Brian Owens

By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — Multiple idiomatic references are the hallmark of vocalist Brian Owens’ distinctive style. He’s comfortable singing blues, soul or country, and there’s also echoes of gospel that infuse his approach. Sunday night he’ll be showcasing his dynamic hybrid style when he makes his “Sunday Night Soul” debut at the 5 Spot. “Jason (vocalist/bandleader Jason Eskridge, organizer and creator of Sunday Night Soul) and I have been talking for a couple of years about me appearing there,” Owens said during a Tuesday morning phone conversation.”I’m really looking forward to playing Nashville again. I have a lot of friends in that area, and also friends coming from St. Louis. It should be a great night.”

Owens has made reworking timeless soul and country tunes a vital part of his approach. His previous solo albums have included stunning tribute works to both Johnny Cash and Marvin Gaye, each done in compelling,fashion, and both reflecting Owens’  beliefs on the closeness of various genres. “One of the things that I’ve always realized, and it’s the case with many other artists, is the closeness of these songs. People like Donny Hathaway and Ray Charles, they grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry and soul radio, while Johnny Cash listened to Black gospel and Southern gospel and country and soul music. The power of the blues comes in its storytelling aspects, just as country songs are great in telling stories. All these things are similar in what they convey to the listeners. The accents and lyrics may be different, but the same feeling is there.”

As a longtime resident of Ferguson, Missouri, Owens is also keenly aware that music can be one of the things which unite people across racial, ethnic, generational and gender lines. “There are always people out there who speak to division and separation,” he continues. “But that’s not what I’m interested in doing. I think music should help break down barriers, and that’s always been true of the artists that I’ve loved.”

Owens’ newest single is “Carry You,” which is available on multiple sites and platforms, among them Amazon, Apple Music, Google Play and Spotify. Later this year he’s also joining multi-Grammy winning vocalist Michael McDonald as a featured guest on “Sanborn Sessions,” which is hosted by saxophonist/composer/arranger David Sanborn from his home studio in New York. Plus his newest solo project “Love Came Down” is slated for release in 2020. It’s going to spotlight yet another side of Owens’ vocal personality.

“This will reflect my jazz background,” Owens concluded. “It’s going to have a 12-piece string orchestra backing me, but it will also have a strong R&B and swing feel to it. I think people will enjoy hearing this side of my music as well.”

(Brian Owens appearing on October 27 as the headliner for “Sunday Night Soul at the 5 Spot, 1006 Forrest Avenue, with opening act Heidi Burson. Doors open at 6 p.m. The show begins at 7:15. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door).