothuk Words], Steven says: "I was wrapping up production and trying to finish two final tracks. I stumbled on an article about the Beothuk, who were native inhabitants of Newfoundland during the time of European colonization in the 15th and 16th centuries. They became extinct as a people in 1829, and subsequently much of their language was lost. That really stuck with me. The title of the record speaks to the lyrical themes of impermanence, seasonal cycles and generations. The album closer, "Song for Little You" was written after I found a photograph of my wife as a child. Its sister song and album opener "Song for Grown You", bookend the record, and the lost Beothuk Language, the idea that it came and left so quietly, was something that seemed to tie all of these ideas together."
Steven’s limited edition 2009 EP titled “Circadian Anthem”, highlights five new songs and a fresh take on his song “Comfortably Sweet” featuring Christina Martin on lead vocals. "Comfortably Sweet" has since landed in the season four premiere episode of CBC TV' series "Heartland".
Steven Bowers' third full-length CD, "Homing" received significant airplay at CBC, specialty and folk radio programs across Canada, and generated nominations for Folk Recording, Songwriter and Producer of the Year from 2008 Music Nova Scotia Awards along with an East Coast Music Award nomination for Folk Recording of the Year. Steven was a finalist in the 2008 International Songwriting Competition for his song "Bees In Jars", while his song, “The Boy Who Lost An Eye” delivered a semi-finalist designation in the 2007 ISC and was the subject of a music video made as part of the Atlantic Film Festival's "10x10 program", under the guidance of LA filmmaker Norwood Cheek.
The title track, “Homing”, a duet with singer Meaghan Smith, was inspired by Halifax writer-broadcaster Stephanie Domet's novel of the same name but its roots stretch back several years. "I watched a special on the Discovery Channel about pigeons and sparrows and other birds who fly into buildings and die because they think they are flying into the horizon. It was very sad," Bowers says. "That image stuck with me and seemed almost too easy a metaphor for people who flock to cities from small towns. Also, pigeons move and weave through people's feet on the busiest of streets here in the city. They go unnoticed, just trying to find some food and make a life for themselves. As a songwriter they are perfect fodder for my incessant need to find despair in something and give it a voice."
Steven's 2006 folk-pop release, "Tired Light" delivered nominations for 2007 ECMA Pop Recording Of The Year, 2006 MusicNS Songwriter Of The Year, Pop-Rock Recording Of The Year and won the 2006 Producer Of The Year Award from MusicNS (with co-producers Matt Miller and Keith Mullins).
Several of the songs on "Tired Light " are the result of Bowers’ collaboration with other writers, including popular folk artist Dave Gunning, guitarist Jamie Robinson, and a duet/co-write with songwriting icon, Ron Hynes.
Steven Bowers won the 2004 Producer Of The Year Award (w/co-producer Dave Gunning) for his debut full-length disc "Wanderlust". Several tracks made Top 10 on the East Coast Countdown.
Steven Bowers (Solo) - acoustic guitar, vocals, *piano (*if avail)
Steven Bowers & The Acoustic Theft (Full band) :
Steven Bowers - acoustic/electric guitars, lead vocal, piano
Keith Mullins - drums, percussion, vocals
Kev Corbett - bass guitar, vocals
Fleur Mainville - violin, vocals
*Jason Mingo - electric guitar (if/when avail)
*Additional side players available as required e.g. pedal steel
2011 - Beothuk Words CD
produced by Dale Murray
2011 - "Wood Buffalo Youth Song Project" CD
produced by Steven Bowers
featuring Thom Swift and Keith Mullins
Winner ECMA Children's Recording of the Year
2009 - Circadian Anthem (Limited Edition EP)
(incl. "Comfortably Sweet" featuring
2008 - Homing CD
(incl. "Bees In Jars", finalist in the 2007
International Songwriting Competition and
"The Boy Who lost An Eye", semi-finalist in the
2006 - Tired Light
- "Bees In Jars", 1st single at radio in Atl Can
- 13 wks @ Top 10 on East Coast Countdown
- "Only One" 2nd single at radio in Atl Can.
- hit #4 on East Coast Countdown
- MusicNS Producer of the Year Award
(Steven Bowers, Keith Mullins, Matt Miller)
2003 - Wanderlust
- radio single "Run Aground" named #9 song
of 2004 on East Coast Countdown
- MusicNS "Producer of the Year" Award
(Steven Bowers & Dave Gunning)
2001 - In Theory (EP)
2008 - One Night In January - Songs for the IWK
Volume 2. (produced by Steven Bowers &
2007 - One Night In January - Songs for the IWK
(produced by Steven Bowers)
2006 - Collections Volume I (IWK Telethon CD)
2005 - Best of East Coast Countdown Vol. 1
2005 - ECMA Cape Breton 2005 Sneak Peek
2005 - Atlantic Film Festival Music & Image I
Steven Bowers songs on recordings by other artists:
Kim Dunn/Take This Hammer CD
"Backroads of Heaven" (co-written by Steven Bowers & Kim Dunn)
Dave Gunning/House For Sale CD:
"Fade On The Line" ( co-written by Steven Bowers & Dave Gunning)
"Taking Turns" (co-written by Steven Bowers & Dave Gunning)
Dave Gunning/two bit world CD:
"Parallel Lines" (co-written by Steven Bowers & Dave Gunning)
Song for Grown You
Comfortably Sweet (feat. Christina Martin ) from Circadian Anthem EP
Bees In Jars - from Homing CD
It Breaks You So - from "Homing" CD
Homing - from "Homing" CD
Fade on the Line - from "Tired Light" CD
The Boy Who Lost An Eye - from "Homing" CD
Bowers homing in on songwriting
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Bowers homing in on songwriting New CD showcases friends, family By ANDREA NEMETZ Entertainment ...Bowers homing in on songwriting
New CD showcases friends, family
By ANDREA NEMETZ Entertainment Reporter
It’s been said Halifax has one degree of separation and it’s certainly true for singer-songwriter Stephen Bowers.
His regular back-up band includes Kev Corbett on upright bass, Cathy Porter on accordion, Keith Mullins on drums and Jason Mingo on guitar.
He met his wife Kristan through Mullins, who is married to Kristan’s sister, Jody. “They set us up three years ago," confesses the newlywed Bowers.
The title track of his latest CD Homing was inspired by the novel Homing, written by Halifax’s Stephanie Domet, who is married to Corbett. Mingo’s wife, Meaghan Smith, a rising star on the Halifax music scene, duets with Bowers on Homing.
Corbett and Mullins co-wrote a song on the new album entitled Bury Me By the River.
And Homing, which will have its second CD release party Saturday at Fibbers Pub and Eatery in New Glasgow, features performances by well-known Nova Scotia musicians including J.P. Cormier, Carmen Townsend, Ed Woodsworth, Dave Gunning, Fleur Mainville, Colin Grant, Kim Dunn and Dale Murray as well as his regular band.
Another CD release party will be held in Berwick Aug. 30.
Band members are friends beyond music and writing, says Bowers, who was born in Baie Verte, Nfld., and lived on The Rock till he was 18 when the family moved to New Glasgow.
“We come together to do creative things. It’s a good social relationship," he says with a smile.
Homing is Bowers’s third full-length album. He finished recording it in April and began selling CDs in June. The first official release party Aug. 13 at the Carleton in Halifax, was a sell-out with even his friends turned away at the door, abd it “was a really cool night."
CD releases are kind of like a baby shower for musicians, he says, with musicians and industry players turning out in force as well as friends and family. Gunning, Charlie A’Court and Smith were in the audience last week. Guitar player Bowers played piano in a show for the first time that night.
And, in a “beautiful moment" during the performance of Homing, Domet read from her novel, for which she received the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award in May.
“She asked me if I’d read the book before it was published and make a promotional blurb," says Bowers. “I read the book twice and fell in love with it. But writing a blurb was harder than writing a song. I said to myself if I can’t do it here, I’ll do it on a song.’’
"Homing" CD Review, The Coast
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Homing (indie) Steven Bowers stands as an anecdotal, somewhat downbeat counterpart to David Myles...Homing (indie)
Steven Bowers stands as an anecdotal, somewhat downbeat counterpart to David Myles among Atlantic Canadian singer-songwriters breaking big this year. His detail and character are worthy of a novelist. An observation like “little merchants” selling lemonade “to an angry, angry world” from “The Boy Who Lost an Eye” shows an empathy that lends weight to everything else. The melancholy tone is lifted by the music, notably Bowers’ guitar, Dale Murray on pedal steel, Kim Dunn on keyboards and on “It Breaks You So,” Cathy Porter’s accordion. Homing tells us life is a struggle that’s worth it if you keep your eyes and ears open.
Doug Taylor, The Coast, Sept. 4 2008
Metro News, August 2008
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Steven Bowers is set to release his third album, Homing, this week. He went into the studio to re...Steven Bowers is set to release his third album, Homing, this week.
He went into the studio to record demos, not an album. That plan changed after Steven Bowers heard the quality of the material.
“I liked what we ended up getting,” the musician said. “It ended up becoming a little bigger.”
Bowers is set to release his third CD, Homing, at The Carleton tomorrow night. He co-produced the album with fellow Pictou Co. resident Dave Gunning, who also assisted Bowers on his 2003 release, Wanderlust.
“It was the quality of the material and the people I had brought in,” said Bowers about why he decided to do an album. “I had been doing some opening dates for Dave on the road, and he had an upright bass player from Cape Breton called Ed Woodsworth, and Ed is incredible.
“He was in town and ended up coming by and helping me with the bed tracks for the demos,” he said. “We ended up having six tracks that are on the album. Half the battle was completed, so we decided to finish.”
The final result includes performances by a number of respected artists from across the region, including Meaghan Smith, Carmen Townsend, JP Cormier and Kev Corbett.
Homing also features a song Bowers co-wrote with Ron Hynes. Both men share the same manager, who first suggested they work together while Bowers was putting his previous Tired Light album together in 2006.
“I showed up all spry and eager and Ron strolled in and tossed me a book and said ‘Go to the last page, there are some lyrics there and I want you to write a song about it.”
While that episode gave birth to the song Only One, this collaboration resulted in the creation of Salesman. “When I started dating my wife, I started working on Salesman, and it remained unfinished for a while. I was playing it for Ron and we ended up finishing it in 10 minutes with his tutelage.” Bowers said Hynes is very methodical about the way he approaches a song, and has a lot of insight when it comes to structuring verses and bridges — and how to keep everything simple.
“He gave me the direction to bite the bullet and finish the song. Ninety per cent of the time finishing the song is the problem.”
Homing town - The Coast, August 7, 2008
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"I didn't intend to make this CD so quickly," says Steven Bowers of his brand new disc Homing, recor..."I didn't intend to make this CD so quickly," says Steven Bowers of his brand new disc Homing, recorded over the past year in his friend Dave Gunning's home studio. "I didn't expect to go in and do an album so soon. We went into the studio and did demo versions, but then we got a lot of work done in a week so we figured these could be the CD itself. It's a little different sound, it's a little more acoustic."
The title comes from local author Stephanie Domet's novel, also called Homing, about a woman who can't leave her house and uses homing pigeons to carry messages to a ghost. "There's a song I was working on a few years ago and it was about a pigeon," says Bowers from his Halifax home, where he's catching up on season four of Weeds. "I saw a thing on the Discovery channel about how birds fly into buildings in cities because they think they're flying into the horizon, and I thought it was a good metaphor."
Reading the book connected the dots, and the resulting song, featuring the poignant refrain "Always homing and never home," is one of the record's more intricately structured numbers—a rock beginning transitions into a string climax—and includes a lovely vocal guest spot from the busy Meaghan Smith. (Bowers is mad blessed in the friend department—Smith's husband Jason Mingo, Domet's husband Kev Corbett, Keith Mullins, Kim Dunn, JP Cormier and Cathy Porter all play on the record.)
Bowers, who got married last month, says being in love hasn't changed---or damaged---his songwriting perspective. "I like telling stories with a tune, like you would write a book or soemthing," he says. "With 'Homing,' the first half of that song is from the writer's perspective, and the second is intended to be what the pigeon is thinking." He credits Newfoundland folk singer Ron Hynes as an influence: "He often writes from someone's shoes and it kinda makes the songwriting a bit easier cause you're not stuck in someone's boring life."
Homing will be released on August 13 at The Carleton with Bowers' band, The Acoustic Theft, and guests The Stanfields, who you might remember as Folds of Policy. Domet will be in the house for a reading as well. Show starts at 8pm, $20 gets you in and a record to leave with. Bowers also plays Music Nova Scotia's Tunes at Noon stage on August 8 in Grand Parade.
Steven Bowers - Tired Light by Bob Mersereau
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I’ll continue our series of album profiles of ECMA nominees leading up to the awards in February wit...I’ll continue our series of album profiles of ECMA nominees leading up to the awards in February with this Halifax singer-songwriter. Bowers is nominated for Pop Album of the Year, and this is a solid disc full of strong images and varied styles. From rockin’ raunchy guitar licks to subtle, cello-infused softer tunes, Bowers spins heartfelt songs that dig deep in your feelings.
He builds strong metaphors, focusing on the tiny details in describing long-gone lover’s stories. The youngest heartaches kid collects his friend and love in Bees In Jars. The older boy wants to hang with the Harmony Girls, who sing everything pretty.
What gift to bring to a love? How about a huge prize, he thinks, “out all day long/ Chasing mastodons down.” Best of all is Only One, a great, gritty rocker, written, sung and produced with the estimable Ron Hynes. This gut-wrenching break-up song featuring men singing about feelings that men never sing about plainly is one heck of a writing, singing and playing triumph.
This is one of the best Canadian discs of the year.
Steven Bowers Tired Light CD review by Trevor Savory
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Located somewhere between Jim Cuddy and Brian Byrne, you’ll find Steven Bowers. Having recently rele...Located somewhere between Jim Cuddy and Brian Byrne, you’ll find Steven Bowers. Having recently released his latest studio effort Tired Light, the Halifax singer-songwriter is prepared to demonstrate the diversity of the Maritime scene to Canada. With tracks such as “Nor’easter,” “Mastodons” and “Only One”---a duet with Ron Hynes---Bowers’ folk-rock will seduce audiences nationwide with velvety tones and heartfelt vocals supported by lush instrumentation on every track. Tired Lights will raise Bowers’ profile outside the Maritimes, so if you can, check out his live performances around town before the rest of the country falls in love.
Bowers’ bright light - Halifax-based singer-songwriter hones storytelling craft on third CD
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STEVEN BOWERS has followed the path of many East Coast singer-songwriters, moving from small town li...STEVEN BOWERS has followed the path of many East Coast singer-songwriters, moving from small town life in Churchill Falls in Labrador and New Glasgow to the bright lights of Halifax in pursuit of musical recognition.But as his third CD Tired Light illustrates, he’s not following anyone’s path but his own when it comes to writing tunes about his experiences along the way.
Singing in a relaxed, hushed voice over an atmospheric mix of pop and folk, Bowers chronicles Maritime life with his own spare use of imagery and very few traditional trappings. You can hear for yourself when he launches the disc with shows tonight at Fibber’s in New Glasgow and on Saturday at Halifax’s Seahorse Tavern.
Even so, it’s hard to stay a songwriter in Atlantic Canada without evolving into a storyteller at some point."I think so," Bowers muses over a club soda in the sky lit back of the Economy Shoe Shop. "I like going that route these days. It’s getting easier; I thought that it was a very specific craft, you’re almost like a reporter in a sense, you’re more observant than anything. You’ve got to have a really keen sense about how people are feeling about certain things. "Eventually you have to get into that mode of writing. You can’t keep writing about what’s going on in your own head, internalizing everything, so that’s what I’ve started doing with this record. Fade on the Line (co-written with Pictou County’s Dave Gunning) started with the idea of a town shutting down, between living close to Sydney and coming from Newfoundland before that with the cod moratorium, it became more of a political tune. "And Sue’s Song comes from my sister and coping with anxiety, something I also have to deal with. So even though these songs come from my close-knit community, they’re still about real people, and might not have been expressed if I hadn’t chosen to write about them."
Being able to delve into those personal experiences and express them in song has seen Bowers grow as an artist in leaps and bounds with every release, from the young performer barely out of his teens on In Theory to the older, wiser young man of Wanderlust.Bowers’ growth has also opened the ears of some of the region’s best-known songsmiths to his gifts, resulting in collaborations on Tired Light with writers like Gunning and Newfoundland’s Ron Hynes.
"You just get a little bit of colour from somebody else," says Bowers of the fine art of co-writing. "Everyone has that one thing that they do, that they do really well. Ron has this incredible ability to make a story or a feeling get through in a heartbeat, whether he’s using a guitar or not."Dave’s kind of the same; he’s this incredible melody writer. We’d get together and share our ideas, and I’d focus on the lyrics and he’d work on the bridge and melody; it was very structural the way we’d put it together.
With Hynes, who’s come to be known as "The Man of 1,000 Songs," Bowers learned what it’s like to treat composing tunes as being something that’s as natural as breathing or sleeping."The day that I spent writing “Only One” with Ron was like going to songwriting school," chuckles Bowers. "With Dave, he’s always been a really good friend of mine, so it wasn’t like getting together for the business of songwriting. But with Ron, I showed up an hour early with all my notes, and Ron was an hour late. He handed me his notebook, said ‘Here’s some words that I’ve got, put a melody to that for me, will ya?’"I felt very on the spot. It was like being with Mr. Miyagi, from Karate Kid; I felt I was being taught a lesson about songwriting. I was so shy and self-conscious about anything I put out there, he was being overly assertive, like he was saying, ‘C’mon, get over it, you’ve gotta get on with the task at hand.’ "
While much of Tired Light’s success is due to Bowers’ own quiet confidence, he’s quick to point out the powerhouse supporting cast that contributed subtle touches to the project and elevated it to the next level. Contributions like Meaghan Smith’s sweet vocals and striking cover art, Cathy Porter’s haunting accordion, the cello of Isaac & Blewett’s Tim Isaac, Hot Toddy’s Thom Swift and Tom Easley and an aching pedal steel part from veteran bluesman John Campbelljohn."I didn’t do it because I wanted all these names affiliated with the record," Bowers explains. "That was the running joke, Keith (Mullins, co-producer) was saying, ‘So have you got enough famous people on there?’ But everyone I worked with is the best at what they do. Like Tim’s searing solo on Mastadon with the crybaby pedal is exactly what I had in my mind because it sounded like a mastodon in my mind."And Tim came in and did it in one take. It was just a wish list of the sounds that I wanted, and the people I wanted to work with because they’re all great companions in music."
The result is a broad range of textures that bolster Bowers’ sound rather than smothering it, with Tired Light remaining consistent in tone and approach. It’s the sign of a performer sure of his craft, and able to establish his own sound on his own terms. "Towards the end of the sessions of Wanderlust I wrote some songs like “New Year’s” where I knew I was where I wanted to be, figuring out the things that I wanted to touch on."Now I feel more confident with what I’m doing, figuring out what it is about my music that I should be focusing on. It’s just trying to find what it is you’re good at and being confident with it and just sticking with it."
Catching Up With Steven Bowers
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Steven Bowers' third recording, Tired Light, has only recently been released, but it's already makin...Steven Bowers' third recording, Tired Light, has only recently been released, but it's already making a major mark on the East Coast Music Scene. The Newfoundland-born, Labrador-raised singer/songwriter--now based in Halifax--can now claim to have delivered an astonishingly mature, inventive and engrossing album of songs that stands as an Atlantic musical landmark.
I first came across Steven Bowers when I was reviewing East Coast Recordings for Halifax's Daily News tabloid newspaper. His first disc--an eight-song collection modestly titled In Theory independently released in 2001--rocked with a clear vision and honesty that blew away many of the over-hyped albums that cluttered up the Atlantic Music Scene just at after the turn of the century five years ago.
Taking time to record a sophomore disc (entitled Wanderlust), while finishing a Sociology degree at St. Mary's University, Bowers took to working shifts at the New Glasgow Michelin Tire plant to subsidize his education and his growing musical ambitions. By 2005 the Newfoundland native had broadened his horizons to collaborate with a virtual Who's Who of the East Coast Music Scene: Ron Hynes, Dave Gunning, Jaime Robinson, Cathy Porter, Aaron Colllier, and Meaghan Smith, amongst others.
The result is a breathtaking new album that takes Bowers' already considerable talents to another level entirely. The ten songs on Tired Light are superbly crafted examples of intensely observational writing, full of unexpected lyrical insights and driven by intriguing, coiled melodies and solid, infectious chorus hooks.
A song like Thief Stealing Bells, for example, kicks off with a reserved, descending melody that slips into a melancholy cadence, making extraordinary use of musical space. John Campbelljohn's guitars swirl around the tune in an arrangement that superbly realizes the song's inherent sense of atmosphere and drama. It's a spooky, lingering masterpiece of unresolved suggestion that offers full proof of Bower's compositional powers.
On Harmony Girls--written with guitarist/arranger Jamie Robinson--Bowers reaches for a more traditional singer/songwriter sound. Using piano, violin, and layered guitars, the Halifax-based musician makes terrific use of his little-boy-lost voice to put across a song rich with warm memories, tinged with a touch of regret.
While the songs on Tired Lights retain a direct, personal approach throughout, Bowers has managed to give the album something of an epic feel by building up an ensemble band sound that incorporates a wide dynamic range. Consequently, a song like Bees In Jars can go from a whisper to a scream within a few seconds transition; the intensity of the song's dynamics reflects the strengths of the selection's lyrical concerns. For Steven Bowers, sometimes memories can be as powerful and overwhelming as any contemporary emotion.
I recently caught up with Steven Bowers as he opened for Ron Hynes at a downtown Halifax nightclub. It was one of the nights the Dixie Chicks were playing the Metro Centre, and yet there was a full house at the Barrington Street pub. Packed with fans excited to see Hynes play a rare gig with a full band (Hynes was indeed exceptional), Steven Bowers managed to charm the crowd with a solo performance that captured almost all of the intense emotional qualities that make his latest album one of the East Coast's finest contemporary recordings.
Peppering his performance with an easy storytelling style, the Newfoundland born songster managed to win himself an enthusiastic encore from Ron Hynes' happy--but demanding--fans. On the evidence of this startling performance and a sterling third CD, I'd say that Steven Bowers is well on his way bigger and better things.
For more info on this fast-rising recording artist, check out stevenbowers.com.
© Ron Foley Macdonald
Bowers finds his voice
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"I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow I stumbled onto my own voice with this album,” Steven Bow..."I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow I stumbled onto my own voice with this album,” Steven Bowers says. “It just seemed to arrive at some point during the process.” He sounds relieved. After more than two years of writing and recording, the New Glasgow singer/songwriter will finally launch his third CD, Tired Light, at the Seahorse Tavern in Halifax tomorrow night. “It has been exhausting to say the least, but at the same time, it’s been very exciting and liberating.” After the release of 2003’s Wanderlust, Bowers hit the road with his band, picking up several industry awards and nominations along the way. Then, he disappeared. “I needed some time off to collect myself and get back to writing songs,” says Bowers. “I took the time to learn the skill of crafting melodies and arrangements and wrote tonnes and tonnes of new material until I felt that I could put something down in the studio. “It was during that time that I began to know myself as an artist; my strengths and weaknesses, where I needed to work harder and when I needed to step back.” Bowers’s newfound maturity then showed up in the studio as both a band leader and a producer. “I was fortunate in that I put together a wish list of players that I wanted to work on this album, and they all agreed. They were amazing to work with. ” The list of talent on Tired Light is impressive: Ron Hynes, John Campbelljohn, Dave Gunning, Thom Swift and many other, notable local names all helped Bowers bring out the best of the sessions. “I’m really proud of this one. It wasn’t easy and it took some time, but it was well worth it. I feel great, and I can’t wait to get back in there and do it all over again.”
Steven Bowers: Tired Light by SANDY MacDONALD
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It was an offer Steven Bowers simply couldn’t turn down. When his manager Lynn Horne floated the ide...It was an offer Steven Bowers simply couldn’t turn down. When his manager Lynn Horne floated the idea of co-writing a tune with East Coast songwriting legend Ron Hynes, Bowers quickly cleared his calendar.
“Lynn called and said Ron wanted to write a song with me,” says Bowers, nursing a coffee in a downtown Halifax café. “Ron was going to be in town and so we arranged to meet at Lynn’s place at noon.”
“They didn’t show up till after one,” laughs Bowers, 25.
“I was sitting there playing my guitar, so nervous. Ron came in and threw me a notebook with some lyrics, and asked me to write a melody for it.”
Then Hynes went upstairs to take a shower, while Horne made coffee in the kitchen. The young songwriter found the situation unnerving.
“ I really wanted to leave,” confesses Bowers, more accustomed to writing in solitary quiet. “But I knew this was important. Even if we didn’t get something we could use, I knew I had to stick around to finish it.”
After Hynes re-appeared, the pair knuckled down to nailing a melody and some chords. “It took the whole day before we had the song finished. I had never worked so intensively on a tune before.”
The effort has certainly paid off. Only One, is a highlight on Bowers’ new album, Tired Light.
“It was a great learning experience. Now I feel I can walk into any (songwriting) situation comfortably,” says Bowers, one of the most promising young talents on the East Coast. “At some weird level, I think Ron knew that and was trying to teach me a lesson.”
Hynes not only gave Bowers the finished song, but also co-produced and lent his vocals to the track at The Sonic Temple in Halifax.
The ten original tracks (and one hidden track) on the new disc find Bowers pushing his pop-folk music into more mature territory. The album is lush with warm instrumentation, strong contemporary arrangements and Bowers’ engaging vocals.
The first single Bees in Jars is already stirring interest at Atlantic Canadian radio. The up-tempo pop-rock single with its jangly guitars and driving beat is a refreshing tonic for a slow starting summer. The tune has long been a crowd-pleaser in Bowers’ live set and this arrangement captures the exuberance and energy of the song.
After his impressive sophomore disc Wanderlust was released in the fall of 2003, the Labrador-raised Bowers was encouraged by critics’ positive reviews and regional radio support for his music, including a special feature on CBC Radio's Atlantic Airwaves. The disc landed him a 2004 MIANS award as producer of the year, shared with Wanderlust co-producer Dave Gunning.
“That album had a couple of songs that I really connected with, that I really felt proud of,” says Bowers. “Wanderlust was a transitional record, from writing gibberish to really making a cohesive song.
“I was learning how to write a song, beginning in the middle of Wanderlust, so I knew that’s where this album must go.”
Bower’s says the new songs turn on his maturing outlook on the world.
“This is definitely more of a personal album than Wanderlust. I guess you just come to the realization you’re finally out in the real world.”
Much of Tired Light was co-written with other east coast songwriters. He again collaborated with Dave Gunning on the haunting Fade On The Line, written on Gunning’s back porch at his home in Pictou County.
“We were sitting on his patio drinking beer and saw a clothesline across the way. So Dave jokingly said let’s write a song about a clothesline.”
Oddly, the clothesline wasn’t attached to any home; the household that once provided the damp laundry was simply gone. The abandoned clothesline became a metaphor for vanishing small-town Nova Scotia. (Bowers returned the songwriting favor, co-writing the song Parallel Lines on Gunning's ECMA-winning Two Bit World album.)
Powerhouse blues guitarist John Campelljohn spices up Fade On The Line with his atmospheric pedal steel work. Bowers first heard Campbelljohn’s playing on the soundtrack to the Trailer Park Boys’ Christmas special.
“ I loved that sound and thought it would be cool to get that on the record.” As luck would have it, Bowers’ drummer Keith Mullins had once toured with the Cape Breton-bred guitarist, and offered to enlist him for the new project.
Though it took three months to get them both together, the tracking took only a day in Campbelljohn’s basement studio in Dartmouth.
Jamie Robinson co-wrote the music to Bowers’ lyrics for Sue’s Song and Harmony Girls, a gorgeous mid-tempo ballad in waltzy three-quarter time, pushed along by Kim Dunn’s piano and a beautiful cello solo from Tim Isaac from the New Brunswick duo Isaac & Blewett.
Mullins also lent his pen to the project, co-writing the title track and Mastodons. With ten solid tunes ready to record last fall, Bowers teamed up with Halifax sound engineer Matt Miller (Down With the Butterfly, Jimmy Swift Band, Caledonia).
“I had a done a show at the Velvet Olive and Matt was the sound guy there. He called me up two weeks later and said he had recorded the set and wondered if I wanted a copy of the CD.
“I was floored when I heard it. It was like listening to a live Neil Young CD. Everything sounded great.”
By the time Bowers pulled the core band — drummer Keith Mullins and bass player Dan Baird — into the studio, he heard the whole album unfolding in his head.
“At that point, I knew exactly what I wanted in terms of instrumentation and arrangements. Matt handled the engineering and I worked with the musicians to get the parts.”
The production settled into Miller’s comfortable home studio in Halifax.
“The first day I brought the band in and we recorded With All My Might, Goodnight from beginning to end before supper. Foolishly, I figured we would do every song like that,” chuckles Bowers.
As the recording proceeded through the spring, Bowers enlisted some top -notch players to add the sonic color on top of the tracks. Kim Dunn contributed some exquisite piano tracks at his home studio. Percussionist and accordionist Cathy Porter brought her rootsy sound to the session, and acoustic bass ace Tom Easley (Hot Toddy) adds some warm bottom end to a couple of tracks.
Craig Sheppard, who once led the trumpet section in the Johnny Favorite Swing Orchestra, adds a nice muted trumpet to the title track: “That was a killer sound, that we got down in about two hours. One instrument can just change everything.”
Also adding to the project are Meaghan Smith, Jason Mingo (Satellite Rides), Thom Swift (Hot Toddy) and Lil Thomas. The various players on the project add to the sonic diversity of Bower’s maturing song craft. Tying it all together is Bowers’ fluid and evocative vocals. Paired with the right material, Bowers is one of the most compelling young singers in the region.
He credits his work with Gunning in building confidence and precision in his singing.
“Dave really helped me in finding the note and sticking with it. I was so used to playing live shows and just screaming out the vocals.
“I don’t really consider myself a good singer… but I sing the way I want the words to be read, the way you’d read a poem.”
For Bowers, the key to his music is having an audience connect with his songs. He strives for that same heart-to-heart connection he feels with songwriting heroes Neil Young, Sarah McLachlan, The Counting Crows… and Ron Hynes.
“I’m really a romantic person. (But) I was afraid of that before…to let myself out there that much. This time I took ownership of my songs.”
Steven Bowers performs original music, both as a solo artist and with his band, The Whiskey Hymnal.
Usually 2 x 40 minute sets, or as event requires. Will occasionally include a cover tune.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.