When I was a kid, I had a room that was next to my bedroom at my parent’s house. Actually, it was part of the attic. It was my world and secret passageway into music and all things creative and awesome. The walls were covered with photos of my favorite bands, musicians, and skateboarders that had been ripped out of magazines and stuck to the wall with thumbtacks and Scotch tape. There was a hammock in this musical, isolation chamber that was filled with sleeping bags and old pillows. I would sit in the hammock and listen to music everyday. I would sing as loud as I could and fill my body with music. It gave me the feeling that I was connected with a force that drives all things amazing.
I would picture myself on stages playing for people that were there for only one reason - to get away from life and become part of this connection with all things amazing. I dreamed of being in a band with other musicians that were so in tune with each other that when united we could soar to musical places that no other combination of people could reach. We would sing and play songs about life, struggles, and love. This imaginary stage, fans, and band were and have always been all I ever wanted. About five years ago, I opened my eyes and looked out at a sea of people who were connecting to the music playing. I looked up from my guitar and saw a stage full of my best friends, who are the most incredible musicians I know. I was living my dream. I am still living my dream. I am Coy Bowles and I play guitar, organ, and write songs in the Zac Brown Band.
I started playing guitar at age 11. By the time I was 13, I had a band called Betty Doom. We played punk rock and rock-n-roll music at churches and at friend’s birthday parties in my hometown, Thomaston, Georgia. It still seems ironic that we played punk rock in church. We had rehearsal at my house so all the instruments stayed set up in my bedroom. I taught myself how to play bass, drums, and write songs. Something always happened when a guitar was in my hand. I would start playing for what I thought was 30 minutes, but when my parents hollered up the stairs for dinner, hours would have flown by like some sort of time abyss. I was addicted to the feeling of being in on the know. By that I mean I was and have always been totally consumed with feeling like I am connected to this crazy energy by being able to play the guitar lick or sing the song that makes me feel like I’m alive.
I went to college for biology at West GA College where I met Zac. I later shifted gears right before graduating and decided that, do or die, I was a musician and that was all that mattered to me. During this period, I started tinkering with the piano as a different method for writing songs. I took a year off and practiced eight hours a day in order to get into Georgia State University’s Jazz Studies program. I began taking private guitar lessons with David Frakenpohl, the academic instructor in the jazz studies program at Georgia State University; to prepare to audition for the School Of Music there. After a few months of lessons, I auditioned and was admitted to the Jazz Studies Program. While in college, I played around the Atlanta area with multiple jazz and blues acts. I immersed myself into every music scene Atlanta had to offer from singer songwriter to jazz, blues and rock. I had to be in the mix. I found my home at the famous Atlanta blues bar, Northside Tavern. Northside was where I found my roots in music and where I met some of my biggest influences, such as Donnie McCormick, Oliver Wood, and Sean Costello.
I played guitar everyday, all day, for four years while in college, totally consumed with the music of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and many others. I graduated and started my own band, Coy Bowles and The Fellowship. We opened for Zac Brown Band at the Sky Bar in Auburn, Alabama, and a week or two later, I got a call from Zac saying, “I like what you are doing with music. If you want to open for us full-time, the spot is there. Or if you want to leave your keys on stage and play keys with us on the next few shows then come on.” Years later, here I am, still sitting in and loving every minute of it.