Michael Dowdle’s bio is the musical equivalent of the resume of a CEO. He has played rock, jazz, classical, country, and everything in-between. On my mission, we were only allowed to listen to hymns or the Tabernacle Choir. His album 50 Favorite Hymns was a lifesaver. Adding to his vast musical repertoire, Michael is releasing a new rock/fusion album called Convergence.
1. (of several people or things) Come together from different directions so as eventually to meet.
These are the questions the guitar geek in me wanted to ask Michael.
How old were you when you started playing guitar and what made you decide to pick it up?
I was 15 when I started the guitar. My brother was in a band and I would sneak into his room and play his guitar. I just loved it for some reason. Maybe because I was playing the violin at the time and thought “this is cooler”.
I have waited to hear an album like this from you for a long time. What brought it about?
I began writing the tunes on Convergence more as a practice exercise. The songs were written to challenge my skill set on the guitar. As I wrote a song, I would post it on YouTube and then move on to another one. I then thought, I have enough to put together an album. So I did. This style is the most accurate representation of my musical interests on the guitar. I LOVE electric guitar. Always have. I spend most of my practice time on electric. The other albums I have done were more to order from record companies and so they are different.
I think my favorite tracks on the album are “Big Big Sky” and “YoYo Recital.” Which are your favorites?
I really like those two as well. Texas Nexus is probably my favorite, but they are like children, you love them all about the same.
Any stories behind how some of these tracks came to be?
YoYo was written as I played around with different arpeggio licks. It just kind of evolved from that approach. I thought it sounded a little like a Yo-Yo Ma riff so I titled it that way. Big Big Sky just came as I was exploring solo ideas between G major and E major. It just came to me one day.
What is your process? Do you just sit down and start writing? Do you have ideas bouncing around in your head that you are toying with?
I usually practice with drum grooves and so as I play a riff that I like, I build a motif section. I then push the creative process to the next section and the song evolves. I refine it over a few days and then I record it. I seem to be able to create pretty easily, it is not hard for me at all. I never practice existing songs unless I am preparing for a performance. Everything I play during a daily practice session is new and totally improvised.
What kind of response is Convergence seeing? Is it doing as well as your LDS music?
The feedback has all been very positive, especially from guitarists. My fan base is predominately LDS and they are more into the acoustic hymn albums that I have done. Most are not interested in my “rock” style at all. So… no, it is not doing as well as my LDS music. This is a “guitarists” album. The other albums I have done appeal more to the public. That is okay, though, because I put this album together to reach a more worldwide audience… the guitarists out there.
Your album says you purposely wrote it for a trio. Does that mean you are playing Convergence at shows?
I have not performed many of these songs very much yet. I have only done two shows so far. One in Holland and a short set at the Amp Show in Spanish Fork last month. Obviously I hope to do more in the future, but this kind of music requires a certain type of venue. The trio is also more challenging as a guitarist and it also makes it easier to hire players to do a show. I really like playing these songs live. They really come to life in a live setting!
I heard that when you returned from your mission, you practiced eight hours a day like it was your full-time job. True?
Not quite, but I did try to get in at least four hours a day. It was tough. I am glad my wife stuck with me.
Do you still practice a lot? What kinds of things do you work on currently?
I practice improvising and I am always writing new tunes. I have four new songs that I have written since the album came out in April.
Do you plan on doing any more albums like this in the future?
I will probably not do another “album”, but will post new songs on bandcamp.com as they are recorded. They can then be easily downloaded.
Most of these tracks were recorded using a Gibson Les Paul. Want to give a quick breakdown of the gear you used on Convergence?
I have always loved Les Pauls; they’re always my guitar of choice. I have many others, but the Les is my voice. I recorded most of this album at my home studio using various things. The pre-amp tones are all generated from a Line 6 gearbox software program. The Soldano model. VHT power amp. Mesa Boogie Speaker cabs.
Any final thoughts?
I live to write and so I will continue to create these songs as they come to me. I have been a professional musician now for 31 years and have had a lot of great experiences and much success. I am really excited to showcase this part of my style, that has always been there, as a way to reach out to guitarists everywhere and share this music with the world. I hope some will listen and enjoy!