Judith Owen is equally influenced by the great American songbook, the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter movement, and a cornucopia of diverse jazz ideas that the Welsh pianist encounters while living in New Orleans.
Owen has released eleven albums of original material, with her songwriting often exploring intimate moments of interpersonal connection or how people navigate their most deeply hidden vulnerabilities. Owen’s latest album, redisCOVERed, (available at this link) offers her ever-growing audience her first collection of covers, showcasing a surprisingly diverse selection of songs that Owen has reinvented in her signature style. Those familiar with Owen’s music will hardly be surprised at the inclusion of two latter-day Joni Mitchell songs, “Cherokee Louise” and “Ladies’ Man,” or her show-stopping renditions of “Smoke On the Water” by Deep Purple and “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden.
What’s unexpected is that Owen took on more recent hits including “Hotline Bling” by Drake, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake and “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran.
Owen has recently been in Los Angeles getting ready for a two-month European tour. During a phone interview with Rock Cellar, she was equally as engaging, insightful, humorous and vulnerable as she is in both her songwriting and during her exquisite performances (same goes for her previous interview with Rock Cellar in 2017).
She shared of making redisCOVERed, “I’ve always been very drawn toward that thing that I describe as being the beautiful damage; the flaws in us all that make us unique and make us beautiful at the same time. That’s what my own songs are about. That’s where I sing from. That’s really how I treat each one of these covers. Sometimes with humor. Sometimes with great sadness or yearning. All of them have a truth that comes from my own experiences. Whether it’s ‘Hotline Bling’ about one-sided love. Or ‘Dream a Little Dream’, when a love affair has gone wrong, but your wish is that they will still wish and dream of you.”
Throughout Judith Owen’s recent original albums, covers release, and live performances of all stripes, her most recurring band member has been bassist Leland Sklar. Best-known as a member of 1970s sideman collective “The Section”, Sklar has played on over 2,000 albums, including some of the best-selling albums and biggest hits by Jackson Browne, Phil Collins, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. Owen and Sklar met when he was working with Owen’s husband, renaissance man of music, film, voiceover and comedy, Harry Shearer. Owen was a guest on a show Sklar was playing with Shearer, and when Owen and Sklar met they had an immediate musical synergy.
Owen says of playing with Sklar, “Leland is another one of those people. He defines his instrument. He defines his sound. What you get to see Leland do when he plays with me, is you get to see him play melodies and play as if he’s a guitarist. It’s quite remarkable. I’m playing the root notes on piano. Leland is a virtuoso in the way that he’s playing these melodies around me. As a duo, we’re having this ballet together. It’s a dance around each other. It’s quite remarkable. He feels music so deeply. And it’s very moving. As much as we laugh together and we’re just very cheeky to each other and have a lot of fun onstage. The truth is, there is this intimate love and joy that we have when we play. It’s been there from the minute I met him and played with him. It’s only gotten better and better and better.”
Owen is soon heading to Europe, where she’ll spend two months on tour. The first show is at the famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London with a full band including Sklar and Pedro Segundo on drums. After a special show in Paris, for which Shearer will be sitting in on bass, Owen is playing three weeks of shows throughout Sweden with Segundo and cellist Gabriella Swallow.
What makes Owen’s albums and shows unique is her ability to share so much palpable warmth and joy with her audience, while always coming across as genuinely introspective and vulnerable.
To turn yourself on to Judith Owen, check out some of the music videos here of her original work and unforgettable covers. And visit her official site for the full tour itinerary and more.