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Q+A with LEAF Singer-Songwriter Competition Finalist Philip Bowen

May 5th, 2022

Born and raised in West Virginia, Philip Bowen’s uplifting sound is heavily inspired by his Appalachian roots. The dynamic singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist began playing fiddle at the age of four, and his virtuoso skills have become quite popular on TikTok, with over 3 million likes and 540k followers on the platform alone. His popularity on the app even propelled him to win TikTok’s Gamers Greatest Talent competition, earning $25k and beating out thousands of other competitors.

Bowen has been writing songs since he was a teenager, but never thought it would be possible to have a career in music. After earning an MBA from the University of Tampa, a friend encouraged him to create an account on TikTok and his fiddle covers and original songs took on a life of their own.

He continues to release his original music, spreading his message of positivity to an audience that has been growing rapidly. With guest spots on Ross Golan’s “And the demo is…”  and praise from Yahoo, PopMatters, and Atwood Magazine, it’s easy to see why the Nashville Songwriters Association International dubbed this inspirational artist “one to watch.”

NewSong Music: What inspired you to enter the NewSong Contest?

Philip: I originally heard about it a few years ago, and was immediately intrigued and wanted to submit my songs. 

What was your introduction to music?

I’ve been playing the fiddle since I was 4 years old, and grew up going to festivals like the Vandalia Gathering in Charleston, WV. Music is a huge part of Appalachian Culture and was always in the house. 

What is the first song you wrote that you were proud of, and why?

I wrote this song called, “Almost Heaven” about how much I was missing home during my college years. I played it all around town at coffee shops and beach restaurants (I went to school in Clearwater, FL) and it was the first time I saw audience members with happy tears at something I’d written. 
What instrument do you play, and why?
I play the fiddle/violin, guitar, keys, and a little mandolin. Fiddle is my first love, but guitar has a special place in my heart because it is my main writing instrument.
How did the pandemic impact you as an artist (for better or worse)?
Well, it honestly provided a crazy amount of growth for me in my music performing and songwriting. I made a commitment going into 2020 that I would do something every single day towards my music and make a real go of it. Of course, COVID hit, but I wanted to keep to my commitment and so I started finding ways to do music online and it changed my life. I’ve met and collaborated with so many people, and it’s been such a joy to see things grow. 

Does the place where you grew up inspire you as an artist? If so, in what way?

Oh yes. My West Virginia/Appalachia home inspires almost everything I do. WV is such a special place, and it’s given me so much inspiration in my writing. The people are special and so is the scenery, and they inspire me every time I write a song. 

In what ways does the craft of songwriting still surprise you?

I’m always amazed at how a song can come together, sometimes seemingly out of thin air or when you are at your most frustrated with the songwriting process. One of the things I love most about songwriting, is the challenge of telling a deep, emotional story, but having to do it with relatively few words. I love the marriage of melody and prose. It’s terrifying at times, but it’s so addictive. 

What are some of your creative goals for this year?

I want to write my best songs yet. I also want to do more collaborating and co-writing with other songwriters. I want to inspire as many folks as I can.