dan owen

If Dan Owen wasn’t playing guitars, he’d be making them

The singer-songwriter explains how a woodworking accident kicked off his career and tells us why he's always wanted to tour in a tuk-tuk

See that picture of Dan Owen, the one above the headline? He doesn’t look like that anymore. Just like the rest of us, Owen hasn’t seen the inside of a barbershop for almost three months — and he had some pretty long locks already, as you can see. Now, with a beard grown in and that wavy hair wisping all the way down to his shoulders, he’s rocking the castaway look.

And rocking is the word. The 28-year-old singer songwriter is the latest musician to pick up his guitar and belt out an exclusive acoustic track for Gentleman’s Journal’s Lockdown Sessions. You can watch Owen’s soulful song below. It’s worth a watch — if not for that impressive hair alone.

“It’s longer than it’s ever been right now,” laughs Owen, commenting on his self-professed ‘lockdown look’. “I’ve definitely moved on from the gelled quiff look I had when I was a teenager. That said, I’ll probably have it a bit shorter after lockdown.”

We’re not sure he should. There’s something raw, rough and ready about Owen’s new rockstar locks — even if they do make him look a little ‘Joe Wicks’. But you won’t catch the musician doing star jumps in his living room. The only thing Owen’s been moving the sofa for is his makeshift home recording studio, laying down locked-down tracks to keep his Instagram followers entertained. Of course, that’s not to say the singer is averse to a healthy lifestyle — fitness actually comes a close second to his passion for music.

dan owen

“At the end of last year,” he confirms, “I actually did a tour by bike. I carried all the gear myself, and it was a solo trip in November. It got a bit cold and wet, but it was a massive adventure — and ended up being about 800km long, as the flooding at the time slowed me down a bit.

“I’d like to do a tour by kayak at some point,” he adds, “and possibly even a tuk-tuk tour…”

They’re eclectic aspirations. But, then again, Owen is an eclectic musician. For a man who has played over 1,000 gigs, he still doesn’t fit the mould of other professional musicians. He’s not one to self-isolate and solo songwrite, honing his tunes to careful, clinical perfection. Instead, Owen just wants to make music.

“I much prefer getting out and playing live,” he nods. “Making something ‘perfect’ isn’t what I am about really. I like the feeling of having people in a room and creating music that exists just for that unique moment. Just me playing some songs for some people who like them. A moment where Instagram follower numbers, stream counts, marketing strategy and radio play don’t matter.”

That’s easy enough to say when your Spotify following is as healthy as Owen’s. The singer-songwriter draws in over half a million monthly listeners, and the song you can hear him perform below, ‘Made to Love You’, has well over 20 million plays alone. Last year, when Spotify sent Owen his listenership statistics for 2019, he discovered that his music has reached almost 80 different countries.

“And I definitely haven’t been to that many countries yet,” he considers, “but I really hope I can get to as many as possible in the future.”

Add it to the bucket list, just below ‘Tour on a tuk-tuk’. But we wouldn’t bet against Owen — he’s certainly got an adventurous personality. And his life hasn’t followed a neat, planned-out path so far — so why should he start now?

“I never even intended this to be my career,” he says. “I actually failed music at school — so I figured it wasn’t really an option. But then I was partially blinded in a woodwork accident, so I couldn’t then continue down the carpentry path I’d started out on. And I turned to playing gigs because I had to make a living.”

It’s one hell of an origin story. And, when Owen did begin playing gigs — mostly in local pubs — he realised that grades mean nothing in this industry. Though he’d officially failed the subject just a couple of years earlier, the musician spent his eighteenth year playing every gig he could get — almost 150 in total. Eventually, he began releasing his songs, others picked up on his talent and a career in music played out.

“But, back when I first started playing and gigging,” Owen explains, “all I would play was old blues music — even though I’ve always listened to all sorts of music. Except complicated jazz — I’ve never been a technical musician, so a lot of that just goes straight over my head.”

dan owen

Owen adds that, had his career not taken off in such a way, he’d probably have consolidated his love for music with his aptitude for woodworking.

“If I wasn’t doing this?” he repeats. “I’d probably be making guitars, instead! Or maybe writing songs for other people.”

There’s a notable lack of ego in Owen’s music — as there is in the man himself. He’s not uptight about presenting perfect tracks or planning his live performances to the minute. Instead, he’d rather stir up our emotions with his music, and make us feel something we’ve never felt before. During lockdown, he’s been experimenting with cover versions; posting his own takes on well-known songs on his Instagram page, @danowenmusic.

“It’s actually been great learning the covers,” he says. “You really get to appreciate the craft of songwriting when you learn other people’s songs. And lockdown hasn’t been too bad for me because, luckily, I do have a home set-up where I can record and make videos — along with a few guitars.

“I’ve obviously missed playing live,” he adds, “and I’ve had to postpone a tour and a few trips, but I’ve been working on music for my second album, and the first single is coming soon! The world certainly has its problems right now, but music has this amazing power to change minds and help — people just need to be listening.”

Want to hear more locked-down music making? Check out our interview with Tom Grennan here…

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