There’s a handful of songs and artists that sit atop country music’s pedestal, and oftentimes, country music fans are on a first name basis with those artists. The songs of Willie, Waylon, Hank, Loretta, Patsy and more have graced listeners’ ears and the airwaves for decades, and will do so for decades to come.
Covering a song by one of those greats may seem like an uphill battle for an artist. How can they possibly create something that falls into the same zip code of such a legendary tune? Luckily, Sam Bowlds has laid the blueprint for how to do just that; offer a truly unique take on the song, something that is sure to catch a listener’s ear and make them raise an eyebrow in appreciation of the uniqueness of the recording.
With the release of her first cover tune, Waylon Jennings’ iconic “Good Hearted Woman,” Bowlds did just that. She changed the tempo, kept the instrumentation largely acoustic (save for some excellent steel guitar work throughout) and layered a smooth vocal as she offers a female perspective on the lyrics, all the while, serving the original song. Bowlds says that choosing “Good Hearted Woman” came from searching for an artist that aligned with her sonically and artistically.
“I knew in releasing a cover that I wanted it to honor the artist well and it be someone I’ve looked up to, that also reflects my stance with my music. We don’t hear country music like Waylon Jennings once created anymore, and it’s sad,” says Bowlds. “When performing cover songs, I often favor artists like Allison Krauss, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Waylon. That’s typically what people want to hear more of from me, as well as what I prefer to sing, and in my opinion, what my voice and style best pairs with.”
Bowlds says that the decision to release “Good Hearted Woman” came from impromptu performances with her sister and the response she got from them, as well as love received from her producer, who also recognized the uniqueness Bowlds brought to the song.
“The backstory with me singing it like this is actually so spontaneous. When I’m visiting my family in California, you’ll often find me and my sister singing at the piano together. One day, her best friend was over, who also loves the classics, and I started singing ‘Good Hearted Woman,’ but ‘my version.’ Well, it stuck with her, and from then on, she always asked me to sing it when I was home, until finally one day she said, ‘Sam, you have to record this! Nobody has ever done it like this,’” says Bowlds. “That stuck in my head and led us to where we are now. I showed it to my producer, Andrew King, and he was like, ‘Dude, this is sick. Especially from the female lead telling the story.’ I love that perspective too, it’s not often thought of from her side so directly in that tone.”
“Good Hearted Woman” continues a busy stretch of releases for the California native, as she now has her debut EP and three follow up singles under her belt, all coming in just over a calendar year.
“I try to keep a steady flow of music coming because I notice people stay engaged with me well that way and are eager to hear what’s coming next. The consistent interaction seems to work well for me right now, so I’m just rollin’ with it!” says Bowlds. “And it’s always wonderful to get such a positive response back from listeners, as well as constructive criticism from people I value.”
That same calendar year has also allowed Bowlds to look deeper into herself as a songwriter and what she wants to say, and has allowed her the opportunity to challenge herself as she optimistically looks forward to the future.
“I’ve been able to continue to grow in confidence in my decisions as a writer, especially in a group setting. To know I have something valuable to bring to the table, and being reminded of that when sitting through a challenging write, is a skill that needed sharpening for me. I think most people would say I have a very strong, confident personality, but I know that sometimes that shifts with music and I become more reserved depending on the room of people,” says Bowlds. “I feel very confident in the growth I’ve made as a writer and artist. I really feel like I have a strong sense of the direction I’m headed, and that feels really good!”
*”Good Hearted Woman” is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*