Jon Dowling may have grown up a little off the beaten path of the music industry, but top-level musical talent was inside his own family.
Jon's Dad was a guitarist and producer whose West Springfield, Mass.-based band the Spidells became a key component in New England's booming Folk scene. Mr. Dowling occasionally subbed in with the most popular Folk band of them all, the Kingston Trio, who charted 14 Top 10 albums in 5 years, including 5 No. 1s.
"The Folk music Dad played in those days and the stylings he added paved the way for later artists like John Denver to thrive and cross over into the Pop and Country mainstream," Jon says from his home near Los Angeles.
In fact, Jon has fond memories of riding on his father's shoulders when he was 3 at a John Denver show at the Springfield (Mass.) Civic Center, and hearing Denver sing "Rocky Mountain High."
Then a magic moment happened that Dowling remembers to this day.
"I was sitting in the third row with my parents," Jon says, "and John Denver was singing. But John looked at me, smiled, and said from the stage, `I think I have some competition.' "
By age 5, little Jon Dowling was already playing around on several instruments. His first instrument as a pro player was drums, an unusual choice for a Pop/Adult Contemporary singer and songwriter, but a unique background that has given Dowling's music a wonderful, rhythmic groove which makes his songs hooky as heck and radio-friendly across a variety of formats.
Dowling's fast-growing army of fans often see him onstage or in photographs playing keyboards, and many don't know early on that keys wasn't his first gig.
"I'm actually a pro drummer by trade," Jon says. "Then I switched to another level on keyboards about 13 years ago."
Much of that high-level training happened at Boston's famed Berklee College of Music, a powerhouse industry training ground that has provided countless talents for the Los Angeles, New York, Nashville, and London music communities.
Berklee was founded in 1945 by the MIT-trained engineer named Lawrence Berk, and it immediately became the first U.S. school to teach jazz. Its commitment to up-to-date musical trends in all genres still shines brightly. Berklee tells us in a statement that the college "was founded on the revolutionary principle that the best way to prepare students for careers in music is through the study and practice of contemporary music."
The biz models of the music industry in the age of iTunes and Twitter are changing radically, and Dowling thus earned degrees in what may be the ideal double major at Berklee, Music Business and Performance.
After graduation, Jon knew it was time to head to New York, where his Dad was by that time also playing shows.
"I did not have a great time in high school. Socially I'm an outgoing person, but I was so dynamic in my demeanor in terms of music that really most of the time I was practicing music and basketball," Dowling says. "I wanted to get out of West Springfield."
So Jon hit the Big Apple full-time in 1998. It wasn't long before he was picking up session, production, and live work with many top artists including the Latin jazz icon Michel Camilo and with Lanny Isis, a singer and songwriter popular both in Europe and New York City.
In NY and in Los Angeles, where Jon relocated a few years back, Jon eventually got to work with dozens of platinum-selling artists, songwriters, and producers, including the longtime Madonna and Brian McKnight producer Jon Degrazio; the Bowie and Vanessa Williams engineer and producer Christian Wicht; Harvey Swartz; Poco bassist Rich Neville; the Syotos Band, and many more.
Soon Jon's music was attracting a great deal of attention at radio and at major labels. He released a pair of breakout albums, 2003's Jon Dowling And The Patriots: Peace Through Patriotism (recorded in 2002-03 in New York), and its powerhouse 2008 follow-up, Trials & Tribulations (recorded in NY/New Jersey, Nashville, and LA combined, reflecting the huge breadth and evolution of Jon's musical influences).
Jon fans will be delighted to learn that he is putting the finishing touches on a fourth album, and like the earlier projects every song on every album can stand alone as a radio-friendly gem, each with its own pure Dowling touches in performance and production.
"Jon's songs," senior Capitol Records A&R executive Michael Howe says, "are carefully customized handcrafted pieces of music, designed to stand the test of time for years to come."
Howe earlier was a co-founder of Downtown Records, working with superstar acts including Gnarls Barkley and Mos Def. He also worked at Warner Atlantic.
Michael's statement about the timelessness of Dowling songs is exactly right, and part of that comes from the music that impacted Jon early on.
"I grew up in the Eighties, a very underrated period musically," he says. "Back then, you could hear everything on the radio from the Yellowjackets to Air Supply to classical music to the Police to Sting."
Then he makes a statement which is key to understanding Jon Dowling's music and his philosophy of music.
"There was inspiration then in every form of music," he says. "Today I want to bring back inspiration to music, if you wanna call what we're hearing today music."
Phew. The man has incredibly high standards, so Dowling fans will be thrilled to learn that he believes his new album, Long Days, Long Nights, recorded with many of LA's hottest session guys and producers, to be the strongest he's ever done.
"My current record is my best work," he says without hesitation. "This is my most raw, direct, in-your-face record. The lyrics are more tapered, the songs are all extremely commercial, all very meaty and very deep within the context."
Is it any wonder a guy who speaks like that is such a good lyricist?
And as to the music on Long Days, Long Nights, it too will also open a lot of eyes and ears. "It has more drive to it, with organs and keyboards. I'm sort of changing and adapting. And I write all my own stuff, I don't collaborate with anybody," he says.
For a man who's cut four albums, that ability to write every song is a strong statement indeed.
Pop and AC Radio are anxiously awaiting the singles, including the story song "Don't Let Me Die In Pennsylvania" and one of Jon's best Rock anthems, "Don't Wanna Own The World." Fans are already figuring out their own interpretations to that lyric.
"Without You" has a classic Jon drive and groove to it – remember that the guy spent years as a pro drummmer. "Can't Keep A Good Man Down" and the uplifting "Get With It" are bound to become not only radio favorites but also concert chestnuts for the huge number of Jon's enthusiastic fans, and for years Dowling has consistently delivered large audiences of passionate P1 female followers at his shows and radio appearances.
So, as Long Days Long Nights nears completion, the fascinating musical journey of Jon Dowling has truly reached from coast to coast, from Boston to Hollywood. That journey has also consistently spanned more and more lyrical and instrumental styles with every single and every album.
Stay tuned. The best of Jon Dowling is on the way.
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