Locals are now discovering what more than 85,000 U.K. fans who have watched the singer on YouTube already know: Rowe is an artist to be reckoned with. As a live performer, Rowe’s voice can climb from a low growl to a soaring falsetto as he expertly explores the dynamics of his piano.
When English singer-songwriter Kevin Rowe and his wife Abi crossed the Atlantic last fall to start a new life in Atlanta, the performer brought along little more than his piano, copies of his brilliant debut album “10 AM” and the Chuck Taylor low tops on his feet.
“We sold everything!” Rowe told Intel over lunch recently at RiRa Irish Pub in Midtown. “The car, the cutlery, the pillows and everything else went to the charity shop.”
“Everything” included giving away the couple’s beloved Jack Russell Terrier Charlie. Shortly after the Rowes moved into their new Vinings home, they realized “we may have gone a step too far.” Hence, one harried phone call to friends in England and a 15-hour journey in a cargo hold aboard a British Airways flight in November, Charlies and his parents were reunited in Atlanta (Rowe was so excited, he posted a photo to fans on Facebook and Twitter).
Rowe selected Atlanta due to its vibrant music scene and its long history of giving singer-songwriters like John Mayer, Shawn Mullins, Indigo Girls and the members of Sugarland their starts in front of enthusiastic audiences.
“I’m definitely being romanced by Atlanta,” the 28-year-old says. “I’m already falling in love with the city.”
Just weeks into his stay, Rowe inked a songwriting deal with BMI and played an electrifying showcase for the music publisher at Drinkshop Live at the downtown W hotel sharing a bill with “American Idol” alum Anoop Desai.
On Thursday night at 8, Rowe will introduce his songs to music fans at Smith’s Olde Bar’s Atlanta Room on an acoustic bill in the round songwriters with Neil Cribs and Anthony Crane of Crane.
Rowe used to hide beneath the instrument at school when teachers came looking for the budding musician who routinely cut class to practice. “Personally, I think the piano is the coolest instrument out there,” Rowe says. “Guitars can be a bit of a rebel without a cause. But the piano? It’s the lion in the forest!”
Rowe’s first self-produced studio album, “10 AM,” (now available on iTunes) is brimming with 12 examples of memorable, melodic pop. Most songwriters would have ditched their dog to have their name attached to any one of the tunes. Lyrically, Rowe trains a novelist’s eye on the tiniest of moments so many of us blow past on a daily basis. Moments that somehow snowball into a contented life. Impromptu dancing with the missus at 4 AM (“Dancing on the Kitchen Tiles”), leaving childhood friends (“Katie”) and celebrating Christmas with gifts of love notes when you’re so broke you’re raiding the coin jar (“Through It All”) are all fodder for Rowe’s work.
With $700 borrowed from his granddad Charles, Kevin wrote and recorded “10 AM” over two years by himself. His grandfather passed away on the day the album hit stores.
“He never got to hear the finished product but his spirit is all over the album,” Rowe recalls wistfully. “I’m incredibly proud of it. If I don’t achieve anything else, I can someday show my grandkids the album and be proud that I was able to put my heart and soul into something without compromising.”