A&E: Driving a Career in Country Music

Matt Bowlin is no ordinary Edmond school bus driver. Clad in sharp jeans, relaxed panhandle-slim shirt and weathered hat, he sports a handlebar mustache with goatee.

At first glance, he seems mysterious to school children, appearing to hide behind a pair of sunglasses that shield him both from the sun and prying eyes, but this country music performer is anything but shy. His quiet confidence, classic country style and rugged good looks make him traditional with a hint of creativity.

As a talented performer and songwriter, Bowlin started performing eight years ago and has opened for legendary acts like B.J. Thomas and Billy Joe Royal, Flynnville Train and Cody McCarver. He was featured as a celebrity co-star on OETA’s Utopia Joe, a show dedicated to previewing musicians and artists in Oklahoma. He has won multiple contests and gained stellar reviews from critics and fans across the U.S.

When he isn’t performing out of a traveling suitcase or shuttling kids, he’s playing locally at restaurants like Toby Keith’s Bar and Grill, metro area clubs and statewide festivals.

While many performers begin as a child star with a spoon for a microphone and a broom for a guitar, Bowlin’s career path began unexpectedly. The former U.S. Marine had every intention of fulfilling a promising 20 year military career until one night, while moonlighting as a bouncer at a club, he was asked to sing. “The DJ (disc jockey) kept wanting someone from the door to come up and sing and I finally did it. I liked it,” said Bowlin. “That’s when I got the music bug.”

A couple years later, while recovering from a knee injury and hernia during his last year of military service, he wrote a few songs. Toying with the idea of performing, he started doing karaoke and entered contests. “When I started winning contests, I had to realize this wasn’t just a fluke. I had something I didn’t know I had been given. When I got out of the Marines, I wanted to do music.”

Bowlin used his GI bill to study music at South Plains College, a school made famous by country artists such as Lee Anne Womack, Heath Wright (Richochet), Jedd Hughes and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. He developed his voice and style, which critics say blends traditional country sound with western swing and southern rock.

Such a sudden transition from military to music is easy to understand when Bowlin talks about how he feels on stage interacting with his audience. “I feel like me when I’m out there playing music. Offstage,  people look at me funny sometimes, because I don’t have the same style as they do or dress their way, but when they realize what I do, they understand it. When I’m on stage, I feel like me and people understand me – they get it.”

The independent artist has recorded six of the 10 songs right here in Oklahoma for his self-titled debut CD. Bowlin wrote from his own experiences for almost every song. “As a performer, you have to be able to relate to a song and feel very strongly about it. What I want my audience to get from my music is to be able to say things that they can’t say themselves. I want to take a song and communicate in a way that someone says, ‘that’s how I feel right now’.”

Songs like “Chase My Dreams Forever” tell the listener how Bowlin feels when he sings, “I don’t want it for the money, I don’t do for the fame. It’s for the show, it’s for the people, and the music in my veins. I’m going to chase my dreams forever, ‘cause the highway road never ends.”

As a man who has never lived in one place more than six years, Bowlin loves performing in different cities, seeing new places and meeting new people. “Music was something I didn’t realize was there, like God opened a door and said ‘hey – did you know you had this gift?’ I grew into it and I love what I do,”
he said.

Matt Bowlin’s music is available on iTunes. Check out his website at www.mattbowlin.com for upcoming shows.  

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