The Shawn Owen Band Blends Beach Cool with Mountain Chill
Photographed by Kirsten Boehmer Photography
On the surface, Shawn Owen’s music is a tonic of one-part smooth acoustic instrumentals with a reggae-inspired vibe and one-part catchy, unpredictable lyrics. One minute you might be transported to a sunny beach party, the next you may find yourself rushing headlong down a cold mountain slope. Much like his life, Shawn Owen’s music lives in two worlds simultaneously. A West Virginia native who grew up chasing the dream of a professional snowboarding career and a musician currently captivating audiences from beach bars in Annapolis to Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg, Shawn is both. His sound is daring and serene, graceful and edgy—something he likes to call “rock and soul.” “There are a lot of different emotions that come out in our songs,” Shawn says. “I write about life and my experiences. I look at each song differently.”
He says, “Some are boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy cries about girl. Others are more a social commentary—the world the way I see it. I don’t try to go in with too much of a game plan. I like to sit down with the guitar and a pen and just write.”
Growing up in Snowshoe, Shawn lived for the thrill of snowboarding, but he was always drawn to music. “I grew up fly-fishing, surrounded by all the rivers. That connection to nature is big part of my music,” he says. From high school drum line to moving to Colorado when he was 17, Shawn kept one foot on the mountain and the other on the music stage. “When I got into snowboarding, I realized how much music and action sports have always meshed with me. I pursued it until I realized I couldn’t keep up with some of those young kids anymore. Then I got together with friends who’d attended WVU and started Stolen Element.”
A chance trip to Florida and a long sail boating adventure tipped the scales for Shawn, eventually convincing him to devote himself to the music he loved. “We had two Bob Marley CDs and just sailed around. That was when I really connected with him and his vibe. His message really resonated.”
Offering a youthful, energetic mix of reggae and punk rock, Stolen Element toured beach bars and college parties in the summer, swinging north to Morgantown when the students returned. “We got hard and heavy at times, but then I got a little older and settled down.” Although the band eventually dissolved, Shawn continued mesmerizing audiences with his cool tones and clever lyrics, digging deeper into the reggae vibe and message of love that originally inspired him and coming out with something unique. Today he fronts the Shawn Owen Band (affectionately known as SOB) and tours solo, working closely with his sponsor, Speakeasy, which produces T-shirts for charities.
Riding the same wave of beach rocker acoustic that made Jack Johnson famous, Shawn injects a little mountain culture into each song, and with a new LP on the horizon, he hopes to bring a little sunshine back to his home state. Catch the SOB this fall when they play at 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown on October 20, 2012, or visit the SOB on the web at shawnowenmusic.com.