“Collecting stories is one of my big goals,” he states, with a wide grin. “I always thought it would be amazing to be the guy in the corner of the pub with endless stories that no-one believes because he sits there drinking all day.”
Originating from Shrewsbury, the singer-songwriter is already building a rich catalogue of tall tales which tend to originate from everyday situations. His first big break came during a hometown jam session far from the clutches of the music industry’s the eternal A&R search for talent. In attendance was an acquaintance of Owen’s who felt that his music deserved a bigger platform, and decided to post a video of him playing Bob Dylan’s The Ballad of Hollis Brown to Reddit.
What happened next was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Having previously loitered around the 700 views mark for seemingly months on end, the video raced to 25,000 overnight and then hit 40,000 by the time that Owen had woken up. The next thing he knew, it made Reddit’s front page and had shot up to 70,000 views.
“It just kept going up and up,” he recalls, still almost in disbelief to this day. “I remember looking at my phone and my hand was shaking. I actually asked my friends who knew more about computers than I do if YouTube had gone wrong or something.”
A mass of interest followed, including messages from the Ellen DeGeneres Show, a visit from Mick Fleetwood who helped to mentor him and, eventually, a deal with Atlantic Records. He even headed to Nashville for a writing session, where his disappointment at hearing that a day’s work had been cancelled was soon compensated for with the news that he was instead invited to Willie Nelson’s birthday bash. Owen was part of an exclusive 50 person audience who saw Nelson perform with the likes of Neil Young, Sheryl Crow and Norah Jones at Jack White’s Third Man Records store.
Dan Owen started playing guitar as a child. By his early teens, he dedicated himself to being the best guitarist he could be after being influenced from everyone from Led Zeppelin to Dream Theater. Now, he adds, he’s just as likely to be found listening to Paolo Nutini, Old Crow Medicine Show or Knife Party.
His first public performance came with open mic nights as the accompanying guitarist to his vocalist sister. When she left home for university,Owen was cajoled into singing. “I did three songs and couldn’t even look at the audience,” he laughs. “Afterwards I had so much adrenaline that I couldn’t sleep. So I just had to find somewhere to do it again.”
Although he admits to not particularly academically minded, Owen discovered that he had a gift for practical work. He excelled at carpentry and blended his talent with his love of music when he joined the masterful custom guitar manufacturer Patrick Eggle as a part-time apprentice. Back at college, his expertise allowed him to help those struggling at the bottom of the class until fate dealt a devastating blow.
A fellow student was cutting wood on a chop saw when a splinter shot out and, as Owen recalls with a grimace: “It hit me square in the pupil from a metre away. It was a perfect shot.” The result – blindness in that eye, no perception of depth and double vision – was the end of a promising career. And the end of a promising career was post-traumatic stress.
Eventually, however, Owen began to rebuild his life. When one job finished, he should’ve again found himself at a crossroads. Instead, he bought a Gibson acoustic guitar and decided to become a professional musician. Using the less than scientific method of a pin and a piece of string, he identified every town and city within a two hour drive of his home. He’d then identify potential venues in each locale and call dozens of places per day, which would usually result in a new date or two for the schedule.
That soon snowballed into playing 150 or 200 gigs a year, ranging from the one-man-and-his-dog-cliché to 3000 capacity festivals. He might trek up to Ayr and back in a single day, or perform on a boat on which the PA looks perilously close to sliding into the water. Imagine any possible gig scenario: Dan Owen has been there and, more often than not, triumphed against the odds.
Owen is currently developing his rootsy hybrid of pop, rock, soul, blues and folk with the expertise of Cam Blackwood (George Ezra), Charlie Hugall (Florence + The Machine) and multi-instrumentalist Ant Phillips. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before new chapters are added to Dan Owen’s anthology of unlikely adventures.