We had the exciting opportunity to chat with rising artist Rowan Drake for the release of his new single ‘Hey Little Sister.’ Growing up in Ithaca, New York, Rowan chased his dream of becoming a professional snowboarder. After a serious injury quelled his plans, his sights turned toward the stage.
He moved to Los Angeles to chase his new vision, and the rest is history in the making. Now, Rowan is signed to Atlantic Records/Arthouse and already has plans for his first EP, which he hopes to release next year. We know; you need to know more! So, keep reading to learn more about the creative powerhouse, up-and-coming singer Rowan Drake!
Let’s kick things off by getting to know you! What is one quote or phrase that has stuck with you this year? Who said it, and what does it mean to you?
“Whether you think you can, or you can’t…you’re right” – Henry Ford. Like most things in life, it’s rare for many people to believe in what you are trying to create before you do. I have found that to convince people of something (like why they should sign you), you must have already created the foundations of your dreams internally and believe them with every bone in your body.
Your latest single ‘Hey Little Sister,’ is a sonically beautiful song. The dream-like piano and vocals create a melancholy lullaby with a few notes that remind us of a waltz. Walk us through the creation of ‘Hey Little Sister,’ was it difficult for you to write lyrics so close to your heart?
First off thank you for really listening to the song and picking up on its nuances. It technically is a waltz being in 6/8, and this was done deliberately to give it that childhood/lullaby feel. In terms of the creation of this record I had the verse melody in my head for a few weeks prior and knew I wanted to talk about this chapter of my life. One day in a session with two friends (Davin Kingston and Jonny Shorr) Johnny started playing the piano and I just unloaded everything on them. We pieced it together quite fast and from the second it was created I felt so proud to have a song like this for myself and for all the other kids in that situation.
The visualizer is powerful and captures so many details, from the reflected imagery captured in the eye to the music box. How much input did you have when it came to creating the visualizer? Did you decide on the imagery as you wrote the lyrics?
For me imagery is equally crucial in terms of communicating a message. I can usually see the visual pallet of a song right after creation. For this visualizer I wanted to do a more upscale version of what I do everyday on my TikTok and then find a way to tie more story into it. With the help of my friend and main visual creator Zach Valenti I believe we captured that perfectly. He had the idea to project footage into the eye and that led us to the very intense and at many times triggering route of recreating some scenes from childhood to then be projected into my sister’s eye.
Is there a process for writing that you’ve found works best for you? Are there any lyrics for songs you’re writing right now that you can’t get out of your head?
For me the idea really has to originate in some form of solitude. This space tends to be stairwells, parking garages, or unfurnished rooms of my apartment. I sit on my guitar and just start singing melodies with random words which start to become less random as my subconscious begins to say what it needs to say at that moment. I then take that melody, guitar part, core of the lyric and live in it until I have enough content to bring it so someone who can help construct it and organize it. Last night I started playing with “I was never sure if you were the lighthouse or the storm”
When you hit a creative roadblock, what methods do you use to overcome it?
As best as I can I try to understand that creativity flows and when it’s not currently with me I try to leave LA and go experience the world around me. Santa Barbra and Big Sur are some of my favorite places to go or I’ll even travel back home. Sometimes finding the quietness in the world always you to hear the internal music a little louder.
What is one of your favorite experiences playing in your hometown of Ithaca, NY? Was there a moment during a show that made you feel like music was exactly what you were meant to be doing?
I remember my first “real” show I had a bunch of friends from high school show up which combined with everyone else meant there was probably 100 people there. Halfway through a cover of “Mercy” by Shawn Mendes my piano and mic completely lost sound. I instantly just continued to sing acapella and finished the song. It was never a thought to just stop singing in that moment And I later realized that many people would’ve.
Now that you have moved to LA and signed with Atlantic Records/Arthouse, what is one thing you would tell yourself if you could time-travel back to when you first thought about making such a big move? Do you have advice for fans wanting to pursue their own dreams?
It really ties back to that Henry ford quote I mentioned earlier. It has never been a question to me if all of this is possible. That version of Rowan is different in so many ways but the belief and unwavering faith in what he could do is the exact same as it is now. So I would tell him / myself “thank you for believing” and “thank those around you who allowed space for you to dream. Not everyone gets the luxury of that”
Since you prepared for a year before you moved to LA, we have to ask, do you have a five-year plan or an outline of the things you would like to accomplish as a musician?
This answer is complex. I have 50-year plans of not just the music but also of all I want to do once I build this platform. But the longer I do this the more I realize it needs to be balanced with room for change and unexpected blessings. Otherwise one can become quite bitter if not all goes exactly to plan. So yes, I have meticulous plans but they are starting to loosen a little in some areas and grow in other areas.
You have mentioned wanting to release a song every month. What made you decide on that goal? You’ve even teased a few unreleased songs on TikTok! How do you decide when a song is ready to release?
I am in a beautiful period of time where I love almost everything I create. Since I love it, I instantly want to share it. In doing so I get to see what others love and prioritize that (with the exception of when legal issues hold up music) so for me TikTok is just a way to bring the people who support the music into the taste making process. Once I see a need for a song I will go in on that song and finish it to the best of my abilities.
When can fans expect to hear an EP or album? Are there songs you’re already working on for it?
I would love to have an EP at the top of next year. Albums are a strange thing for growing artists but I think it’s definitely in the cards as well.
It was great talking with you, Rowan, so we’ll leave you with one more question! What five artists would you love to collaborate with? Which songs of theirs do you have on replay lately?
Well living I would say:
Bon Iver (re: stacks, Roslyn, 33 GOD)
Montell Fish (high, wings, destroy myself just for you)
Mazzy Star (Fade Into You)
Passed on I would say:
Jeff Buckley (Lilac Wine, Babe You Should Come Over)
Chris Cornell (I Am The Highway, Wide Awake)
It was such a pleasure, thanks for such engaging questions.
From creating his newest track, ‘Hey Little Sister,’ to reminiscing about his life in Ithaca, NY, we were excited to learn more about Rowan Drake and his incredible musical journey so far. We’re also keeping our eyes open for when his EP drops!
Check out Rowan Drake’s Faves Playlist on Spotify!
If you’re looking for even more incredible new music, check out these bands that Louis Tomlinson introduced us to!