“My dad bought me my first guitar when I was eight because it was cheaper than buying me a piano, which was what I really wanted,” said local musician Jean Dowdle. Despite her initial disappointment, she settled and today she thanks her dad for her introduction to music.
As a young child, Dowdle found herself immersed in music. Although she had no formal training, Dowdle’s brother was classically tutored. She was exposed to her father’s wide-ranging music taste and her grandma frequently played Ragtime piano anytime the grandchildren were over. At an early age, Dowdle’s grandma taught her how to play chords on the piano and eventually Dowdle learned to love the expression that emanated from those notes. Singing came naturally to the artist. “I learned to sing harmony because John Denver doesn’t sing any song in a key that a seven year old little girl can reach,” said Dowdle laughing.
Fast-forward more than 40 years later, Dowdle feels blessed at this stage of her life to have the opportunity to pursue her creativity. Widowed when her children were very young, Dowdle sought refuge in song writing. “I don’t know if dealing with my kids and fostering their creativity helped me realize I had a need to express myself, but I just knew I had to,” said Dowdle.
Originally from Kansas City, and having spent the last 25 years in Colorado, Dowdle was ready for a change. She relocated three and half years ago and now calls the Florida Keys home. Why the Keys? “It’s where the dart landed on the map,” said Dowdle.
With new surroundings comes new insight. This is a declaration of Dowdle’s independence after a lifetime of caring for other ‘entities.’ “This is Jean without kids, this is Jean without the band, this is Jean … me as an independent entity is kind of a huge thing,” said Dowdle as she reflected on life’s digressions.
In addition to sharing her journey, Dowdle listed several artists who have influenced her as a musician including John Denver, James Taylor, her grandma and later in life, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Mozart and Louie Armstrong.
An acoustic folk, rock and blues performer, Dowdle’s deconstructed sound is at odds with the comment she gets most frequently – that she must sing Janis Joplin songs because she can really wail. “I’ve had three children, three grandchildren, I’ve even had three husbands. Yes, I can scream,” said Dowdle. But performances are kept simple. As a solo performer, it’s just Jean and her wooden instrument – no iPads, no vocalizers.
Currently, Dowdle is recording a couple of her originals songs and plans to come out with a full CD in the coming year. See Dowdle take the stage this Saturday, Dec. 6 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Cabana Breezes.