PressErie's Tyson Bowman will open for the Invite and Craig Morgan on Sunday at CelebrateErie
Preview by Dave Richards
As a waiter at Sperry's in Nashville, Erie native Tyson Bowman has served entrees to George Jones, Chuck Wicks, and Mrs. Brad Paisley.
This weekend, he serves up a home-cooked special he's pretty proud of -- his own album.
Bowman, 24, enlisted top Nashville session players and songwriters to assist him on "Thank God for People." He plays a CD-release party for the album on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Plymouth Tavern, and also performs Sunday at 6 p.m. on CelebrateErie's main stage.
"Diggin' on a Country Girl," the album's summery, mid-tempo first single, is available as a free download on his website. Bowman wrote it with Rand Bishop and Roy August, veteran songwriters who have had No. 1 hits with Toby Keith (Bishop's "My List") and the Oak Ridge Boys (August's "Fancy Free").
Bowman started the song with August, but longed to work with Bishop, as well.
"He was the missing piece I wanted," Bowman said. "I sent him the song me and Roy wrote and said, 'Do you want in on it?' He said, 'Tyson, you play a good game of hardball.'"
The daylong writing session was memorable, he said, because the famous songwriters -- who had never met -- were nothing alike.
"Rand is a real serious go-getter. Roy, a lot of people would consider as an out-there creative person," Bowman said. "I'll never forget when we sat down, and Roy said his first words. Rand looked up from behind the table and gave me a weird look. I couldn't help but laugh. But in like 15 minutes, they got to be best friends."
Bowman and Judy Rodman -- a co-writer of LeAnn Rimes' hit "One Way Ticket (Because I Can") -- pounded out the title song.
"Basically, she took a chance on writing with me," Bowman said. "She doesn't even know it, but the song is kind of an ode to her. The album is an ode to everyone who made this album. I honestly don't know why they did it."
Nashville session players chipped in on fiddle, steel, mandolin, bass, drums, Hammond B-3, and more.
"These guys playing on it have played on every other major country record," Bowman said. "In fact, a lot of them had to leave the studio to go play with Lee Ann Womack. They play on all the records we know and love -- Travis Tritt, Womack, Rascal Flatts."
Bowman grew up in Erie, influenced by James Taylor, Garth Brooks, and Alan Jackson -- the first artist he saw at Tullio Arena. He's the first to admit he got into a lot of trouble until Bethel Christian School took him in.
"I was kind of mischievous. I was hanging with the wrong crowd, you know, pretty much doing what every teen goes through, these temptations and stuff. Just not doing homework, not caring at school, not being on time.
"When I was a troubled teen they let me go to school there [at Bethel]. They took a chance on me when I wasn't the typical model student," he added. "They believed in me, and sure enough, I graduated. It wasn't easy, but they all pushed me, just like these record producers pushed me."
Bowman moved to Nashville in June 2007 to pursue music. "I just had this passion in my heart. I'd be lying to myself if I didn't pursue it," he said.
He made good connections in Nashville almost immediately, including gigs at Tootsie's. But his smartest move may have been making his mom, Vicki, a former real estate agent at Nan Held Realtors, his manager.
"I couldn't ask for a better manager with just her sales skills," he said. "Honestly, sometimes I get scared because she doesn't treat me like a son."
With mom's help, he's getting noticed and making waves.
Bowman said he used to daydream about being a country star with Julianna Barninger, his high-school sweetheart, who longed to be an actress. Now he's releasing his first album, and she acts in California. She's appeared in commercials, a couple Comedy Central specials, and will star in Bowman's video for "Diggin' on a Country Girl."
"We always had these dreams. We just didn't know how to get there," Bowman said. "We must be insane or something because now we are there."
Bowman brings it home
Imagine a performer who’s equally capable of opening for country singer Ashton Shepherd and hip-hop star Ludacris.
Right — the idea sounds more ludicrous than Ludacris himself. Except Erie native Tyson Bowman did it. He preceded Shepherd at the Wattsburg-Erie County Fair in September. The Ludacris show happened in 2006 at Tullio Arena when Bowman was part of a rap collective. “I found myself on one of the biggest stages I’ve ever performed on before more people than I ever performed in front of,” recalled Bowman, 23. “I’m really trying to reach that point again, to fulfill that dream of what I was born to do.” The dream involves country. Bowman moved to Nashville three years ago after earning a music degree at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Arizona. He landed a plum job, working with Embassy Music’s Darwin Moody, a veteran writer and producer. “I was doing a lot of the business side, answering phones and doing some bookings,” Bowman said. “One day, I sat down and showed him some of my songs. And he said, ‘All right. You need to be writing songs, not doing this other stuff.’” Bowman dove in. He wrote with a fervor and played out, including regular gigs at the iconic club Tootsie’s. He hired his mom, Vicki Bowman Clauson, as manager. He landed a deal with Guitar Shark Music. His first full-length CD arrives next spring. In the meantime, he’s releasing a five-song EP with the soulful first single “Rain On My Soul,” which he wrote in Arizona. “It was my first time being away from home and, as you know, it’s the desert out there. So, I was kind of feeling dry, spiritually, mentally, physically,” Bowman said. “It’s just about basically finding in your life, whether it be love of family or God, something bigger than yourself.”
He’s influenced by traditional artists, especially Alan Jackson, the first country star he saw at Tullio Arena. But his musical past still influences him. “I do add some hip-hop drum fills and different things,” Bowman said. “I just try to intermingle my style with the pop world and the rap world.” Bowman plays acoustic shows with originals and covers (Skynyrd, Cash, Zac Brown Band) tonight at 9 at Conneaut Lake’s Beach Club. and Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Chautauqua Mall in Lakeside, N.Y. Both are free. He’s glad to come home. His dad and hunting buddy still lives in Findley Lake, N.Y. But Bowman won’t be 100 percent happy until he’s at Tullio Arena again — singing not rapping. My goal is to get on that stage again as the headliner or opener,” he said. “I want to be on that stage again, fulfilling the dream (of who) I’m really supposed to be.”