Sean Rowe is no stranger to walking a different path, but he needed help with his latest venture — walking away from his record label and seeking a crowdfunding campaign to produce his next record.
You can call Sean Rowe a “madman” for his recent, unorthodox approach to his music career, but he is a man with a plan.
The popular blues singer opted not to resign with his record label, chose to crowdfund his latest project, and got the guts to do it by doing something a little off the wall.
“This all started when there was a giant fork in the road for me in terms of where I was going to go career-wise,” said Rowe. “I had fulfilled my contract with Anti Records… And, I had to figure out where I was going to go next.”
For the better part of the last decade, Rowe has made a living off his music. It’s the path he’s chosen to walk since he discovered Otis Redding when he was 17. Not your typical Troy teenager coming of age in the early ‘90s. Instead of Bell Biv Devoe, Guns ‘n’ Roses or Pearl Jam, he spent his money on John Lee Hooker and music out of the Mississippi Delta. Obscure stuff you wouldn’t find playing on FLY 92. He speaks of his love for Laura Lee, a gospel R&B artist out of the ‘60s whose sound he describes by comparing her to the icons of Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin. “That’s all I wanted to listen to,” said Rowe. “I was pretty strict. I emulated all these people that I love. It taught me how to play guitar. It taught me how to sing.” And, for the 10 years that followed high school, Rowe spent his nights cutting his teeth at the local bars and venues that allowed him to strum his guitar and bellow out that signature baritone singing voice.
Rowe has five albums to his name, the last three under Anti Records, the same label under which Merle Haggard and Tom Waits are signed under. The terms of Rowe’s contract were met after the 2014 release of Madman. Though he describes the experience with the Los Angeles-based label as “great,” Rowe said he needed to push out into the unknown. So, he decided not to resign, and opted instead to go “rogue.”
“A part of this was realizing that if I wanted to do the best record I could do — I’ve already been comfortable with the last record. I already did that stuff — I want to do something that’s going to throw me out into the abyss,” said Rowe. “Something that is going to challenge me. So, that’s why I did all this.”
Last July, Rowe launched a crowdfunding campaign with Kickstarter to collect enough money that would allow him to produce his next album. The concept is not necessarily new. In fact, the trend of artists seeking financial help from fans prompted a 2013 Louie Herr article at digitaltrends.com, suggesting bands target modest amounts instead of the $1.2 million raised by musician Amanda Palmer in 2012. Rowe’s $43,000 target would fall under Herr’s modest range. Nonetheless, Rowe said he felt like that was a lot to ask. “We launched this thing, fully realizing that it was a lot to ask.” said Rowe. “We needed to raise $43,000 in one month. And, we were asking our fans to do that.”
Rowe’s plan kicked into motion around the 2014 release of Madman, the third and final record under the terms of his contract with Anti Records. Rowe started a side project; a nationwide tour that involved the musician playing to many of his fans from inside their own living rooms.