Decorated singer-songwriter Steven Bowers talks coming home, tapping into humanity in his new album and learning from The Man of a Thousand Songs.
It has been a minute since Steven Bowers has performed on this end of the country. It’s a homecoming that has taken some six years to come together, give or take. But then, so much has changed in the life of the career singer-songwriter.
Adding family man to a resume that includes decorated songwriter and performer, Bowers will release his fifth studio album Elk Island Park at The Ship in St. John’s on February 28th. He’ll follow that with a hometown gig in Hampden on March 2nd.
‘It’s coming home’
“For me it’s like coming home,” shares the BC resident who spent years living and performing in Halifax, though he does admit that staying in touch with his musical roots is a priority.
“There’s so much music culture in St. John’s. If you’re not there you miss out. I look forward to reconnecting with friends of mine. The Once, Fortunate Ones. People you meet when you’re touring, when you come to their hometown it’s that kind of welcoming hospitality that made me feel like I never left Newfoundland.”
Bowers cut his teeth sitting under the learning tree of The Man of A Thousand Songs himself Ron Hynes. Sharing a manager during his rise to prominence in his mid 20s, Bowers learned more than his share from Newfoundland and Labrador’s forever poet laureate.
“I was so young when I was working with him and I wish I had that opportunity again now that I’m in my thirties,” he recalls. “When I was in my mid 20s I was just figuring out how to be a songwriter and I was cocky and all the things that come with being a new young songwriter. Working with Ron, he taught me that you can write an autobiographical song. Ron would write story songs with beautiful narratives, but he would employ universal truths that come from his own experiences. If you are able to tap into those universal truths of the human experience, then you can tell a beautiful story about anybody and do so from your own humanity.
“That’s the one lesson I really took from Ron, that even if I was writing a song for someone else, it’s that ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and be emphatic. He was a master of that. No one could write a song like Ron Hynes when it came to that sort of thing.”
Those lessons of humanity and tapping beneath the surface in art have been utilized to perfection on Bowers’ newest effort Elk Island Park. There’s lines and traces of Bowers own life and times, from family connections, realities of fatherhood, and stops made along the way.
“It’s not an intentional thing, but at the same time I spent so much time making it that it ended up being my most autobiographical record,” he explains.
“There are several songs about the new generation of my family. There’s a song about my niece, Annie Rose, that I wrote with my sister. She was born premature. It started off as a joke song for her and turned into this lovely little folk ballad. My nephew Ben has autism, so I wrote this song (Ben and Jessie Running) specifically about him and his sister and the relationship that they have together. My own daughter was born shortly thereafter, so Elk Island Park was written about getting to know her and confronting all of the fears of fatherhood and trying to get my own life in order to be a better dad. I think it was a turning point for me, accepting and becoming this father-uncle figure and figuring out how to be good at that.
“You can’t let the songs find you,” he adds. “You have to create the time to write, you have to be focused and you have to have that drive. That’s something I’m just starting to realize now. I’d always wait to be inspired, and now I go looking for inspiration everywhere.”
For tour dates and more on Elk Island Park visit stevenbowers.com