Thursday, May 1, 2014

Owsley - Biography & Reviews (Owsley & The Hard Way)

William Reese Owsley III - or Owsley - was an American singer-songwriter & producer. Owsley was born in Anniston, Alabama in 1966. He was raised in a musical household.
In 1986 he moved to Tennessee and met a guy called Ben Folds. Both formed along with bassist Millard Powers and drummer Zak Starkey The Semantics. In 1993 they recorded Powerbill and were signed to Geffen. Sadly Powerbill never got a release in the United States. Geffen called it “too pop for alternative, and too alternative for pop. Because of that the four disbanded.

After that William Owsley played for Amy Grant and Shania Twain - he also sang duets with her.
He earned a nice amount of money with that, bought a house and built a recording studio.
This is where he started his first solo record.
William said: "I had heard the story of Tom Scholz of the band Boston recording his first album and taking it to the record company, where he told them that it was finished and they could take it or leave it. And I thought, 'What a cool idea!' I didn't want anyone else coming between me and what I was trying to accomplish."

Owsley released two records: "Owsley" in 1999 and "The Hard Way" in 2004. 

Both are the highly recommended. There are crafty, terrific lyrics, superb arrangements and melodies - these records have written Power-Pop all over it.

His double-sided single, Psycho / Upside Down was made available through iTunes in 2005.

Owsley passed away on April 30, 2010 at the age of 44. He is survived by his two sons from his previous marriage, his parents, brother, sister, friends and fans.  
It happened just some days after PowerPopSquare started. It was all of a sudden and I was shocked, saddened and speechless for a long time.

Now for the short reviews:

Owsley - Owsley (1999)

Oh No The Radio
... is a great opener and kind of a reminiscence to Jellyfish - powerful vocals and chorus, dominant guitar solo. Epic!

I'm Alright
... could have been a hit on the radio. Great harmonies again!

Coming Up Roses
... is the Owsley-song I met first. It blew me away. Coming Up Roses may also be the reason for finding most of the other artists at PowerPopSquare.
It's just a powerful ballad ... wait ... THE ULTIMATE powerful ballad.

Good Old Days
... is filled with catchy and haunting melodies.

Sky Is Falling
... is just powerful!

Sentimental Favorite
... is another favorite of mine on this record.

Zavelow House
... has stunning guitars and a wall of sound.

Sonny Boy
... could be also a really good Ben Folds Five song - which is meant as a compliment! Awesome vocal & piano work!

Homecoming Song
... shines by his chorus and vocal hooks!

Class Clown
... begins with "Love is a friend of mine  // It tells me to keep my head  // When all those around me are // Losing theirs instead". It's so beautiful. And it's the best way to close this record.
To be precise: "Owsley" ends with an instrumental version of Good Old Days (which is equally beautiful).

Owsley - The Hard Way (2004)

So, what can you expect from the second record of Owsley? At least the same quality of music! And this is what you get.

The record kicks of with Be With You. You may already suggest what it's all about: "I wanna know what it's like to believe in something // I wanna live my life like I hope I mean it // I wanna be with you!"

Rise / Down / Undone / Dude are simply four epic tracks - and highlights of this record! Goosebumps assured!
Matriarch is a personal and touching song.

The fulminant finale of The Hard Way is Dirty Bird and Rainy Day People. Both are unbelievable intense and greatly beatlesque.

Band On The Run (the hidden track) may be one of the best cover versions I've ever listened to. To be blasphemous: I MAY like it more than the original.

There are many songs, that never appeared on any of the two records. Some surfaced at the Yahoo / Facebook groups, many remain unheard.

Unreleased songs:

- Upside Down (iTunes digital release in 2005)
- Psycho (iTunes digital release in 2005)
- Changes (from Christian Band "Blue Sky Secret", co-written and some singing by Owsley - source:
- Endlessly (Demo - source:
- Leave It All Behind (Demo for Amy Grant - source:
- When Lonely Comes Around (from Owsley Yahoo Group - vocals: Owsley and Vince Gill; written by Owsley/Gill)
- Got a Lot on My Head (from the "The Cars" tribute record "Substitution Mass Confusion")
- Feel No Pain (source: unknown)
- Ethos Music: Fountain of Youth // Take Me to the Place / Far From Me (recorded with Owsley)

Final words:
"Owsley" and "The Hard Way" are the benchmarks for PowerPop records. There's nothing more to say.


  1. Hi Andy. Haper here. I was just re- reading your great blog. (Love what you've done with the place) and stumbled on these entries in you Owsley Discography:

    - Feel No Pain (source: unknown)
    - Ethos Music: Fountain of Youth // Take Me to the Place / Far From Me (recorded with Owsley)

    I hadn't heard of these tracks but I did found them on Grooveshark. I'm not absolutely convinced but they do sound like later Owsley. So what do we know about these tracks? Can you tell me where you discovered them?

    All the best.

    1. I had one of these songs and searched google for information. I found this site:
      And there was also a facebook link (to Chad Little) - I asked him and he responded quickly:

      Chad: "I wrote these with Will back from 2008-2010 era...we were doing a developmental duo thing. We recorded these in Will's basement in his house in Nashville."

      AL: "Did you share vocals on these three songs"

      Chad: "Yes I did."