'Tired of Giving Good Things Up - The Bowe Story'
Dutch singer songwriter Bowe released his debut studio album Moving through the Night in 2009 and Dutch radio DJ Frits Spits called it a "remarkably good debut." Indeed a review by Musicfrom.nl described the poprock tracks as "John Mayer meets The Eagles."
In 2013 its successor Nomansland was released. The album features well known artists such as Sandra St. Victor, Thijs van Leer and Tollak Ollestad. The studio band consisted of Arnold van Dongen (Ilse DeLange), Ton Snijders (Frank Boeijen), Florian Hoefnagels (Leona), Jan Kooper (Doe Maar) and Danny Samar (monoPunk).
Chatting with lead singer Bowe, I first wondered at what age had he first discovered that he had a musical ability? "When I was fifteen, I simply wasn't good enough to sing and play songs from other people, so I started writing my own. I had about 500 piano melodies which all sounded pretty similar. I narrowed it down to the best five and started building songs. That's how I got into songwriting and I still work that way. I record everything on my phone and select the good ones later. I even give my ideas rates to make sure I find the best things easily."
Growing up in Holland, what artists/bands were you listening to around the time your own style was being sculpted? "My parents played Status Quo, Rolling Stones and Dire Straits, so that was a start in the right direction. When I really got into music in the beginning of the nineties, I listened to a lot of Guns n' Roses and Nirvana. Years later I digged a little deeper and found out that the Stones and Aerosmith were a huge inspiration for Guns n' Roses, then the Stones became my favorite band. I've also always really liked AC/DC. The musicians in my band probably think of their music as too simple, but I like this kind of rawness."
You are Dutch but sing fluently in English - is that the norm for Dutch singers these days? "Oh no, I don't think so. There are a lot of Dutch artists who are pretty fluent, but sometimes it really hurts my ears when I hear a Dutch tongue or bad grammar. My mother teaches English so she always checks mine. Got the pronunciation from watching American movies...an endless amount of them. There you can learn what they don't teach you in school. I am sure my English teacher would have hated my song Ain't the One and would have corrected it to something like I am not the one, but that totally doesn't sound cool!"
Your debut album Moving Through The Night came out in 2009 and was called "a remarkably good debut." But it has taken you four (4) years to bring out its successor, Nomansland. Why the huge delay? "I simply wanted the second album to be better than the first so I took a lot of time to write. Also, I've spent a year adding stuff to the production like harmonica from Tollak and backing vocals from Sandra St. Victor. Then I've spent almost a year fine tuning the mixes and masters. The sound I was looking for simply wasn't there, so I kept fighting for it which drove a lot of people crazy including myself. A good thing, because now I'm really happy with the results and we get good reviews about it."
And why was it entitled Nomansland? "The Netherlands is a small country with 16 million people. So even when you walk through the forest, you'll always see people. When we were in Brasil a while ago, we saw so much free space and it really inspired me because it's a huge contradiction to our country. Then I came up with the title. By the way, I always have a big laugh when people from the States think The Netherlands is near Amsterdam, which is actually our capital."
Listening to Nomansland it definitely has an eclectic flow, but my favorite song has to be the bluesy funk sway of 'Love Is Getting High.' What can you tell me about the creation of this song? "This one was almost thrown in the trash. I had been struggeling with it for a while and then I took it to my friend and writing partner Ton Snijders. He turned it into this Motown groove. I would have never thought of that. Sometimes you have to accept that only other people have the key. I added the sax parts later with the great Jan Kooper, then the whole puzzle was complete. The sax riff was Jan's idea. Some people say it sounds a but like that Spice Girls riff. I don't care, it sticks in your head, although it would have been better if it had sounded a bit like a Led Zeppelin riff :-)"
And talking of songs from the album, tell us more about the creation of these other stand out songs:
'World Of Misery' - "A friend of mine was playing a melody and I just played these chords with it, then the rest came to me quite naturally. To me the finishing touches were the high backing vocals in the chorus. Some people might consider this non rock 'n' roll, but I thought it gave the song exactly what it needed. Our guitar player plays fantastic on this one, that's why I wanted to credit him by calling it World of misery feat. Arnold van Dongen."
'Still Feels Like Seventeen' - "This song is autobiographical. Because now, in my thirties, I truly still feel like seventeen. Of course I have developed in a lot of ways, but in the core I'm still a young guy. Unfortunately with an older body. It also has the lines 'got my first guitar and I played it upside down. Nothing's changed, everything's the same. So it still feels like I'm seventeen.' It's actually true, I'm left handed, but play on a guitar for right handed people. So I play upside down. Feels a bit silly sometimes when good musicians are watching, but I can't change it anymore and have written some fine songs thanks to my 'handicap'."
'Tired Of Giving Good Things Up' - "I had written that riff more than ten years ago when I started listening to the Rolling Stones. It didn't end up on my first album because I did't have a good chorus yet. This is one of the reasons why it takes me a lot of time to write a new album, I keep working on songs until I'm satisfied. And in the end you always feel you could have done even better, but at some point you have to stop working on a song or it will never see the light of day."
Nomansland features some nice guest artist appearances such as Sandra St. Victor, Thijs van Leer and Tollak Ollestad. But which one brought their best work to the studio and amazed even you? "I was totally blown away by Sandra. She nailed every single thing she did on this album! I also thought she was very professional. She had prepared it really well, didn't look at the clock and didn't want to take a lot of breaks. I've seen people with just a fraction of her talent and a huge ego. She was very down to earth which made me feel very comfortable."
Oh, and where did the bands name Bowe originate? "The name in my passport is Bouwe, I just got rid of the u to give it an international feel. It's a name from Friesland, the northern part of our country. They speak a bit slangy there, so Bouwe already sounded like Bowe."
Being that we're here in the US of A, what would it take for you to start to tour over here? "It would only take a promoter with the right connections and belief and we would be on a plane. Could be just me with American musicians, or even with our Dutch band. I think it could sell, because people would find it interesting that this guy singing 'Long day in Amsterdam' is actually from that area. People seem to love a good background story. A Dutch singer actually got famous here because she jumped on stage with Seasick Steve. That was her story and people loved it."
Indeed, what's your next big hope for the band? "Well, it's all connected. Of course we want to do the big festivals, but we would need a radio hit first to get booked there. So getting more airplay is very important at the moment. We've got some singles coming out soon, but there are no guarantees of course."
Finally, and yes we ask everyone this, we here at Exclusive Magazine love Penguins! Do you also, perhaps? "We love them too! I live nearby a zoo and visit them a lot. They are very funny, but don't smell that nice :-("
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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