The Amarillo native and veteran Texas singer and songwriter Kevin Fowler has long been a favorite in the Lone Star State, but he also appreciates how much Nashville, mainstream country radio, and Music Row can do for him.
“I love it up in Nashville, some of my best friends are there,” Fowler says in a phone conversation in late October.
“There’s always been this kind of rift between Texas and Nashville, but I’ve never bought into that. It’s always about the music. Down here in Texas, the fans are like, `Oh, you’ve gone Nashville. You’ve sold out,’ ” Fowler continues.
He never saw things that way.
“I’ve never seen any reason for that divide,” says Fowler, whose recent novelty single, ‘Pound Sign,’ was a huge hit on the Texas Regional Radio Report and also impacted the nationwide Billboard country radio charts. “If our fans wanna be able to hear stuff on the radio or walk into Wal-Mart and buy the record, we have to work with the industry. Me and Pat Green say, `What the hell? What do you mean? We NEED Nashville.’ ”
And Lord knows, Nashville needs the hugely talented Texas and Oklahoma artists like Fowler, Wade Bowen, Cory Morrow, Pat Green, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and the legendary Willie Nelson.
Like many Texans, Fowler spends the bulk of his time touring and working in the Lone Star State. The state is truly the Wide Open Spaces, with cities, towns, dancehalls, honky tonks, and clubs all over the place.
Texas has a musical tradition every bit as rich as that of any other state – including Tennessee – and passionate, smart fans. Unlike Tennessee, Texas has another advantage: It’s barely been affected by the Great Recession.
From a touring standpoint, the Lone Star State is both an immense opportunity and a major logistical challenge.Texas is the second-biggest state in the USA both in population (over 20.8 Million) and land area (266,807 square miles).
That’s six times the land area of Tennessee, and four times the Volunteer State’s population.
“Texas is its own world. Texans are really proud, and they want their own things,” Fowler says. “Down here, Chevy makes the Lone Star Edition of its pickups, and Ford makes the King Ranch Edition. When you pick up a Bud Lite, it has the map of Texas on it. People here look as Texas as their own country, they want their own music. The support of the general public scene for live music is incredible.”
=”https://www.nashvillemusicguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/kevinfowlerweb2.jpg”>Just about all of Kevin’s shows between now and the end of the year are in Texas, except for one in nearby Stillwater, Oklahoma. But for the last several months, he also often commuted between Texas and Nashville as he put the finishing touches on his latest album.
Ironically, “Pound Sign,” one of the album’s breakout singles and a Top 5 hit on the Texas Regional Radio Report, wasn’t one of Fowler’s own compositions.
“It’s the first single I ever had I didn’t write,” he said. “David Lee Murphy did. I had my kids in the car – three girls aged 3, 9, and 15 – and after they heard `Pound Sign’ they kept singing that song for two straight days. I really do think kids are the best judge of a song. They don’t really care who owns the publishing or radio, they just know it’s a good song.”
Kevin grew up in Amarillo. His family featured huge country fans, with Buck Owens and `Hee Haw’ among their favorites. Fowler’s own idols?
He recalls: “Like all kids that owned a guitar, Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen were my heroes. Anybody that had a real bad attitude and wore their guitar real low.When I first got into it, I wanted to make music that would piss my parents off.”
He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1980s to study at the Guitar Institute, and long considered himself more a guitarist than a singer. By the mid-1990s, he was home in Texas creating his own unique fusion of country and rock, and he was hugely inspired in that effort by Cory Morrow, a fellow Texan also recently profiled in the Nashville Music Guide.
“We all really owe a lot to Cory Morrow,” Fowler said. “He was the forerunner. Pat Green began by opening for Cory.”
Along with his great success in Texas, Kevin started having mainstream country radio impact as well. “Ain’t Drinkin’ Anymore” reached No. 49 on the Billboard country chart in 2004 on Equity Records, with “Best Mistake I Ever Made” getting to No. 47 in 2008.
Last winter, Fowler signed with Lyric Street Records, a Disney-owned Nashville label that sadly went out of business a few months later. He is now completing negotiations with another record company, perhaps Bigger Picture, the red-hot Row startup whose artists include the Zac Brown Band.
“Bigger Picture has a great promotion staff,” Fowler says.
That staff may well help Kevin Fowler’s wonderful music reach audiences both within and outside of the Lone Star State in 2011.