By Elizabeth Riggs
Ellicottville’s Balloons Night Club will travel to the deep south on Monday, June 5 when it hosts singer, songwriter and guitar player Damon Fowler.
Fowler, who’s repertoire includes work with musicians among the likes of Gregg Allman and Victor Wainwright, is a soul, blues and American roots musician. His sound is a hybrid of roots rock, blues and steel guitar.
As described by Living Blues magazine, “Fowler is as expressive a songwriter as he is a singer and instrumentalist. He’s preaching an otherworldly, Americana-themed gospel from a six-stringed pulpit. He is a roots guitar guru in the making.”
A Florida native, Fowler’s love of music began at a young age, and was influenced by family gatherings in which music was a main attraction.
“As a child, I started playing music when I was 10. My uncle was in a country band and my mother and myself lived at my grandparents’ house. They would throw a BBQ every Sunday. They had a pool.
Everybody would come over and pick guitars. That’s kind of how I got into it – Sundays,” Fowler said.
As Fowler got older, he knew he wanted a career in music, and he put out his first record at the age of 18 with the help of Rick Derringer, a Grammy-award winning guitarist and producer who both played on and produced Fowler’s debut album.
“I had opened for him and I didn’t realize he was such a famous producer,” Fowler said of Derringer. “’I was this young blues player kid. I was just telling him, ‘Hey, I think I’m going to put out a CD.’ It opened a lot of doors from the beginning. I toured around Florida promoting that record and put out a couple more records.”
Fowler’s debut album, “Riverview Drive,” included all material written by Fowler himself, and he subsequently self-released “Roots and Branches” in 2000 and live album “Live at Skipper’s House” in 2003, which helped him to gain critical attention from fans and music critics.
But unfortunately, Fowler’s rising success quickly went downhill after an automobile accident.
“I had a wreck when I was about 24. I had already gotten a Nashville booking agent and I flipped a van,”
Fowler said, of his critical injuries to his shoulder and skull. “I didn’t play again for a year. I had to move back in with my parents. I lost my girlfriend at the time. All the cliché stuff. But, I healed and went through therapy and started playing again and within the year, I got signed to a record deal.”
Things quickly turned around for Fowler, who put out a fourth record, got a Nashville booking agent, and started performing overseas. It was then that he joined forces with friends J.P. Soars, Victor Wainwright, Chuck Riley and Chris Peet to form what became known as the band Southern Hospitality.
“It kind of happened by accident. We were just friends. Victor has won three or four Blues Music Awards (BMAs) and Victor and J.P. both play Balloons,” Fowler said.
Eventually, Fowler began touring with Southern Hospitality, Butch Trucks and the Free Train Band, and his trio, which has been opening for George Thorogood, best known for songs “Bad to the Bone” and “I Drink Alone,” since this past January.
And though Fowler has traveled around the globe with a litany of famous musicians, he says he couldn’t be more excited to head to Ellicottville next for his gig at Balloons.
“They take good care of you,” Fowler said. “We’re looking forward to our show and I’m excited to be coming up there. We’ve been trying to work out a date up there for a really long time. It’s going to be fun.”
For those who aren’t sure about Fowler’s roots or soul sound, he has simple advice:
“Live a little. Try it out. How do you know unless you try it? We play roots music and I play some steel guitar and slide. Eighty percent of the material is original, but we do cover some stuff,” Fowler said.
Fowler will perform at Balloons at Monday, June 5 at 8 p.m. The back bar and patio will be open for the show, as well as their .25 cent wing special. Tickets are $10 per person.
For more information on Damon Fowler, visit his website: www.damonfowler.com. For more information on the show at Balloons, located at 20 Monroe Street, visit their Facebook page: @balloonsevl.