Eric Fowler finds his voice back home
by Seth Rogovoy
(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., May 26, 2003) – Eric Fowler hasn’t lived in the Berkshires for over a decade. But it was on a visit back home a few years ago that the Pittsfield native and Lenox Memorial High graduate rediscovered his true, inner voice.
Coming down off a whirlwind high of pop music success in the wake of the breakup of Boxing Gandhis, a top 10 band for which he played guitar in the mid-to-late-‘90s, Fowler returned home to California to launch his second act as a folk-rock singer-songwriter.
“The last time I came back to Massachusetts I started looking around at the countryside, doing a little bit of introspective thinking and thinking about James Taylor and Arlo Guthrie, and I thought this is where I’m from, this is who I am,” said Fowler in a recent phone interview from his home in Los Angeles.
“I started to realize that and focus on my background, and the stuff coming out was more in line with that, more singer-songwriter with acoustic guitar telling a story,” said Fowler, who performs his new, original repertoire on Wednesday at 8 at Club Helsinki (413-528-3394) under his new stage moniker, Horace Godwink.
Joining Fowler will be his wife, Colette, on vocals, and local musicians Dave Lincoln Jr. on guitar, Eladia Underwood on cello, and Terry Hall on drums.
Just a few days before the Sunday New York Times trumpeted the return of ‘70s-style, male singer-songwriters, Fowler was talking about the kinship he feels toward the original archetypes like Taylor and the new batch of sensitive guys with acoustic guitars like John Mayer, David Gray, Jack Johnson and Pete Yorn.
“It’s just trying to take it back to the basics,” he said. “At the end of the day telling a meaningful story is what it’s all about.”
It wasn’t always this way. In Boxing Gandhis, Fowler was in the service of someone else’s vision – bandleader Dave Darling – and a very specific one at that.
“Boxing Gandhis had a set sound like the Black Crowes, trying to emulate a Seventies funk-soul sound using influences of Sly Stone and Little Feat,” said Fowler. “You’re kind of writing songs trying to frame them in a way that’s reminiscent of an era. And while I like that whole concept and I dig that style of music and I like playing in that vein of music, I always found that when I was trying to write in that direction it never sounded like me.”
Fowler has plenty of experience lending his talents to the creative efforts of others. As a popular Los Angeles session musician he has appeared on a diverse group of albums with artists such as Sting, UB40, George Clinton, Pato Banton, General Public, Taylor Dayne, Clint Black and Roseanne Cash. As a touring musician, he has shared stages with such notables as the Dave Matthews Band, Carole King, C.C. Deville, DJ Quik and Carrie Hamilton.
He formed Horace Godwink to serve his own songwriting and his own vision. In Los Angeles, the band consists of Fowler and the rhythm section from Boxing Gandhis. The group has already recorded its debut album, “Thrift Shop,” which Fowler is releasing on his own label.
In the past, artists struggled to get their songs heard on the radio. While that would still be ideal, Fowler is pursuing alternative means of gaining recognition, particularly by getting songs placed in movies and on TV shows.
“Radio is really difficult to crack,” he said. “To get the Triple A stuff that counts you have to have a lot of money. But we placed one song in the NBC-TV show ‘Providence.’ The goal is to get a few more placements in feature spots and then go to a label.
“But we’re not focused on that. We just need to raise the profile of the band through placement, and then we do a little bit of touring. But right now, the idea is if I need to go somewhere to play I can do it by myself or with a couple of people and an acoustic guitar, and it doesn’t have to be a full-blown rock band.”
The Helsinki show will be combined with a visit home to see Fowler’s parents, Ken and Fran Fowler, who live in Lenox and who own Shear Design, where both his brother and sister work.
“I’m the black sheep of the family in L.A. playing music while they’re all in Lenox cutting hair,” said Fowler, who has a five-year-old daughter. “Sometimes I have dreams late at night that I’m a hairdresser, too.”
[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on May 26, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]
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