It’s been more than ten years since I last featured a song by Owsley, the stage name of singer-songwriter and power pop savant Will Owsley. I dedicated three posts to him in October of 2010 after learning that he had died by suicide in April of that year.
Reading those posts now, I was amused to see frequent commenter Dana lamenting the lack of Jackson Browne songs on the blog. He finally got his wish a decade later!
I don’t know why it is that some artists go on to have Ben Folds’ career and some artists wind up forgotten (and, in Owsley’s case, dead).
Talent plays a role, certainly, but lord knows there are enough popular and untalented (or moderately talented) artists out there to suggest it’s more than that: Attitude, connections, just plain luck.
Obviously it’s a roll of the dice for anybody seeking to make a living in the arts, and the percentage who actually break through and land a recording contract is minuscule. And in that sense, Owsley was better off than most people who started down the same path he did.
I discovered Owsley through a Ben Folds Five fan site, in a thread along the lines of “If you love Ben Folds, you’ll probably like this guy too.” Their sounds weren’t very similar (Owsley’s instrument of choice is the guitar, for one thing, while Folds has almost always recorded without one) but I did recognize a similar vibe and sensibility.
In their early days, Ben played drums in a band Owsley started called The Semantics, before leaving to form his trio. Several websites report that Ben wasn’t actually a member of The Semantics, though he did record with them… just semantics, I guess (my apologies for the weak joke).
Often I’ll reach back for some forgotten artist as a Song of the Day candidate with absolutely no idea what he’s up to now.
A quick Google search reveals that the pop singer I listened to back in college went on to produce one more album before opening up a coffee house in a small Midwestern town.
Or maybe she’s been toiling away at a musical career, worshiped by a small but passionate fan base, with seven underheard albums and hundreds of live shows under her belt.