Chattin’ With Sean Rowe

Life is interesting. Ten or so years ago, I was a seasonal maintenance staffer at Thacher State Park in what is technically Voorheesville, NY. At the time, there was a dude working at the Thacher Nature Center doing nature survival classes and things of that sort. I think I met him once or twice and I remember he played a free acoustic show at the park in the summer of ’06 or ’07. I didn’t come check it out. In retrospect, I fucked up.

It turns out Sean Rowe is a phenomenal artist. He’s released three full-length albums on ANTI- Records,  Magic, The Salesman and the Shark and Madman. He’s got a unique, powerhouse voice and each album has shown a great artistic progression sonically, from Magic‘s dark folk to Madman‘s more daring audio palette. A few months back, he released the Her Songs EP, featuring covers of Cat Power, Lucinda Williams and other female vocalists. It’s a great listen.

On August 15, Sean is playing the Ale House in his hometown of Troy, NY. It’s sure to be a great show and one I’m looking forward to attending.

Recently, Sean took the time to do a brief interview with me about life in the Capital Region, being a dad and the music he digs. As a change of pace, his answers will be the ones in bold.

A long time ago (like 10 years), you worked at the Thacher Nature Center. Coincidentally, I worked at Thacher Park proper at that time. I have fond memories of my time there. How did you end up working there and how do you look back on that time? Anything that stands out?
That was an amazing time in my life.  I was working at Thacher, living in a tent at a campground, and playing every night at bars to save up money to go to wilderness survival school.  I was living the dream!  I worked for the SCA there, and what stands out is…everything.  I still hang out with the people I used to work with there; they’re very good friends of mine.  

How has playing live locally changed for you over the past 3-5 years?
Well, I don’t have to play over the football games on the big screen in bars anymore, so that’s nice.  I certainly don’t take for granted the awesome team I have behind me helping me to get into bigger and better venues.  I’ve also been doing the house show thing, which definitely balances out the big club/theater feel, and it’s been an amazing experience every single time.  I get to connect with people, which is the most important thing to me.  I need to hear people’s stories– it’s my song fodder. 

As a dad, I can’t wait until my son is old enough for me to turn him onto some of my favorite artists. What have you introduced your kids to? Is there anyone that’s just out of their age range that you’re waiting to play for them?
Oh man, it’s the best thing to turn your kids on to your classics!  They’ve been into Bill Miller lately – who plays Native American Flute.  We often jam out to the Beach Boys, Elvis, Tom Waits–anything they can jump around to they love. And current stuff– their absolute favorite is JD McPherson, who’s also a good friend of the family.  Lucius, Alabama Shakes.  Plus, they have also been asking me to play the Ghostbusters theme song like, 20 times a day.

What artist do you wish more people listened to?
Uh…me? is that wrong?

What place locally do you think is best to just go to appreciate our area’s natural beauty?
Without giving away too many of my secret foraging spots…Thacher of course, and I recently discovered Cherry Plain State Park, which was beautiful.

You’ve played shows with some pretty cool people. Who’s been the coolest person to hang with? Most musically impressive?
I’ve been really lucky, yea.  Musically impressive and best to hang with – hands down JD McPherson + his band.  Who happens to be in town August 31st at the Hangar (across from the Ale House). Those dudes have a great vibe, and are fun to watch, and are just damn good people.

What song, more than any other, do you hear and go, “Man, I wish I wrote that”?
Vincent Black Lightning – Richard Thompson.

What prompted you to record the “Her Songs” EP?
I wanted to do covers, but I wanted to really turn the idea of covers on its head.  When I cover a song, I want to be able to bring something new and different to it– otherwise it just feels like karaoke.  I chose songs that would be challenging for my voice, but that really resonated with me.  Those ladies’ songs all move me and I wanted to respect that.

If you could tour with any artist/band, who would it be?
Well, I’ll give the obvious but true answer here- Leonard Cohen.  I just want to hang with him.  Although in truth, if I did get a tour with him, I’d probably shit my pants.

If you could form a supergroup to be entertained by and have record and play a show, who would be in it? The group can comprise people both living and dead.
Wowzer! Way to make me think.  Angus Young on guitar, Bootsy Collins on bass, Charlie Watts on drums, John Frusciante on guitar, and Tina Turner with the Staples Singers.  Horns, let’s get Charlie Parker; Piano, Ray Charles.  And, let’s throw Jesus Christ in there, on the tambourine.  Just because.

Thanks again to Sean Rowe! If you’re so inclined, you can check out his music on Spotify, iTunes and Amazon.