Sign up for our mailing list Real artists creating records on their own terms
Close

Sign up for our mailing list

Press

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Sean Rowe Bio (2010)

On the song "Night," from Sean Rowe's forthcoming ANTI- debut, Magic, the singer turns his rich, unnerving baritone to a moment of childhood innocence. Back then, he muses, you could fall "like a floating leaf," and the earth would "look up at you and smile." Rowe's deep, magical voice is nothing if not wise and experienced; he knows full well that after the innocence comes the fall. This ability to conjure dueling emotions - the elation of childhood versus the bruising of real life - marks the arrival of a skilled lyricist and songwriter.

"Night," a conversation between an ailing father and son, and "Wet," written from the perspective of a boy watching his mother go through hell, wrap tales of troubled childhoods in the deep protective warmth of Rowe's voice. The voice and plaintive melodies comfort the listener, just as Rowe himself sought comfort in two constants throughout his nomadic, latch-key boyhood: nature and music.

"It didn't really matter what I was listening to," he says, "I would just listen to whatever I could find around the house, whether it was the Beach Boys or REO Speedwagon." Getting lost in music was his survival instinct, a sort of "meditation," as Rowe refers to it. In the kitchen, his mother would have to fight the melodies in his head for attention. "I'd just be in the corner, humming, making up songs," he says, adding with a laugh, "I was a weird kid."

But his mother was used to a house full of melody. "Everyone on my mother's side of the family played or sang, mostly big band era, the classics, but folk, too," he says. "And my uncle was always giving me harmonicas, which I would sell for candy."

For Rowe, an avid naturalist, his love for the wilderness dates back as far as he can remember--back to when he first fixated on the Native American images on his bed sheets as a little boy. He fed this fascination with trips to natural history museums with his aunt. "I would just go get lost in there," he remembers. "I studied everything about Native American life and customs that I could." These days, Rowe communes with nature on 30-day wilderness treks, for which he takes along nothing but a knife and the clothes on his back. "I feel sorry for people who are afraid of nature," he says.

Magic was recorded in the small upstate town of Troy, New York, in a studio above the space where Sean's grandfather once ran an Italian restaurant. The recording process, as he describes it, was intimate and incredibly specific. Brushes of fingertips on strings, hushed breaths, even the darkness of the studio seeps its way into the record, enhancing its live, trembling feel. "I wanted to create an abyss, something to take you far away, a dark but familiar space for people to get lost in," he explains.

Rowe's honest and haunting songwriting have already earned comparisons to Van Morrison's Astral Weeks phase, for his abstract lyric phrasing, and the way he crafts an experience of emotion, rather than telling a linear tale. Most powerfully he brings to mind Leonard Cohen, with songwriting which tends to build into powerful, yet vulnerable, cathedral-like monuments of sound. The song "American," with its yearning strings and earnest piano bring chills and a catch in your throat.

Magic is Sean Rowe's homage to what he believes in, to what he finds magical in the world. The themes of love, innocence, sex and nature prevail in its heartfelt, crafted songs. On the ambient, deeply resonant closer "The Long Haul," Rowe's voice crackles with life. "And I never hit the spring so hard/ a newborn song on an old guitar/ and I know what it means to be alive," he sings. And like the most evocative, important works of art, Magic begs the question of its listener: What makes you feel alive?

Sean Rowe's artist page

Browse by Artist

1433All Artists 56Dr. Dog 51Sean Rowe 46The Milk Carton Kids 44Mavis Staples 43Lost In The Trees 43Tinariwen 41Neko Case
33Michael Franti and Spe... 33Galactic 31Jolie Holland 31Son Little 28William Elliott Whitmo... 27Man Man 26Saintseneca 25Bettye LaVette 23Jason Lytle 22Booker T. Jones 22Sage Francis 21Glen Hansard 21Islands 20Tom Waits 20Daniel Lanois 20DeVotchKa 20Doe Paoro 19Calexico 19Delicate Steve 18Joe Henry 18Wilco 17Tim Fite 17Grinderman 17Christopher Paul Stell... 17So Much Light 16Porter Wagoner 16Peter Silberman 16Andy Shauf 15Yann Tiersen 15Xenia Rubinos 14John K. Samson 14The Antlers 13The Coup 13Busdriver 13Rain Machine 12The Melodic 11Kelly Hogan 11Beth Orton 11Keaton Henson 11Prism Tats 11Japandroids 10Roky Erickson 10Os Mutantes 10Xavier Rudd 10Bob Mould 10Dead Man's Bones 10Beat Connection 9The Locust 9Mose Allison 9Marketa Irglova 9Kate Bush 9Jade Jackson 9Cameron Avery 8The Frames 8A Girl Called Eddy 8Greg Graffin 7Solillaquists of Sound 7The Field 7Alec Ounsworth 7The Dream Syndicate 6Ramblin Jack Elliott 6Broken Twin 6Kronos Quartet with Br... 6N.A.S.A. 6Pops Staples 6Deafheaven 6Cass McCombs 6The Drums 5The Weakerthans 5Tweedy 5Elliott Smith 5Cadence Weapon 5The Swell Season 5Girlpool 4Eddie Izzard 4Antibalas 4One Day As A Lion 4Muggs 4Petra Haden 4Arc Iris 4case/lang/veirs 3Danny Cohen 3Marianne Faithfull 3Sierra Leones Refugee... 3The Book Of Knots 3Curtis Harding 3Simian Mobile Disco 3Los Angeles Police Dep... 2Chuck E. Weiss 2Blackalicious 2Savath & Savalas 2Spoon (Europe only) 2Billy Bragg 2Lyrics Born 2Various Artists: RANGO 2Screaming Lights (Euro... 2Title Fight 1Nick Cave & The Bad Se... 1Various Artists: ROGUE... 1Rogue's Gallery 1Jeff Tweedy 1Un Blonde
See Full List+