Bluegrass and Country artist Jimmy Bowen shares more than just a name with the famed producer who was active throughout the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s in our industry; he shares a passion for the music, an innovative spirit, and an ability to reinvent himself to stay relevant in a constantly changing landscape. Jimmy Bowen, the legendary Bluegrass guitarist and singer, was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, and found a passion for numbers and for music at the same time from an early age. An accountant by education and musician by choice, Bowen explained how he made two seemingly contrasting paths work for a life in the music industry. “I get asked a lot how I can be an accountant and a musician. It’s kind of funny, really. I remember getting the aspiration for music at the age of five. My Dad bought me a guitar at a flea market when I was five years old. I taught myself to play and was in a band by the time I was nine. I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I was playing in bars from a really young age. That progressed through high school and so I thought, well I’m going to keep myself from getting ripped off in the business by going to college and getting a degree in business or something. I ended up at the Citadel down in Charleston and I looked a lot at accounting and business law. So many musicians are just that; they’re great players but business wise, they have no clue how to run their own sales. I got into numbers and accounting so I could understand the business side of being a musician.”
As both a business man and a musician, Bowen has been able to keep hold of nearly every aspect of his career, negotiating his own deals and contracts. Bowen remarked of his experience, “It has is pros and cons. Sometimes I wonder if I talked myself out of some opportunities with my degree, but I’m glad I have it. I don’t regret having the business knowledge to supplement my music.” Bowen certainly used his degree to his advantage as he got started as a professional in the industry. Bowen’s tenure in Bluegrass and Country music includes eight years with Charlie Waller and the Country Gentlemen and four years with David Parmley and Continental Divide. Outside of his band work, Bowen has had the opportunity to perform with John Conley, Josh Turner, Mel Tillis, and the late Little Jimmy Dickens. After decades playing for other bands, Bowen formed his own band, Santa Fe, in 1998. “I loved the guys I was in bands with, but I wanted to do my own thing musically. I wanted to venture out. I started with Bluegrass and grew up on it and that’s what I wanted to get back to when I was thinking of starting Santa Fe. When I started my own band back when I was a kid I could hear things; get rid of this string section on this song, add a drummer or a flute or a clarinet on this one. You know, in Bluegrass, unless you’re playing a mandolin, guitar or banjo, you’re not doing it right. Everything outside those instruments is kind of outlawed. There’s this thought that, well, Bill Monroe didn’t play it that way, so we don’t do it that way. I started my own band so I could venture outside of all that.”
In addition to forming his own band, Bowen ventured outside stadium tours and bar room performances to try his hand at television and commercials, effectively cementing himself as a character actor in the entertainment industry. “I had an agent a few years ago who had done some voiceover work and he asked me if I’d ever thought about acting.” Bowen’s first response was to laugh, “I said well no, not really. If you’ve seen my photos, you know I’ve got long hair and earrings and a goatee. My agent told me I had a good dirty biker look, so I thought I’d try it. If it makes me a dime here and there, great, and it seemed fun.” Bowen has acted on several pilots including the defunct Outlaw Country, a project that was meant to piggyback Sons of Anarchy on FX, Murder Comes to Town, and the hit television show Nashville. In addition to his television roles, Bowen is regularly cast in commercials and music videos, and is working on his SAG/AFTRA membership while he auditions for other film projects.
A naturally curious artist and innovative businessman, Bowen has melded his love for television and music into a modern-day variety show reminiscent of those Johnny Cash and Bobby Bare produced in their hay day. “I launched the Jimmy Bowen show at a local venue in Lebanon, Tennessee, and am now working on the television aspect of it. If you go back and watch the old music shows there’s a little bit of talk followed by a performance, followed by another guest. I want the show always to focus on the artist. I did the pilot with the late Daryle Singletary- he was a great guy. I plan on branching out from country to include guests in all genres. My goal would be to have Diamond Rio on one day, Stevie Nicks the next.”
Bowen has not forgotten about his music in the midst of his other projects. On the contrary; after celebrating twenty years with Santa Fe in 2018, the band is back in the studio working on new music and live video. Fans can stay current with Jimmy Bowen and his projects on his website and follow and Like Jimmy Bowen on social media outlets Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Bowen’s music is available on digital music platforms for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music and download on iTunes, Amazon Music and Google Play.