Mandy Rowden

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  • Mandy Rowden

    This show was on Oct 30th, 2016 | 31 people watched
    1 Comment
    • Oct 30
      What was your favorite part of the performance? My favorite was seeing my daughter Sherie R. play. Thanks for giving the "out of town" people a way to connect. Just a side note -- lots of people were in front of the camera and blocked a lot of the stage a lot of the time.
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  • Mandy Rowden

    This show was on Oct 30th, 2016 | 27 people watched
    1 Comment
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Bio

Though Mandy Rowden started playing violin at 6 and piano at 7, she didn’t discover her songwriting talents until she was 21 — a few years after she finally unlocked a long-forbidden door to rock ‘n’ roll and had a chance to explore its oh-so-delicious temptations.

Until then, her musical diet had been limited to gospel and classical, the only sounds allowed in her East Texas family’s... more

Though Mandy Rowden started playing violin at 6 and piano at 7, she didn’t discover her songwriting talents until she was 21 — a few years after she finally unlocked a long-forbidden door to rock ‘n’ roll and had a chance to explore its oh-so-delicious temptations.

Until then, her musical diet had been limited to gospel and classical, the only sounds allowed in her East Texas family’s fundamentalist Baptist household, where she was home-schooled through eighth grade.

Rowden picked up a guitar in high school, and was introduced to Americana while studying English and Film at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State). That led her to, as she puts it, “quit the classical scene,” and find her own voice.

And what a voice it is, both lyrically and literally. Rowden possesses gorgeously nuanced vocals, which she wraps easily around verses baring emotions at once intensely personal and fully relatable.

“Like most chick songwriters, I’ve been guilty of writing heavily about my thoughts and feelings on relationships,” she admits. “And my response is, ‘Screw it, it’s what I’m feeling, so it’s what I’ll write!’ Love and love lost are some seriously universal topics, so I don’t see them going out of style any time soon.”

She certainly has a point — and makes it to great effect on her new album, Live from Opa!, recorded at one of her favorite Austin coffeehouses, and an earlier EP, Big Moon. And it’s not likely anyone’s going to quibble with lyrics like these, from “Breaks,” on Better Angels, a recording she and fellow singer-songwriter Billy Abel made before heading out on a summer 2013 tour. In a sure, yet slightly repentant voice, she sings, I’ve been reckless and I’ve been wild. I’ve melted like a candle and wept like a child. Lookin’ forward to a lifetime of things that never are, but the joy and the pain and a whole lot of scars. Nothin’ seems real when it doesn’t leave a mark, but it breaks my heart.

Make no mistake, though: Rowden is hardly just another “chick songwriter.” She’s funny as heck, first off, and versatile enough to play an ever-expanding list of instruments that now includes piano, fiddle, mandolin, bass, harmonica, drums, ukulele, and banjo. (And according to one Texas critic, “When she plays the fiddle, hearts melt.”) She’s gone skydiving. And participates in triathalons. She has a cat named Lucy. And once sold all of her possessions and moved to New York. Eventually, she came back, as Texans always do.

She’s tall. And she’s given up trying to pretend she’s not. In fact, Rowden isn’t the kind of person who’s likely to pretend about much — not with a “day job” that involves teaching women to become confident performers in six weeks.

Rowden is the founder of Girl Guitar, which offers musical workshops for women. Whether fulfilling long-held fantasies or seeking serious career training, women attending Girl Guitar build up their chops and perform at a group-showcase finale. Seven years after Rowden launched it, Girl Guitar conducts about 22 sessions a week, including songwriting, and students report having the time of their lives.

Of course, that takes honesty — not to mention diplomacy and more than a little psychology. Plus wine.

But another reason for Girl Guitar’s success is Rowden’s continued dedication to her own career; she gigs regularly, solo or with Abel. She also performs in Cover Girl (yes, it’s an all-female cover band, and loads of fun), and in a weekly show called Whiskey Church, and has been known to show up alongside acclaimed singer-songwriter Sam Baker and up-and-comers Jessie Torrisi & the Please Please Me.

“I’ve gone head-first into everything from the Beatles, Stones, Zep and Bowie to White Stripes to old-school country to hip-hop and everything in between,” Rowden says. She’s played in all sorts of configurations, including the Gringo All-Stars, the Cash Band (as June Carter Cash), Blackwater Gospel, The Buddy Quaid Band, and the Whiskey Tango Family Band.

Clearly, she tends to follow her instincts and passions; that’s her approach with songwriting, too. Rowden’s work contains both vulnerability and determination; it comes from a woman who’s had her share of heartbreak but knows ecstasy, too.

But regardless of whether she’s expressing pain or joy (or the occasional zinger punchline), for Rowden, it all boils down to one essential point.

“I just love playing,” she says simply. “As long as my hands and voice work and my car gets me places, I just want to keep entertaining people, and if something I write or say influences someone positively, then bonus!”

With her talents and energy, it’s safe to say she’s scored that bonus many times over.

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