Independent musician (and Texan) Mandy Rowden released her debut full-length studio album, These Bad Habits, back in March. The album consists of 11 tracks that fuse together the elements and sounds of multiple genres, including classic rock and folk, and they showcase Rowden's honest lyrics.
Enstars caught up with the talented musician to chat all about These Bad Habits, her growing musical workshop for women, Girl Guitar, and more.
Enstars: How would you describe your sound to a stranger?
Mandy Rowden: I mostly just call it Americana. It's kind of a catchall for any music that doesn't fit into country or rock or folk specifically. My music has elements of all of those genres.
What was the process of putting together These Bad Habits?
I managed to drag it out for almost an entire year. I'm independent so paying for everything myself slows the process down a bit. Plus, I run a women's guitar school here in Austin so while I wish I could just put all my time and effort into the album I didn't and it made for a very fun, laidback project. I worked on it for a couple hours here and there when I could with those working on it with me.
You were working with Grammy-winning producer Lloyd Maines. What was that like?
Well, it was exciting, but probably not in the way you might picture it. The way Lloyd tends to work is that he has his own home studio so we sent the tracks to him and he recorded it all there.
Do you have a songwriting process?
I just write when I feel inspired to write and I just sort of go for it. Usually a line or two kind of hits me and I start from there. It's a real messy process of going back and forth from pen and paper to the guitar. My process is basically whatever the hell hits me in the moment.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
It tends to be mostly people in my life. I actually wrote a lot of songs early on in my songwriting career that sound like breakup songs. My parents got a divorce when I was in my early twenties, which is when I first started writing so all of those early songs were about them. I've also written my own share of breakup songs about myself. There are plenty of songs about my family though.
Sometimes I write about stuff that I read so it could sound like I have a personal connection to the subjects, but I don't. It's like a fun exercise in writing songs to challenge myself. My song "Bad Habits," the title track of the album, is about something that never happened to me. I was reading some twisted, weird, dark novels and it worked its way in. It was necessary to do since I sometimes get annoyed and exhausted with my own emotions so sometimes writing about something else is good for exploration. I visited New Orleans a lot in the last few years so I got really into the ghost stories told there and that was a fun thing to write about too. That's where "Haunt You" comes from. It's escapism for better or worse.
Were any of the tracks off These Bad Habits more challenging to write and record than others?
Probably "Enough for Us All" since it was super special to me. The writing process was very therapeutic. I was trying to get a certain feel across. I wouldn't say writing it was too challenging. It was actually really liberating and cool to write. But recording it we kept hitting walls and trying stuff, but not really loving it. It was definitely the most challenging to record, but I love how it turned out.
What makes this album so special to you?
It has opened up doors for me so I can tour more, which I love. I also think it sounds really great since I have some killer players on it. But it also represents a big accomplishment for me since I've probably honestly started to make this album ten times in the last ten years and I just kept not feeling it if that makes any sense... So actually getting through the entire process to the point of completion so I could release it and being proud of it is a way bigger accomplishment than just making an album...
What do you hope people take away from listening to your album?
I hope they enjoy it. I hope they cry. I hope they laugh. I just want them to take an interest in me and my music. I also really hope they take away a lot of the positive stuff that's on it since there is some angst and angry breakup songs, but there are a few that I felt have really nice and positive messages.
If one song from your album were to play each time you walked into a room, which would you pick and why?
(Laughs) Oh my God! This is great! It really could be any of them I suppose, but I kind of think "Bad Habits" has that badass intro and it sounds like something from a West Texas detective movie. That could totally be my entrance song. I can wrap my head around that. I'd have to wear a holster with some pistols though for the full effect every single time I walk into a room.
Switching gears, you founded Girl Guitar--how did that come about, and what do you see for its future?
It was an accident. I moved to New York City in 2006 and then moved back to Austin and was broke. I started what I thought would be a one-off six-week guitar class at a local music school for women. I thought it would be fun and would help me raise enough cash to pay my phone bill. We had such a good time during those six weeks so we did another round and the girls attending told their friends and it just grew. We added a songwriting class and got our own space and added other instruments...It's been almost nine years now and it's been a building process. Keeping the women involved and expanding to other cities is possible. I've been talking to people in Denver and Nashville about potentially starting classes there. We're just going to take over the world I guess!