Colin Cowan is a sonic astronaut. Outwardly he’s incredibly cool and collected, but when Cowan speaks, it’s clear his mind is always ticking with a puckish spark; when asked about his music, Cowan gives you a story on how he learned life-long happiness.
A performer at heart, Cowan doesn’t know how he balances his 11 other bands — or how he can relax when always focussing on artistic projects — but knows that he is in lust with music. He’s just a busy guy who loves what he does. “I’ve had a lot of long days … I’m happy I feel tired from what I do.
“I think I always have enough time. I know how I get distracted, and I watch how other people get distracted, and therefore distractions equal time. If you take out distractions, then wouldn’t you get more time?” For Cowan, the creative process of his second album, Eye of Winter, was relaxing. He was continuously “drawing a nice tone bath … to steam out [his] troubles.”
Cowan’s two solo albums, 2013’s Fall Paths and this year’s Eye of Winter, gave him a much-needed breather from the harshness of the world and are part of a whimsical musical project. Cowan’s concept is to release one albuma year — each representing a season — over four years. With this month’s release, he’s officially halfway.
“It allows me to ruminate,” says Cowan, on what the process has been like so far. “Since I’ve started doing it, I’m seeing the way I’m looking at the world … I’ve been monitoring myself and watching how I’m taking in the world and I’ve been noticing myself going through this seasonal mental state. It’s a way to let go.”
Eye of Winter, available November 28, starts off sweetly with nostalgic, cosmic folk. Lead single “Whispers to Rockefeller” might guide you into thinking the album is a collective of love songs, but there’s a lingering darkness to it. By the time the album’s retro warmth wears out at the end, you have a distinct feeling of being left out in the cold.
Cowan has an appreciation for improvisation. “It looks orchestrated, but it’s so spontaneous, and it works, depending on who’s driving the bus … Even when you’re playing music where you know every note you’re going to play, it’s all about context. It could be this dirty, old punk song you like to play, it should always sound a little different. You should be trying to play it, but not trying to nail it.” Organised spontaneity.
Because of how self-conscious and afraid of making mistakes Cowan was when he was a younger musician, he values those same musician’s ability to take music in stride. “I needed someone a little cooler than me to explain what mistakes and self-expressions were.”
The Elastic Stars, Cowan’s band, were less involved with the recording of Eye of Winter. Although Cowan recorded most of the album with no band members except for drummer Ben Brown, Cowan & the Elastic Stars would love to be a touring road show — if it weren’t for everyone’s various side projects.
“They’re called the Elastic Stars because I can’t lock them down very easily,” Cowan jokes, but the Elastic Stars will play with him if they ever tour. “It’s a family band. We’re all like a bunch of little kids when we play together, we just have so much fun.”
Regardless if he has the Elastic Stars by his side or if he’s shooting solo, Colin Cowan is a modern troubadour with a passion for performance and a lust for music. Eye of Winter is what winter winds would sound like — if they could play quirky psychedelic folk rock.
Check out the Eye of Winter free release party happening on November 28 at The Lido. After that, the album will be available on iTunes and vinyl.