Although country music stars tend to be in the spotlight, Nashville is home to an amazing community of songwriters – talents whose demos sound like hit records and credits include some of the most recognizable songs in country.
One of our favorites is Will Bowen, a writer and artist who experienced some success as a solo act before moving to Nashville to pursue country writing full time. Although he’s currently in the country space, Bowen’s credits include writing on Latin artist Soraya Arnelas’s 6x platinum debut album and Tejano artist Rebecca Valadez’s Grammy nominated album.
Bowen has an incredibly critical ear, something that makes him a terrible radio-listening companion but an immensely thoughtful songwriter with attention to detail. “We try to use words that you don’t get, that you’ve never heard in a song,” he tells us. “One of the last songs we wrote has the word ‘calico’ in it.” He pauses. “It’ll never get cut.”
One such highly detailed song is “Saturday Drunk,” a co-write with Scott Stepakoff, which starts simply, mellow verses building to dynamic and emotionally wrought choruses. It’s a drinking song, with undertones of reconnection and love lost.
“”Fake ID” is probably one of my favorites in the last couple months,” Bowen says. “It’s kind of fun and weird in the verse and then just breaks down to the meat of the chorus. [Writing] is all about the emotion and starting from that place, and then in order to paint a picture and get the listener invested enough in a verse, you have to say something new. Some people don’t like Magic Johnson, some people don’t like basketball,” he says, referring to a reference in the opening verse of the song, another Stepakoff co-write. “But it’s like, I’m not writing for them – people who like Magic Johnson will love it, and other people will think it’s quirky. Instead of having everyone kind of associate with the entire song or the entire verse, I’d rather have some people violently associate with that one line.”
One of Bowen’s talents lies in his immense diversity as a writer; his music as a solo artist fell under the alt-rock category, and though much of his writing now falls well within the (continually blurring) lines of country, songs like “Rumors,” co-written with Kingston (Josh and Zach Carter) and Tia Sillers (“I Hope You Dance”), sports strong pop sensibilities.
Bowen doesn’t write from a pitch sheet, which lists artists that are looking for music and what sound they’re going for, and he doesn’t seem to have particular artists in mind as he creates music. “I just do what I love,” he says.