Over the summer, Owen Beverly traveled to Denmark, Germany, France, the U.K., Switzerland, and Canada. Today, he’s in Sweden, playing his way across Scandinavia. Today, “nomad” is the term that may come to mind while Owen tours with the band Oh Land, as their guitarist.
After this leg though, Owen plans to focus on his own music and reinvent as INDIANOLA. He’s recorded a new record under the name, will open for the highly anticipated Jump, Little Children reunion shows this December, and tour as his new band next year.
After two years of continuous—not even continual—travel, this band name almost seems like a move to reclaim home. Indianola is a little town on the Delta about an hour from where Owen grew up, and he says it’s a worthy namesake, because “it’s a hotbed of really influential blues musicians—Albert King and B.B. King mainly.”
But is it also to remind, “Here, this is my home,” even though Owen’s more often in Denmark than Mississippi these days?
“That’s an insightful question,” he starts, and then reasons, “There could be some inherent need to be more grounded.”
Also: “I think people end up having a real imaginative idea of where they come from that’s part-fiction and part-nonfiction.”
Hence Owen’s old bio on his website. Read it, and try to decipher what’s real and what’s not, all the while knowing this guy must be a good songwriter, because of lines like, “The water moccasins were so plentiful we kicked them off the front porch like pinecones.”
He says, “If you find yourself thousands of miles away from where you grew up, often you also find yourself compelled to write in a way that’s harking back.” As a writer, you become romantically inventive because of all the alone time. “It’s definitely pretty lonely. You spend a lot of time contemplatively thinking about your past and your future.”
In his self-written bio, Owen also describes his first foray into the musical world. “I learned to play the guitar and joined a blues quartet called Lou’s Blues. I was sixteen years old in a band of middle-aged black guys. They dubbed me “White Lightnin’.” Late at night in the empty juke joints of New Orleans, Vicksburg, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I drank whiskey from mason jars and cut my teeth on the music of the Delta.”
This part of the bio is true. The musicians saw him playing at an open mic night in downtown Jackson, and, after, Owen spent the weekends traveling with the band—with his parents full blessing, because they saw that their son had found his talent. “My parents were very supportive of it. My mom used to come and watch me play at some very questionable places in downtown Jackson.”
Fans of Owen Beverly became fans, most likely, because of the honest quality of his music, which was learned with these learned blues musicians in his teens, and his fans will carry over to INDIANOLA because of the same raw emotion. With some growth, because, Owen says, “When you write songs, you never stop learning how to do it. Your sound never stops evolving, and, if it does, then what kind of songwriter are you?”
In January of this year, Owen started working with Paul Bannister of Dogwood Management. Paul also manages Shovels & Rope and Noah Gundersen, and says, “I’m as confident to shop this music as I was with anything I’ve been associated with. It’s a rock-n-roll album, but, underneath that, it’s a songwriters record.”
The easy comparison, musically, is to say INDIANOLA feels like Ryan Adams, but a more accurate description of the sound and general makeup would be to say: what Conor Oberst is to Bright Eyes, Owen Beverly is to INDIANOLA. Which is to say Owen might switch back and forth between the two, but, Owen points out, “The place I’ve gotten to seems the most authentic to me.”
It’s a little-known fact that Owen’s real name is actually Owen Evans. When he moved to Charleston for college in the early 2000s, he wanted to create an artist, so he became Owen Beverly, and it stuck. “I’ve always been part of a project and a band that’s not really who I am, so that isn’t changing. Not being Owen Beverly anymore doesn’t feel like a departure.”
Rebranding is actually giving him a chance to shed having a brand at all.
“I’d like to come across as close to what I’m really like as I can. I don’t like the idea of coming up with a persona. I want everything to be very honest and transparent. I don’t want anyone telling me what to wear and how to do my hair. I like to just do what I like to do. It’s not a big list: It’s write songs, record the songs, and tour.”
Words by: Elizabeth Bowers
Photo by: Leslie Ryann McKellar