Max Gowan started learning guitar at eight years old, studied jazz and theory and at fourteen started writing his own music. He is now seventeen years old and it is evident on his debut release entitled Restless Heaven that he is probably better at playing guitar than you are. He has some serious skills but they aren’t always displayed because the album revolves around a lone guitar and vocals. If that's your only instrumentation you are going to be forced to play chords most of the time.
On his Bandcamp page, Gowan says his influences run from Elliott Smith to The Tallest Man on Earth and maybe even a little John Mayer. To his credit his first two influences are amazing guitarists and songwriters and let’s just hope Gowan forgets about John Mayer as he gets a bit older. The songs on this album luckily don’t sound too derivative of any of those artists but it does suffer from things that are typical with songwriters who are this young.
Let’s get this straight that Gowan has a lot of things going for him, He can sing, he can play some amazing guitar and he is finding his way with songwriting. The main issue with the songs is that there is little here that will differentiate him from the slew of above average sensitive singer/songwriter types. His songwriting and delivery permeates within the cloud of mainstream accessibility but it is not distinct enough to incite the interest of hipsters. The most likely scenario here is that his music as of right now may get lost in the endless stream of stiff competition.
There is little point going through these songs individually as there isn’t too much separation between them and they can be talked about collectively. Gowan veers towards melancholy but not the “I want to slit myself dread” type. It’s a tight balance and I like the general vibe of the music. More Elliott Smith than The Tallest Man On Earth.
Being as young as he is it sometimes take a bit of time for a songwriter to develop their own style. It takes life experience, knowledge, and is something that can’t be rushed. I obviously can’t say for sure but I think this will be the case. Overall, Gowan has a surplus of talent for any age. The fact is that he is seventeen years old and time is on his side
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