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Music City Musings - Ender Bowen

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Ender Bowen calls his musical offerings spiritually-inspired, eclectic pop/rock and he's unlike most anybody you will run across in Nashville. He was one of first artists we featured on MCN and we had the pleasure of finally meeting him in person last year at the downtown CD Baby conference. We're glad he took the time to muse a bit about the Music City.

Music City Musings - Ender Bowen

MCN: In a town teeming with talent what makes you standout in Music City?

EB: I feel as though in a way it's not so much "stand out" as "don't fit in". There are a ton of talented artists with plenty of amazing songs in Nashville, however, I feel a little more European or even "English" in my sensibilities. I'm definitely not as "rootsy" or "bluesy" in what I do. I come from more of a Brian Eno/David Bowie area - both sonically and visually - mixed with some 80s new wave and late 90s alt-techno. Whether people here would like it or not, I don't feel as though my music is anything like what's happening in Nashville. I feel like it comes from another place.

MCN: What is the most significant musical experience you have been a part of - or witnessed - in Nashville, Tennessee?

EB: When I first came to Nashville in 2006, I had already released 3 albums on my own (2001, 2003 and 2005) and was signed here almost immediately by an independent label based solely on the depth of my first three albums and other stuff I had been working on. I thought, "Wow! Of course I got signed like right away!" because I had this distinct belief that I was God's gift to music. LOL. And it was an amazing feeling because I really believed that with all I'd done on my own, with a whole machine of a label behind me I'd just take right off.

Fast forward to late 2008 and I was asking for my release because it turned out they didn't know what they were doing, we didn't record anything (didn't even go in the studio once), and it was very clear that they weren't about to do anything for me I couldn't do for myself. The downside to this was that - at the time - they still had the rights to most of my best music. So while I did do some more recording from 2009 to 2014, I was very depressed and genuinely didn't know if I was going to proceed with music at all. It significantly slowed me down and put me way behind everyone else who wasn't born to the limitations of pre-21st Century four track recorders and limited availability of other means to get out into the world (Spotify, iTunes, CDBaby, etc). For someone who started releasing music in 2001, ahead of many of today's indie (and major) artists, I've found myself (now nearly 40) way behind the times and I feel like I'm still trying to play catchup - marketing being the most difficult part of the process, and finding an audience.

It wasn't until 2014, when my daughter was born here in Nashville, that I felt a renewed sense of "this is what I came here to do in the first place and I'm not going to let anyone stop me". The last 5 years have been about making my latest album (about to be released, finally) and rediscovering my capabilities and talents. It's been very difficult but it's also been kind of refreshing - like it was when I first started making music at 16, 17. That dark period of time, from 2007-2014, was very humbling. It took me completely off my high horse. So while it set me way back, I'm also very grateful for it - it taught me who and how to be and really what it is I truly want to say with my music. Who I want to say it to. And that it's not about being the biggest or even best rock star - it's about having something of worth to say to the people who need to hear it most.

MCN: I recently heard Nashville described as a dreamer's town. Can you encapsulate the size and the scope of the dream you brought with you to Music City?

EB: As I noted earlier I come from a very big Eno-esque sort of background. That comes from my love of big bands like U2, Oasis, The Killers etc. In fact my favorite band has always been U2 (particularly their 90s work). So my aesthetic is very much steeped in those big sounds, textures and ambient and electronic experiments. But they're still pop songs. I studied ZooTV, POPMart, and other tours by other bands of similar stature. I wasn't looking to necessarily be "the next Bono" or "the next Chris Martin" but my dreams, and the world I wanted to conquer, were just as big. So when I first came to Nashville with those dreams, with those songs, it wasn't a surprise to me when I was signed almost right away. It was like "duh". The surprise was what happened as a result. I'm not going to be the next big Bono or Chris Martin or whoever. I know that and I'm fine with that. But for the people who hear me and who my music touches, I want to be that big, in a sense that my music has the same meaning for them - whether it's 10, 50, or 10,000 people - that bands like U2 had for me. Still, having come from pretty much the middle of nowhere where there is just no access to anything that big dreamers (or even small-size dreamers) need, Nashville is a reasonable "it" town for this.

Yes, there's competition and yes it's still pretty "big" in that music sense, but it's a bit easier to navigate. It's not NY or LA. And I think that's a good thing. I also think that competition is a little more friendly here. As an aside, from experience I know how crippling and immobilizing trying to make "the ideal dream" work can be, especially when you get older, have a family and a mortgage, etc. So I wrote a book about that called "The Dream Divide" that basically acknowledges that you can still make your dreams work, but you have to whittle it down to something more realistic, and take pragmatic steps to realize them. You can't build a mansion with resources you don't have but you can build a smaller house (that you can build on if you wish) with the resources you do have. I'm not saying "don't dream" or "don't dream big", what I am saying is take a more pragmatic approach, otherwise you'll just be sitting dreaming forever.

MCN: What are you currently promoting?

EB: Right now I'm finishing up some of the songs for my upcoming album release, prepping singles and shooting music videos. I just recently finished up a video last weekend and am moving forward on another. Pretty much gearing up to release my first album in 15 years, called The Art of Tactful Procrastination. About, mainly, the fear of not making good on the promises you made to yourself when you were younger. Or the fear of not accomplishing your dreams, leaving a legacy. I am currently offering four free songs for a signup to my mail list to help build my fan base and I'm always offering books and previous albums. Things are about to get really exciting over here so I'm very much looking forward to getting this music out. It's been a long time coming, so I want to do it right.

MCN: Nashville is an amazing place. Many call the Tennessee capitol the "It" City while some say we're experiencing growing pains. Either way, it's a fun topic of conversation and the subject always elicits strong opinions. So we ask - what do you love and what do you loathe about the town known as Music City?

EB: Coming from the north country of New York I pretty much grew up on hockey. So my wife and I (she's from central New York) are gigantic hockey fans. In particular we love the Predators! I'm so thrilled to be in a city that's not only got a team but, as we've seen over the course of the last decade, has become very much an "it" town for hockey. I don't know how that happened but it tickles me to death. And having been one of the founders of the original Nashville FC team in 2013 (I did most of their first videos) I'm thrilled that we have an MLS team starting up soon! To know that I was at least a small part of making that happen is nearly a dream come true! I think I'm going to cry a little when I walk into that stadium for the first time.

There isn't much I loathe. And there isn't much to loathe. I think of Nashville as my home. I'm so proud of it. Any time I have friends visit, they don't want to leave. I'm proud of that. Any time I drive Uber all anyone can say of Nashville is how great it is, and I'm proud of that. As for the people of this town, I know it's been nearly a decade but take it back to 2010 during the flood. We came together to help each other. I think that's the moment I realized Nashville is for me. And living in Hendersonville specifically, I mean how can you go wrong with a suburb that thinks it's a lake town? It matches my own identity crisis pretty well I think!

MCN: When you find yourself in Nashville and the surrounding region and you are out looking for a bite to eat - what is your go to place to dine?

EB: There are plenty of places I like. Maggianos is one. I love finding random places down town or in East Nashville. And I LOVE craft beer so I love hitting up places like Czann's, Mantra and Southern Grist - some of the best beer on the planet at those places. But I have to say the go to place for me is Five Points Pizza. I don't think there is any better pizza place in the world. It is just hands down THE BEST. I won't even listen to arguments otherwise LOL. The food is great, the atmosphere is amazing, and though their craft beer selection isn't large, it's spot on. I always always always recommend it to anyone who comes for a visit. There is just no equal.


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