Music critic Kelly Dearmore will be in Key West, Florida, this week covering the inaugural Mile 0 Fest. Watch our Facebook and Twitter feeds for updates from the fest and maybe a few surprises. You can also follow Kelly directly on Twitter at @KellyRDearmore.
When Waco native Wade Bowen takes the stage Wednesday to headline the first night of the inaugural Mile 0 Fest in Key West, Florida, he'll be a day away from the release of his long-awaited record. More than just a new proper studio album, Solid Ground is the newest Bowen record in the traditional sense but bolder and even better than before.
Solid Ground digs deep into stories about where Bowen is from -- and, yup, that happens to be Texas. But with the continued explosion of the Texas country scene not only in other parts of the United States but also across the globe, there's a simple, if not vital, distinction that the Texas Tech alum feels is important to convey:
"I'm an artist from Texas," he says. "But I'm not a Texas artist."
"I'm a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen, and just by listening to his records, you know where he comes from and what that place feels like even though he isn't always singing songs that mention New Jersey."
For this record (which was recorded in Nashville with producer Keith Gattis and an all-star cast of musicians, including some of Music City's most in-demand songwriters), Bowen wanted to have a loose concept connecting the songs without it being an actual concept album.
The roots-rocking "So Long Sixth Street" and Latin-inflected "Day of the Dead" are both fine examples of Bowen pulling Lone Star-intensive sounds, flavors and images into compositions all his own. The folky "Death, Dyin' and Deviled Eggs" and bluesy slow-burner "Couldn't Make You Love Me," are both killer tracks that eschew any sort of Bluebonnet-picking or Shiner-Bock-drinking imagery in favor of being simple stories well told. On the surface, the binding thread may be Texas, but in reality, Bowen's life in the Lone Star State brings each song home.
"We wanted to sing about Texas without using the word 'Texas,' in every song over and over again," Bowen says.
"There are plenty of people who do that and represent our state really well, but I'm not trying to sing about only how badass Texas is all the time, as much as I want to give the listener a feel for where and how I grew up."
Bowen's festival appearance in Key West is only the most recent far-flung locale on Bowen's expansive touring schedule. In the past year alone, he's performed in the pubs of London and on the legendary stage of Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. While we spoke by phone, Bowen was making his way to the New York City office of Paste to perform a live studio session.
"We tour all over, so people come up to us all the time to say they wish they lived in Texas because of the music," he says.
"I want my music to be for everyone, no matter where they're from. It just so happens that I'm from Texas, but my songs are about more than that."