This article originally appeared in the Kentucky Kernel.
For Brian Owens, music has been a part of the fabric of his upbringing. Owens grew up in Belleville, Illinois, part a musical family led by his father, a pastor, leading him to sing in the church choir for much of his childhood.
However, it wasn’t until his senior year of high school that Owens opted for a musical career path. According to Owens, he recalls his parents signing him up for organ lessons when he was eight years old, and after attending one lesson he ditched the organ for a spot on the baseball diamond.
Since music has become his passion, Owens has relocated to nearby Ferguson, Missouri, where he’s resided for the past eleven years. The city has been in the spotlight in recent years after police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown in Aug. 2014, sparking widespread outrage and furthering our nation’s racial divide.
Owens’ upcoming record ‘Soul of Ferguson,’ set to release on Feb. 24, touches on many of the struggles and experiences the citizens of Ferguson face every day. Per Owens, the record will have a side A and a side B, much like old-school vinyl, with much of side B being written during the fallout of Brown’s death.
“The record in and of itself for me represents the heart of Ferguson,” Owens said. “The true depth and meaning of my city, which is people being in love, people expressing their faith and people dealing with tough issues. To me, the record captures all those feelings.”
For one of the tracks on ‘Soul of Ferguson’ titled ‘For You,’ Owens collaborated with Michael McDonald of The Doobie Brothers fame. According to Owens, a friend of McDonald, a Ferguson native, saw him perform in 2014 and thought Owens would be a proper opening act for a show McDonald had scheduled in St. Louis the following year. The show was a success, and Owens soon joined McDonald for more stops on his tour. While on tour, McDonald heard the song and a conversation ensued about working together, and the rest is history.
The record, and Owens, both have significant ties to Lexington as well. Owens recorded much of the project at nearby Shangri-la Productions with Duane Lundy, visiting town as recent as earlier this month to finish mixing and mastering.
For Owens, music has taught him to not be lazy, but rather to push himself that extra mile to perfect his work.
“If I’m not careful, I’ll stop at what I’m good at and not push myself beyond that, but really trying to push into the areas that are difficult, where I’m going to grow,” Owens said. “Sometimes that means taking an extra ten minutes when I’m done or singing a take over again because I know it’s not completely in tune.”
Owens will be performing in Lexington on Thursday, Feb. 23 at Soulful Space, also known as Church of the Good Shepherd. The show will also serve as an album release party of sorts. The stop at Soulful Space will be the third show in the venue for Owens and the first where he’ll be joined by his horn section and backup vocalists.