3 Q’s for John Cowan

Call it Bluegrass. Call it Newgrass. Call it whatever you like, but when music is in John Cowan’s hands, it’s not to remain in any one category for too long. He plays Sings Like Hell on Saturday, September 15.

How do you find playing bluegrass music in this part of the world? The further you go past the Mississippi River the better it gets. When you get across there you find there just aren’t as many preconceived notions about what should or shouldn’t happen in that particular art form. California has always been a forward-thinking place, and I can’t help but think that has something to do with it, too.

What will you be bringing musically to Santa Barbara? I have a little four-piece band and we sit down when we play and it’s kind of like a living room experience. While we use traditional instruments, it’s not traditional music we play. There might one or two fiddle tunes thrown in there and maybe some bluegrass songs. But I have always written outside of that genre and we also interpret a lot of other people’s music that wouldn’t normally be found in this musical world. So I think that makes for a nice eclectic mix of music.

What led you into bluegrass music? It was kind of an accident. I grew up in Kentucky playing in your typical garage band. When I was a teenager, black music first blasted onto white radio here in the U.S., so I grew up learning how to play Sam and Dave songs and Hendrix songs and Aretha Franklin songs, which made for nice puffery. I then got myself into a bluegrass band by accident and have stayed in that world ever since.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Mandatory Evacuation Called for Fire Zones in Santa Barbara County

Heavy rains expected Tuesday-Thursday; debris flows feared.

Cannabis Farmer Gets over $1 Million Insurance Payout

Thomas Fire ash destroys crop; analysis finds asbestos, lead, arsenic, and magnesium.

Next Debris Flow Could Take Different, Unknown Path

"I've never seen this degree of hazard," says Cal Fire scientist.

Biggest Storm Since 1/9 Approaching Santa Barbara

The storm system brings increased threat of flash floods and debris flows.

Jack Johnson Tours Montecito Disaster Area Ahead of Benefit Concert

Jack and Kim Johnson met with Bucket Brigade leaders to see the destruction firsthand.