Even as a little kid, singer-songwriter Mitch Rowland was obsessed with guitar music. He will never forget how it initially hit him, sitting in front of the first jukebox he ever saw, letting the sound wash over him. He was four years old, growing up with his family on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio. “My dad had a friend who was single but owned a house,” he says. “And instead of normal furniture in his living room, he had a pool table and this vintage jukebox in the corner. You’d stick the quarter in and it would fall out the bottom and you could just keep putting on songs.” Rowland was instantly fascinated with bands like The Black Crowes and Aerosmith, and would listen to their singles over and over again.
The beautiful, introspective folk music on Rowland’s debut album, Come June, can be traced back to that jukebox, which inspired a lifelong exploration of why he loves certain sounds, and how to make them himself. Although Rowland already has impressive songwriting credits to his name, as one of Harry Styles’ collaborators on major hits like “Watermelon Sugar” and “Golden,” Come June is truly the beginning of the most important chapter yet in Rowland’s artistic evolution.
By the time he was five and his older brother got a drum kit, Rowland already had the urge to play. “My brother would kick my ass if I tried to sit behind his kit while he was home,” he says, “so I had to get my time in when he was out with friends. From there I was self-taught, just by playing along to records.” He started with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and then added some of those Aerosmith and Crowes tunes to his repertoire on drums, and then began teaching himself guitar, alone in his bedroom. By college, he had started experimenting with writing his own songs, but still yearned for a sense of direction.
Cut to 2008, and Rowland is at an arts festival in Columbus, playing a game where you spin a wheel to win tickets to different upcoming concerts. “Out of all these shows, it landed on the Black Crowes, and I won two tickets,” he says. “So I asked my dad if he wanted to go with me. I hadn’t listened to the Black Crowes since I was a kid, so it seemed like something fun to do. But then it turned into a show that really grabbed me, where I had to go listen to everything they’d ever done. And I got really into wondering, ‘Why do I like the sound of Rich Robinson’s guitar so much?’ And that was how I discovered the world of open tunings. Because sometimes Rich is coming from Keith Richards’ world of playing open G, but then if you read enough interviews with him, he cites Nick Drake as his gateway into open tunings. And so that became my gateway into Nick Drake and other artists like that, as well. And I think all of that goes back to the jukebox.”
Rowland started putting songs together after that Black Crowes show, spending countless hours in his bedroom, playing and playing and playing, figuring out his own sound. Then, in 2013, Rowland decided to move out to Los Angeles, following a friend who was heading out there to be an engineer. “If you would have asked me back then, I don’t know what I would have said I was planning to do,” he admits. “The goal was to play music, but I was kind of in the slow lane.” He looked for work as a dishwasher, applying everywhere in LA, “but I had no dishwashing experience,” he says, “so I couldn’t get hired.”Website