At its core, country music is three chords and the truth; telling stories that listeners can “feel” and insert themselves into.
Southern California native Sam Bowlds fits that description to a “t” with her debut EP My Own. The Nashville based singer/songwriter doesn’t just tell her own stories, she hopes that those stories having a healing and relatability that tells listeners they aren’t alone in what they may be feeling at any given time.
Drawing from traditional country influences, Bowlds weaves her way through the first five chapters of her story with an impressive vocal range and plenty of steel guitar. The EP’s first track, “Holy Ground,” comes equipped with an infectious chorus, and standout songs like “Safe With Me” and “Where You Are” put Bowlds’ smooth vocal delivery on full display. The album’s title track taps back in to Bowlds’ ability to construct a strong chorus as she did on the opening track.
However, it is track number three, “Innocence,” that initially drew us in and got us excited for the EP a few weeks before its release. It’s admittedly vulnerable, and Bowlds’ delivery of the song makes us believe every word she is saying. Again, her range her is excellent, and the lyrics are sure to tug at your heart strings.
We chatted with Bowlds to talk about her realization that music was her path, all of the songs on My Own, what she hopes listeners take away from it, her big plans for 2020 and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Sam Bowlds: I am extremely pulled to classic country, not just for the sound, but also for the stories they write and tell in their songs. It’s raw, real and honest. I could go on forever about old country, but to narrow it down, my favorite artists are Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss and Patsy Cline. More modernly, I would have to say Kasey Musgraves is my gal or Chris Stapleton along with his wife, Morgane. Most often when performing, I get told I sound similar to Kasey Musgraves, Alison Krauss or Morgane Stapleton, which is a huge compliment to me.
PC: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
SB: I didn’t start singing until early high school. It was never really “my thing.” I was the athlete in my family, and my plan was to pursue college sports for swim and water polo. Approaching my senior year, I really got into songwriting. I started with listening to my friends’ testimonies, and would write songs to encourage them in difficult seasons of life in hopes that they would find encouragement or joy. From there, I really grew into my own voice and sound. I started seeing that writing real, relatable stories and singing my own music wasn’t only an outlet for myself, but also a way for others to feel understood and a part of something. So it was probably at 17 years old that I realized music was where God was going to use me. I attended Hillsong International Bible College in Sydney, Australia for one year before moving to Nashville.
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to releasing music for the first time with your vulnerable single “Innocence”?
SB: Oh gosh, “Innocence” is such a special song. I wrote it with my good friend, James William. We stepped into that write, and all I had for it was that bridge, which I wrote a couple years prior, and couldn’t manage to tackle the rest of the song. It’s raw and definitely vulnerable, which honestly doesn’t come easy for me. However, he is much better at accessing feelings and emotions, so he really helped me be honest with myself and be okay with sharing that honesty with the world. The story behind that one has been a journey of healing and identity for me, so upon releasing it, I would say I went from a little scared and unsure of myself musically, to extremely confident and proud for sharing a big part of my story.
PC: “Innocence” comes off as a highly vulnerable song with an equally emotional vocal. What is it about yourself that allows you to be that vulnerable with your music?
SB: Thank you! Again, sharing my vulnerability isn’t something that comes natural to me. It’s honestly something I’ve had to learn to do and work at as a writer and as a person. It’s taken a level of understanding that there are other people on this earth who have had similar experiences and may need to hear my stories and know that they aren’t alone or that they aren’t the only one feeling this way so that they can also encourage someone else. I’m a big believer that we as humans aren’t meant to do life alone. So it’s more important to me that that message gets across, especially with a song like “Innocence,” rather than to live in fear of being vulnerable.
PC: Many artists say that the order of the tracks on their releases is crucial. Why did you decide to open My Own with “Holy Ground”?
SB: The order of the tracks can definitely be important! “Holy Ground” is just so catchy, relatable and has a strong title. I imagine people look at that one with a slight wonder of, “What’s this about?” It’s one that most people comment about when I play live. My mom always says that it’s going to be a hit someday [laughs], and my parents’ opinions, small or big, carry weight with me, so I had that in the back of my mind when doing the order, and it almost just came natural to put “Holy Ground” first. My family’s favorite is “Holy Ground.”
PC: “Safe With Me” is one of our favorite songs on My Own. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
SB: Aww, thank you! So glad y’all love it! “Safe With Me” is my oldest song on the EP! It was written with one of my best friends, AJ Young, when living in Sydney, Australia. He came to me wanting to write a song for his two best friends who were planning to get married. I told him to tell me their story and started playing around on guitar. He flipped his capo around on the second fret to make it a “cut capo” and more of an open sound. From there, we hit the ground running; we wrote that song within thirty minutes to an hour! Never changed a thing until I got in the studio to record, and my producer, Erich Sandersfeld, played me what he had so far. Well, I decided I wanted it to be more swingy/old fashion country sounding with some steel guitar. so he redid everything, and it honestly took me a second to learn how to sing it again because it had been one way for so long! It was funny, but it couldn’t have turned out better. Super proud of it!
PC: “My Own” is a song that talks about wanting better for yourself and having hope. Why did you decide to make that the title track of the EP?
SB: I wish I could say there was more thought that went into making that the title, but the biggest reason was it looked best on the album art! I did the art myself and messed with a few other titles, but “My Own” stood out the most and fit the best. It’s also just a bold title and has a good ring to it with this being my first EP release and new artist name since getting married last April.
PC: “Where You Are” closes My Own with a waltzy sound and an impressive duet with James William. Why did you feel James was the right duet partner for this song, and how did his presence take it to another level?
SB: James is so talented. I can’t speak highly enough of him. As a writer, singer and person, he is a gift. We wrote “Where You Are” together with the idea that the parts I am singing are written for my spouse and the parts he sings are for his, and then in verse three, it’s a combination. His tone and range for a male is unique and pure, and we both feel our voices strongly compliment one another’s, so it seemed fitting to make this one a duo. In my opinion, it would sound less full without both voices.
PC: Do you have a favorite song on the My Own EP? If so, why is it so special to you?
SB: Wow, that’s a hard one! Each song is a portion of my life story, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. “Innocence” is a big testimony piece for me, and “Holy Ground” is my go-to for an upbeat song on the album. It’s also the only one with fiddle (Billy Mcclaran) which makes it so fun. But “Safe With Me” is soothing and I can listen to that one on repeat, so I would probably have to say that one. Andy Ellison does an amazing pedal steel on it and it makes the song whole. I will say the most common crowd favorites are “Holy Ground” and “Where You Are.”
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from My Own after listening all the way through?
SB: I hope there’s at least one song on the album that reaches each person who listens. I hope every listener also feels heard and understood by my personal stories, life experiences and lyrics. There’s songs on here that will lift spirits, encourage others and especially, be relatable for many.
PC: In the days following its release, you have posted several messages on social media from family, friends and fans that have been enjoying the EP. What has that response meant to you so early after the EP’s release?
SB: The support of my friends and family was overwhelming and emotional in the best way. It was honestly a little unexpected to receive that much notice so soon. My phone was blowing up the entire release day, which had me excited, proud, motivated and a little at a loss for words. My parents and siblings, who are all in California, called to tell me how proud of me they are and how excellent the EP sounded, which was an incredible feeling. One friend said the whole EP compliments my voice’s range, and another said they felt like they were reading a diary; both are not only huge compliments, but things I strive for in my music. The support was unreal, even of new people/fans! My support system is and always has been amazing. I couldn’t ask for better people to be in my corner as I pursue big dreams. So thankful.
PC: Along with promoting My Own, what are your plans for 2020?
SB: My plans for 2020 are to keep writing, writing with new people, perform more and at new venues, be better about my social media marketing (lol it’s harder than ya think), post more videos, and release more music! I have some exciting things in mind for new music that are already in the works! I’m looking forward to new opportunities to come this year!
PC: Is there anything you’d like the add?
SB: Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me and listen to my music as well as support it! Really appreciate y’all at Pro Country, as well as my family, friends, and fans! More to come soon!
*All images courtesy of Sam Bowlds*