Even though he's getting a chance to shine on a major label, don't call Brian Owens an overnight success. The Ferguson native has been making music on his own and with others for nearly ten years. And more recently, he was a lead male vocalist of Sidewinder, a U.S. Air Force band that effectively blew up the Internet last year. The group appeared on a number prominent television shows, including Entertainment Tonight and The Ellen Show.
Owens has since pursued a solo career after Sidewinder was decommissioned, efforts that paid off this week with the release of his song "I Just Want to Feel Alright" as a single. The song -- which is now for sale on iTunes -- was released on St. Louis-based Destin2B1 Records. It was distributed through New York-based BDG RED, a division of Sony Music Entertainment.
In a telephone interview with RFT Music, Owens said getting attached to a major label just feels right.
"It's kind of one of those things where the overnight success is never really overnight," Owens says. "No one really sees the groundwork that you've been laying for past ten years. But I think the timing is right."
From a musical standpoint, Owens says his solo push has given him a chance to "wrestle with his own creativity." One of the things Owens is particularly appreciative about is how his music tends to have roots in "old school" soul music.
Rather than being a more contemporary R&B track, "I Just Want to Feel Alright" channels the soothing and uncompromising sound of musical heavyweights like Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye or Sam Cooke. The music feels like it's from a bygone era, even if the message is more immediate.
"It just fits me," Owens said. "It fits who I am, it fits what I'm about, it fits what the purpose of my career is which is a greater purpose than music. ... Like I can be myself and do soul music. For me to do contemporary R&B is for me to be somebody who I'm not. And that's cool. I don't knock anybody else. It's just not me. It doesn't allow me to use the full-range of music that I want to do. It doesn't give me the ambiguity that allows me to branch out into other genres."
The decision to embrace "old school" roots, Owens said, provides more flexibility. For instance, he said that this past New Year's Eve he performed with the St. Louis Symphony and sang traditional soul music at the Sheldon Opera House.
"Being able to go back and forth is a lot of fun for me, and I never want to lose that because someone throws me into an R&B thing," Owens says. "I never want to lose the ability to walk between these different worlds. Because I think ultimately the point of my music is to meet people with messages. I think if that is indeed the purpose of it, you can't tie that to a genre. You can't limit it to a demographic. You kind of have to let it be what it is."
Additionally, Owens is assisting the Welcome Home Foundation. The group -- which helped organize a parade in honor of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans -- is utilizing his song "Keep Movin' On" as a musical backdrop to its philanthropic efforts.
"I got involved just on a volunteer basis because they needed someone to do an anthem," Owens said. "And I wanted to be a part of it because I thought it was a really cool thing that they were doing. And now it's blown and to see that many people come out to the parade was really cool. And when there's an opportunity for me to be involved in another way, of course I jumped at it -- and especially if I could use music to do that."
Owens added he never wants anyone to forget what very young men and women in uniform "do on a daily basis to make sure that we can enjoy -- it sounds so cliché -- enjoy the freedoms that we hold so dear."
"But it's the truth," Owens said. "Me allowing them to use my song, me doing a video for them - that's a way for me to give back and for me to put out a message that's encouraging. And just for our troops, but hopefully other folks. Even if you don't go to a huge parade or hold a huge parade, there are still ways you can be engaged and involved in supporting our troops." Owens will be playing the Old Rock House on March 6 to preview songs from Moods and Messages. The album is expected to be released sometime in the summer. And as for the future, Owens is hoping that his upcoming album and current singles make people feel "encouraged."
"We'll see where it goes," he says. "If for nothing else I get this album out and it helps somebody, I'm at a point in my life where I'm cool with that. There was a time in my life where you'd ask me that question and I'd be like 'I want to go platinum. I want to have a lot of success on a national level.' But to be honest with you, I'm comfortable with the fact that we can release this album and 2,000 people buy and that's it, and a lot of people are just encouraged. And I'm fine with that."
"But of course we're swinging for the fences."