Oscar Dowling: Walking The Unbeaten Track

Born into a musical family, Oscar Dowling struggles to remember the days before his first guitar at age six. Since acquiring his first instrument, Dowling has continued to develop his own musical talents, taking in the artists around him to settle on a sound of his own. After carrying around song ideas for several years, Dowling is determined to establish himself as one of the world’s premiere do-it-yourself musicians, grabbing the attention of music seekers from around the world with a self-titled EP worthy of international attention.

At 20 years old Oscar Dowling is only beginning to discover the world outside the comfortable confines of New Zealand’s coast; however the talented musician has long harboured aspirations of breaking out beyond his homeland. “My plan is to follow my nose and make a band.” Dowling told LYFSTYL. “This is what I want and have always wanted, and the amount of support I have received is beyond any expectation.”

Dowling’s decision to finally record his own material didn’t come easy. Describing himself as “impatient and inexperienced,” Dowling decided to purchase a plane ticket to Asia as a final trip before transitioning to life as a musician. “The only way I can achieve anything is with a deadline, so I booked my ticket to South East Asia and bought some equipment.”  The self-imposed deadline also limited the quality of the recording process, preserving tracks in a raw sound that more accurately reflects what a household jam session should sound like. The resulting EP is booming with emotion, releasing the audible aggression previously confined to Dowling’s impromptu recording studio.

Free of the digital touch-ups that dominate today’s music industry, the Oscar Dowling EP is sharp but unpolished, resonating in the minds of listeners much longer than the average tune. The natural composition of singles like “The Beaten Track” and “Trading Hemispheres” speak to the honest approach taken by Dowling who employed a handful of friends and family to provide musical accompaniment. “I borrowed the violinist, Murray VanHoorne from my father’s band. There are two guitars in “The Beaten Track,” the second played by my good friend Luke Vandam. Another friend Daniel Wiseman has a lovely snare roll in “Bend.”

With less than two months to finish the EP, Dowling wasted to time recording a take here and there, a few of which you can hear on the final product. “The Beaten Track was recorded in a single take whilst incredibly hung-over after my farewell party,” Dowling conceded. “The vocal track for ‘Trading Hemispheres’ I recorded so that I could send the demo to my brother, but then I kind of ran out of time, so I kept it for the final mix.”

Amidst a Tom Waits listening binge, Dowling had no trouble coaxing out his own coarse, grinding howl throughout his self-titled EP. “I was listening to an unhealthy amount of Tom Waits when I was recording, which definitely showed.” Dowling admitted. Of the tracks that best showcase Dowling’s unique vocal range, the ominous declarations throughout “Twenty Years” are most impressive. The abrupt scorching lines in “Bend” also command attention, sending the listener into a riveting guitar solo with a final call.

“Then we can pretend maybe /  That you are a real lady / And I’m a good man / I don’t want to hold your hand / I just want you to bend.”

Writing the lyrical content was a more patient process for Dowling, who slowly built from personal experience towards the desired avenue of musical expression. “I would drive for around an hour everyday back home, as I live far out in the country. I found that when I drove, it would distract every part of me except my creative side, so often I would write lyrics on the road, and develop them later with my instruments.”

Having met his two month deadline with four solid tracks, Oscar Dowling is currently travelling the lesser-beaten paths of Chiang Mai, Thailand before beginning his musical journey in Brighton, UK. “Currently my average day consists of poisoning myself, recovering, and trying to find areas to explore that don’t rely on tourists,” he told LYFSTYL from a Thai internet cafe.

Singing what he knows and living his lyrics step by step, Oscar Dowling is destined to carve away his own musical path. With the ability to produce record and distribute his own material, Dowling’s career trajectory is worthy of several headstone rows. Armed with a second-hand guitar in the Thai jungle, Oscar Dowling’s humble beginnings promise to provide the basis for a meaningful and distinct musical future.

Words by Kevin Vanstone – Stream Oscar Dowling’s EP here.

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