Owen Temple has wanted to be a songwriter and storyteller for as long as he can remember. He grew up in Mountain Home, a small town outside of Kerrville, Texas, home of the renowned Kerrville Folk Festival. “I did my first singing at our Presbyterian church, but I was inspired to become a songwriter by my dad’s small music collection,” Temple recalls. “He had an 8 track player in the car and three tapes: Marty Robbins’s Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger and The Fabulous Johnny Cash. We lived in the country, about 40 minutes from town; those tapes got worn out in the car going from home to Kerrville to go shopping. I was fortunate my father had good taste. The songs on those tapes got into my DNA. They really moved me, especially Cash’s ‘Don’t Take Your Guns to Town.’ I remember promising myself I’d never take my guns to town.”
Temple’s parents also took him and his sister to the annual Kerrville Folk Festival when they were young. “I saw Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen. My eyes were opened to the power of one person with an acoustic guitar telling stories and capturing the attention of hundreds of people.
“In high school, Jerry Jeff Walker provided an antidote to the slick country music on the radio. I’d always loved country and folk, but it was great to be a teenager and have an alternative music that was all my own. Walker wrote great songs and recorded stuff by Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Chuck Pyle who wrote ‘Jaded Lover,’ Michael Martin Murphy and other great Austin songwriters.”
Temple had a summer job on a ranch when he was 16 and spent long hours in a pick up truck with another 8 Track player, soaking up tunes by Jerry Jeff, Townes and Guy Clark. “I started writing stories in high school and it occurred to me that maybe I could add music to them and become a songwriter. I picked up the guitar and started out by learning Jerry Jeff songs and singing them to family and friends.”
While still in high school, Temple started performing at a little bar called O Henry’s Back Forty. He told the owner that music would bring in regular customers and landed a regular Tuesday night slot that allowed him to play songs by his favorite songwriters, as well as his own original tunes. “Old men ran the bar until 4:30, then the after work crowd of 30 somethings came in to grab a couple of drinks before going home. At night the average age was 19 or 20, kids drinking on fake Louisiana IDs.”
Temple moved on to the University of Texas at Austin. He worked on a double major; Literature and Business Administration and played music at night to put himself through school. In 1997, he sent a demo to Lloyd Maines (Jerry Jeff Walker, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Dixie Chicks), who signed on to produce General Store, Temple’s first album. “Lloyd helped me make an inexpensive record and became my mentor. I wouldn’t have a career without his early faith and guidance.” General Store, out on Temple’s own label, became a local best seller. He followed up with Passing Through, another effort produced by Maines. Temple maintained his grades while touring Texas, playing college bars, honky tonks and folk clubs, both solo and with a full band.
After graduation, and with a young family to support, Temple got a job working as an investment banker for Lehman Brothers. “I worked 12 and 15 hour days. Then I’d jump in my car to play a gig, drive home, grab some sleep and do it all over again.” Temple made his third album, Right Here and Now, with producer Phil Madeira. It became another local bestseller, but the album’s distributor went bankrupt and Temple lost his entire investment. In shock, Temple took a break from touring and moved to Madison to attend the University of Wisconsin to study psychology. “I stopped playing for a while and tried to fit into academia, but being an Assistant Professor trying to get tenure is just as much of a hustle as being a songwriter trying to find a fan base.”
Temple went back to playing nights and going to school days. After he got his Masters, he moved back to Texas, started a band and reconnected with Lloyd Maines to cut Two Thousand Miles. The Americana movement was starting to build momentum and Temple’s potent singing, superior songwriting skills and charismatic stage presence made him a force on the emerging roots music scene. The album jumped into the Lone Star Music Top 10 with its winning blend of folk, rock, country and Americana. He extended his touring to include the midwest and east coast as well as Texas, and launched another label, El Paisano. In 2007, he won the B. W. Stevenson Songwriting Competition sponsored by Poor David’s Club in Dallas and became a finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Folk competition.
Temple met multi-instrumentalist and producer Gabe Rhodes in 2006. Rhodes is the son of country star Kimmie Rhodes. In the last few years, he’s built a reputation as a first-rate multi-instrumentalist and producer. Rhodes became part of Temple’s touring band and was behind the board for Dollars and Dimes in 2009. The album’s sharply etched sketches of citizens trying to come to terms with the country’s economic meltdown could have been grim, but were ultimately uplifting, a tribute to Temple’s songwriting craft. It became the #1 album on the European Americana charts in July of 2009 and led to successful tours of France, Italy and Canada. Rhodes returned to produce Mountain Home and will be touring with Temple to support the album. “My plan is to play intimate rooms with Gabe as a duo and take the band on the road in the Southwest and Europe,” Temple says. “I consider myself a singer/songwriter out of the folk tradition, but we make music you can dance to, which confuses some people. What we try to do is to serve the song and express the emotion of the lyric. I remember how strongly I was affected by the story songs I heard when I was young. I hope to bring some of that inspiration to my listeners.”