In the space between the lyrical directness of Lucinda Williams and the infectious melodic sense of Sheryl Crow, is Austin, TX-based artist Mandy Rowden and her forthcoming--and fourth--full-length studio album, Parachute. Out on March 19 via Howlin’ Dog Records, the 10-track album rides a spirited line between Americana instrumentation and ‘70s-inspired storytelling, wrapped in an authentic modern Texas delivery.
Regional authority, Austin Chronicle, raved that Rowden “kicks butt with her pen.” “Texas is where I've lived most of my life, and without meaning to, I assume I include it in everything I do,” says Mandy. Additionally, These Bad Habits, her 2015 LP, earned the title of #2 “Album of the Year” spot in Austin Chronicle’s annual music poll.
Brought up in East Texas, Mandy Rowden has been a practicing musician since the tender age of six. That’s when she began learning classical piano and guitar, laying the foundation for an eventual career in music. It wasn’t until the Americana sound found its way into her soul that she embraced her true path: that of a real-deal, down-in-the-dirt singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who’s weathered some storms and emerged with tales to tell.
In fact, living up to being a multi-instrumentalist, Rowden took on the bulk of Parachute’s instrumentation. “Like most worthwhile things, it was both rewarding and challenging!” Mandy adds that her producer on the album, Matt Smith, held her to some very high standards. “That initially made me nervous,” admits Rowden, “but I was pleasantly surprised every time. It's my feeling that we can accomplish pretty much anything with an open mind and the right kind of support and this album is the perfect example.”
Rowden is also the sole songwriter, with one exception: a cover of Neil Young’s “After The Goldrush” which concludes the album’s sequencing. “Neil Young is a long-time hero of mine, and I've played that song for years,” says Rowden. “As we wound down the recording we began looking for a soft solo piano song that could round out the sound, and this song jumped into my head. I'm honored to play a tiny part in keeping Young's music regenerating!”
“Parachute,” the forthcoming album’s title track and sophomore single, is a love song about the part of love that comes after the initial whirlwind is over. “My old man and I have driven nearly every highway in the western half of the U.S., twice, and packed more travel fun into our time together than most people pack into their whole lives,” says Rowden. “However, there are still days where nothing beats your own couch in your own town with absolutely no plans to do anything else, and that's what I wanted to capture in ‘Parachute.’”
“Sing Hallelujah,” the powerful lead single from Parachute, was initiated as a project for an organization called Songs for the Soul, in which she was charged with writing an uplifting song for a frontline medical worker in Queens, NY. “After the initial project, I changed many of the words to broaden the scope, and that's the version that's on the album,” says Rowden. “‘Sing Hallelujah’ is a song about our times, but one that hopefully reminds us that this isn't the end of our story and that we can all look forward to life after the current situation. Right now that's COVID-19, but it's always something.”
Rowden’s sound is equal parts bourbon and honey, with the search for meaning finding its way into each song, seeking answers while reveling in the wonder of it all. With all her projects, there is a common thread that is ever-present: a collection of warm, engaging songs about life and vulnerable lyrics that roll out a welcome mat of raw emotional accessibility and revealing a world textured by hurt and hope alike.
In addition to making music of her own, Rowden is dedicated to helping others discover the joy of songwriting, vocal performance and instrument study. That’s why she founded Girl Guitar: a comprehensive rock school for women, bringing music enthusiasts of every skill level into six-week workshops with a rollicking showcase at the end. The Austin-based program introduces beginners to the basics of their chosen craft and encourages intermediate and advanced musicians to further hone their skills, all while surrounded by a supportive female community.
Now in its 17th year, Girl Guitar “has surpassed my wildest dreams,” says Rowden, with around 25 classes per week and quite a few repeat students. “Some of the women involved have been in the program since the beginning and are still going strong. We've had holidays together, been through babies being born, divorces, road trips, benders, you name it. It's really beautiful.”