Photo by Nik Williams
We don’t know much about Nicholas Rowe. His own bio claims he tends to lag emotionally, and interviews with him call him a “loner” and an “enigma,” but with a talent like his, we’re okay with the mystery. The Ohio-based singer-songwriter recently released his latest EP, Everything Has Beauty, a haunting and beautiful collection of songs.
The six track record opens with its title track, an acoustic-fueled anthem that introduces Rowe’s moody croon over an intensifying folk rhythm. Next comes “Bones,” gorgeous in its eerie simplicity but heavy with cynical lyrics like “Anonymity is what I seek / I’m just another body milling in the street” stretched out by Rowe’s aching voice. “Sacred & Profane” is next, the previously released single of the EP. It pulses with a cold, dark boom and the songwriting tackles an introspective study into the duality of human behavior.
Moving into the second half of Everything Has Beauty, “I Broke Free” is the perfect piece of Dylan-inspired storytelling, against a steady folk rhythm melting into a wailing old-school rock tone. “Looking For God” acts as a sort of sonic confessional. Rowe’s broken voice fills the space, stripped of much production, admitting “I found an altar on a bar stool, that was where I aimed to stay / I drank my whiskey all night long and slept it off all day.” The song is heartbreaking, but the songwriting is exceptional, sharing similarities to the great Grammy-winning Jason Isbell. About twenty minutes later, Everything Has Beauty ends with “How It’s Done,” a sparkling strings-based conclusion begging listeners to “choose love.”
On Everything Has Beauty, Nicholas Rowe digs in the caverns of his mind for lessons learned and experiences to share. He bears it all with vulnerable lyrics, whiskey-soaked vocals, and alt-folk rhythms, an admirable combination that creates a staggering and profound listening experience.
Listen to Everything Has Beauty below and read on for an exclusive Buzz Artist Q&A with Nicholas Rowe:
Buzz Artist: First, can you tell Buzz Artist a little about yourself and your music?
Nicholas Rowe: Sure. My name is Nicholas Rowe. I just released a new EP called Everything Has Beauty. I like to describe my sound as indie alt-folk. I live just outside Columbus, Ohio.
BA: How has your location of Columbus, Ohio influenced your music? What is the music scene like there?
NR: The Columbus scene is good I think. I don’t really have much to compare it to though — I don’t know if I would say it’s influenced me. I honestly don’t play here much, mostly because it’s a scene that’s easy to over-saturate.
BA: What was the production process like for your latest EP, Everything Has Beauty?
NR: The EP was recorded, mixed, and mastered at National Audio Preservation Society: a cabin studio in the woods that I co-own with a good friend, Jonathan Hape (who also played drums on the EP and helped with mixing) so it was a great set-up and perfect setting. Most of the instrumentation on the album is played by me, so I spent many long days back in the woods by myself tracking and mixing and honestly, I got way too into my own head at some points. One day I would love it and the next I would be convinced it should never see the light of day. Jonathan helped a lot during those times. It was so valuable to have someone I trusted to peek over my shoulder here and there, or just take over for a bit.
BA: Where do you get your songwriting inspiration from?
NR: For me, songwriting is kind of a necessity. I’ve always had trouble expressing what I’m feeling, especially in the moment. I need time. Space. I need to let it soak. Songwriting helps me do that better than anything. So, people usually say that my songs sound very personal and vulnerable. I agree. They are literally my attempts to interpret and make sense of what’s going on in my own life.
BA: Who are your biggest inspirations, both musically and personally?
NR: Bob Dylan is without a doubt my biggest influence as a songwriter. Blood On The Tracks is the standard by which I measure everything else. The writing is just perfect. The storytelling is masterful. He always knows exactly how much detail to give and how much to leave for the listener to fill in. And he knows when to leave a question unanswered, which is something a lot of writers really don’t understand. He’s an excellent lyricist, and it’s a perfect album.
In my personal life though, my biggest inspiration is my wife Gena, without a doubt. She’s amazing. I’d truly be lost without her. It’s one of those things that’s very hard to put into words. She understands me like no one else.
BA: What is your favorite song from Everything Has Beauty?
NR: Wow, that’s tough. But I’m gonna go with the title track, “Everything Has Beauty,” because personally, that really is the message I hope people latch onto when they listen to the EP. We’ve all heard it said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder — that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Beauty is inherent in the thing. It’s in the person. The situation. It’s there whether you see it or not. It’s important to remember that and to look for it, and share it with others when you find it.
Buzz Artist: Finally, what’s next for you?
Nicholas Rowe: I’ve actually got some shows in the works that I’ll be announcing soon, planning to schedule more as well, and make it out to a few places I haven’t been before. I’ve also got a few new song ideas swimming around in my mind, so I’ll probably be back to writing and recording again before long.