…But Hard, Sometimes: Back in 1999, a group of online fans banded together to try to drum up attention for an album by a terrific young artist. His name was Owsley and the album was a cream-of-the-crop power pop gem that just begged (and still does) to be heard. We had a little modest success with requests to radio stations and posts on message boards. Then the album was nominated for a Grammy for engineering -not the content attention we’d have loved, but still great recognition of craft. Our effort’s gathering momentum was crushed by the crumbling of the music industry in 2000, when Owsley lost his recording contract.
Before that crash, I met Owsley once – it was backstage after a fantastic show here in San Francisco. He was warm, present and so driven and I just had a sense he would make it somehow. I also spent a good bit of time emailing with his brother Bud and Bud’s wife, Wendi – although that had nothing to do with Owsley’s music. We discussed San Francisco and its restaurants and they told me tons about southern culinary experiences such as plantation breakfasts. (They’re in Alabama.) Our email sessions led to us all gaining about 10 pounds! Bud and Wendi are delightful and it was so much fun getting to know them a little via email.
Needing to feed his growing family, Owsley continued working with Nashville and Los Angeles-based artists over the last decade and a half – Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Shania Twain, The Jonas Brothers, and more. Vocals, guitars, songwriting, producing, engineering – you name it, he did it. He ended up with about 10 gold records as a contributor to other people’s work. Lots of time on the road and time not spent working on his own dreams cost him – somewhere along the way, his marriage ended and he got farther and farther away from the possibility of being a solo artist again.
It must have all been too much to bear, because William Reece Owsley III took his own life on April 30, at the age of 44. He left two sons, Walker and Liam, with his ex-wife Rebecca Walker. This was the first piece of news I read the morning of May 1 and it has taken the wind out of my sails for pretty much the whole of my favorite month (Indy 500, baby!). Many fans have reconnected and are sharing memories and music to try and help each other through the sadness. I’m a little surprised that it hit me so hard, and I hope Owsley knew in his life how much people loved him – the outpouring after his death has been a beautiful thing to see. I’m clearly not the only person who barely knew the guy but is nonetheless floored by his passing.
A memorial will be hosted in Nashville by Amy Grant on May 24th and a fund for the boys is being established. I’ll post details here when I learn more.
Ouchies: My vacation’s coming up – heading to Indy to cover the 500 for about a zillion blogs and Twitter outlets, as well as just have some fun! Back in San Francisco for a couple of days after that, then the plan was to head to Texas for the IZOD IndyCar race, then straight to Anaheim for two U2 concerts. Well, Mr. Bono Vox had emergency spinal surgery yesterday and although there isn’t any official word yet, I’m expecting to have to cancel my Anaheim visit. June 6th just sounds too soon to gallivant around on the world’s largest stage after such an injury. I recently obtained media credentials for the Texas race, so will probably leave the night before I had originally planned to avoid missing the practices and come back home on Sunday. Expecting official word about the Anaheim shows on Monday.