Sometimes heartbreak leads to breakthroughs. That was the case for Denver artist Rowan Kerrick. A painful split from a relationship in 2016 gave her just the push she needed to record her new EP, Foolish, which she’ll debut at the Bakery art gallery on Friday, June 20.
Recording the seven-song release exhausted her. She’d started dating again after the breakup, and during production, she would start talking about the album — and her ex and their breakup. She could think of little else.
Even though the project challenged and consumed her, “it was very therapeutic in some ways,” says Kerrick. “I think when I first was writing the songs, they were more about that person and the relationship. But the more I sat with the songs and began to record them, I realized they were more about me and overcoming this relationship and shitty person. I was sort of becoming my own independent, individual person and coming into my own as an artist.”
For the EP, Kerrick enlisted help from New York-based friends, including producer and sound engineer Justin Gerrish. She spent a little over six months traveling back and forth to complete the project. The recording process came with stops and starts as Gerrish had a child and dealt with landlord trouble and Kerrick struggled with health issues.
Kerrick puts her impressive vocal range and talent as a classically trained pianist and guitarist to good use in her dynamic music. Just when her songs appear to be mired in an all-too-familiar mixture of sad breakup lyrics and acoustic guitar strumming, keys swell, a driving beat emerges, and suddenly the tune shifts into a mix of blues and dream pop.
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Little has influenced her sound as much as classical music. From age six on, Kerrick was classically trained on the piano, only to decide as an adult that she felt most comfortable exploring more flexible genres.
“Being a classical musician and being a solo artist are two completely separate things,” she observes. “Classical music, for me, is very rigid and tight structure, and there’s a formula. There’s not a lot of room for error — whereas songwriting, for me, is all about error. It’s about always making mistakes and trying to figure out what works, and experimentation and having a little bit more freedom.”
As a solo artist, Kerrick can record quality demos from her apartment bedroom as long as she has access to a synth, a computer, a guitar and a microphone; lugging a grand piano up flights of stairs to practice for classical concerts is obviously out of the question.
Kerrick, who moved to New York to hone her skills before returning home to Denver, has yet to find her niche in the local music community. Through her album release, she hopes to garner more listeners.
“I wanted to come back here to see how the music scene has changed — because I know it has — and to get more involved in it,” she says. “There are a lot of people making music in New York, and it makes a little more sense to start in a tight-knit community that’s a bit more supportive and then move from there — or stay if it ends up working out.”
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As an artist without a manager, publicist or large catalogue of previous releases, Kerrick has focused her energy on connecting with all types of artists, which is how she met the people who run the Bakery, an art gallery where she released a previous EP.
“I actually had my last release show at the Bakery, and I just thought it would be a good place for the EP release, both because of the previous show and because I really loved the space. It’s not a venue venue; it’s more of an open space. The release show will also be a listening party, and I just wanted it to be more of a celebration than just a show. I also really love the people who run the Bakery and wanted to support them.”
With the release concert approaching quickly, she says, “I’m nervous, for sure, but I put a lot into this project. I’m not really one to celebrate my accomplishments or go out of my way to show people what I’m doing, but this project is different, because it’s been a lot of years in the making, and there have been many obstacles I’ve had to overcome to actually make it happen.”
Rowan Kerrick EP release
Friday, July 20, the Bakery, 2132 Market Street.