Terrell Bowers bio
Terrell Bowers released his debut album, Turning Point, on March 1, 2013. Turning Point was inspired by the music and vibes of the 1960’s and 70’s, and even tips a colorful nod to their album art. Inspired by the past but composed for the present, each song represents a musical chapter of his life experiences during the financial crisis years.
Bowers is a guitar player and singer/songwriter who was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia. He lived in Richmond, Virginia, for 25 years and now resides outside of Charleston, South Carolina. His Southern roots are evident throughout, but this record is neither Southern rock nor country in the traditional sense. Bowers creates earthy jamming rock with strong veins of blues, country and funk. He shows a knack for evoking stories that strike that delicate balance of being light-hearted, serious and uplifting at the same time.
Bowers wrote and sang all of the songs, and played rhythm and lead guitar parts. Six of his guitar solos clock in at over a minute. Indeed one of his solos jams for three solid minutes. But these are purposeful compositions, not random noodling. This guitar-centric approach comes as no surprise to those who already know Bowers. But what they might not know is how he was first struck by the muse.
The Siegling Music House in Charleston, South Carolina, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1919. It was the oldest music store in America at that time. It’s founder was Bowers’ great-great-grandfather, John Siegling. Bowers’ mother was a Siegling and filled the halls of his childhood home with music. “Some of my earliest memories are of the Sunday afternoon opera on the radio booming out of the Stromberg-Carlson. Plenty of classical records, too.” Five older siblings exposed their baby brother to other music genres, including pop, rock, folk, country and Motown.
While all of these styles influenced his tastes, there was a singular event that flipped on the proverbial switch—his older brother played Led Zeppelin I on the family Victrola in the music room. That album impacted him deeply, and induced a frenzied performance a la Tom Cruise in Risky Business. “That’s a fair description except for a couple big differences. I was about eight years old and fully clothed. He was 25 and wearing tighty-whities. And I was listening to Led Zeppelin’s How Many More Times, not Bob Segar’s Old Time Rock and Roll. That pretty much sums up the difference between Tom Cruise and me—that and about a hundred million dollars.”
While his music is the new kid on the block, Bowers has clearly been around the block. Like a classic Napa Valley cabernet, it took decades for his muse to fully evolve from playing air-guitar on a wooden tennis racket to releasing his first album. He is a self-taught guitar player, an admitted slow learner at that. Bowers learned chord patterns from his first year roommate at the University of Virginia (Thanks, JW!) but didn’t play in a band until some twenty-five years later. But he kept at it over the years, quipping, “While Michael Jackson was building a ferris wheel in his backyard, while Britney Spears was sporting around in a limousine without any underwear, I was putting four kids through school and writing my own songs.”
His resolve was tested by two traumatic injuries to his left hand. An industrial accident almost ripped his palm off, and at a wrestling match his four-year old son stomped his fingers, permanently realigning the index finger. For a right-handed guitar player, these two left-hand injuries might be reason enough to hang the guitar up as a wall decoration. But Bowers kept at it.
He has been writing songs almost since the beginning, accumulating over a hundred finished songs. “But I’ve lost probably that many, too. I’m a slob and disorganized, just ask my wife. It’s always been a left-brain right-brain battle, and music took a back seat to making a living.” His day job was a 25-year career in real estate. He worked in brokerage, investment and development, and even dabbled in the businesses that rented his properties, such as a restaurant/nightclub and a bowling alley. He also wrote a novel, Test of Faith, and self-published two humor books. “A career in music is a tough way to support a family—it’s especially tough when you’re a mediocre musician. But any career will give you plenty of material for songs, as will a 25-year marriage and four kids.”
And ultimately, that’s what Turning Point is all about—the songs. Bowers’ songs deal with the things he deals with. “My mind works better with direct images or stories and less so with symbols and abstracts. So you don’t need a Ph.D. in modern poetry to understand my lyrics. They come from a relatively normal person’s day-to-day experiences.” His songs are indeed accessible. They are also quite personal, and what one might even describe as “authentic.” And they leave the listener pondering.
For Bowers, the real magic comes when the lyrics and the music work together to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. “The lyrics tell the story, but the music conveys the emotion. How You Doing, Baby? is a good example of how the change in the music drastically changes the emotional tone of a rather simple story.”
While his songs sound great cranked up in the car, they are not what the industry would call radio-friendly. “The benefit of paying your own way is you get to record what you want, not what some committee tells you to record in order to target, say, the 14-19/white/female demographic. So we got to have some real fun making this album because it was about making good music, not teeny-bopper hits.
Some critics might go one step further and suggest that Turning Point is a bit self-indulgent for a debut album. But Bowers disagrees with that assessment. “Some people veer to the ‘less-is-more’ approach. I can appreciate that. But I’ve always been a ‘more-is-more’ kind of guy. Why buy a six-pack when that twelve-pack is right next to it? Why say it in two-and-a-half minutes if you can say it in six minutes?”
Most listeners will find something appealing on the album due to his lyrics and variety of musical styles. But not everybody, advises Bowers. “If you’re a big fan of Justin Bieber or Kanye West, well, this album probably isn’t for you.” That statement rings true. But if you’ve been out in the real world for the last five years, then Bowers’ musical take on that world might be just the tonic you need.