Last October, Colin Fowlie, a local Fredericton songwriter, left his career as an electrical engineer to pursue his passion of music full-time. Less than a year later, he has fulfilled one of his long-time goals of playing a main stage at Fredericton’s Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival.
“Making it to one of the big stages at Harvest is kind of like the level one boss fight of my music career,” said Fowlie.
After the release of his first full-length album Party Music and playing his first shows in the United States, Fowlie has ended off his year with a performance in the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival’s Mojo Tent.
Can’t live without music
Growing up, Fowlie’s parents were the first ones who saw his potential.
“My parents’ kind of noticed me singing along to a lot of my dad’s records … so they put me in singing lessons and piano lessons when I was six,” said Fowlie.
Fowlie kept up with music in his youth, but took a break from it in his twenties to study electrical engineering at the University of New Brunswick. He graduated in 2000 and settled into the industry while starting a family.
Fowlie returned to the music scene in 2014 and started writing and playing original material the following years. He said he came to the realization that he wasn’t spending his free time in the best ways.
“I went to play some music at a family function and was struggling with the guitar, and thought to myself ‘If I spent the same amount of time working on this as I did playing video games I would actually have something to show for it,'”said Fowlie.
Eventually, the itch to make music full-time was something he could not ignore.
“I worked at a desk for twenty years, and it was, as far as large companies go, as good of a company to work for as there is out there,” said Fowlie. “But once I had shifted my focus to music and came to the conclusion that was really what I wanted to be doing with my life, then that pursuit of the regular career became very difficult for me.”
Fowlie said his immediate family was on board from the start. Others in his extended family took some convincing but are fully supportive now.
“Those that are sort of creative spirits have really embraced it and are very proud,” said Fowlie.
“There are others that at first thought I was crazy, and every conversation would be ‘What is your back up plan?’”
Fowlie said thinking about that is not an option.
“If I’m walking the tight rope and it’s only a foot off the ground and there’s a safety net, then I’m not really doing it.”
The big moment
Over the past few years, Fowlie has played multiple times at Harvest, performing first as a busker and more recently in venues such as the Capital Complex and Wilser’s Room.
Fowlie said it helped to know people within the music business in Fredericton to land the gig.
“Apparently my name came up in a couple of conversations and someone sent along a video of my band to the music director at Harvest, Brent Staeben, and he reached out offering up that gig,” said Fowlie.
Fowlie said he wasted no time accepting the gig.
At his first time performing at one of the festivals main stages, Fowlie and his band delivered a slow burning, resonating set that savoured the opportunity. Fowlie remained in the moment, gazing off into the tent with well timed, gratuitous engagement of the crowd.
While Fowlie said the experience was rewarding, he’s staying humble and focused on what is next.
“It’s a boost but it’s also a treat, because these types of gigs are not the norm. I hope they are someday, but that’s not where we are at today.”
Fowlie had something else to be proud of during the festival too. His 11-year-old daughter Olivia played a showcase with the Fredericton Girls+ Rock Camp in the Barracks Tent, an annual initiative organized by the Charlotte Street Arts Centre that encourages young girls to pursue music.
“I’m more proud of that, I think, than whatever happens with my set,” said Fowlie.
He explained the significance of playing a festival like Harvest to his daughter before she played. He said his kids didn’t understand because he plays shows all the time.
“I think my kids have a distorted sense of how famous I am,” said Fowlie.
Fowlie said Olivia is also involved in the junior musical theatre program at Theatre New Brunswick and wants to continue learning other new instruments.
Fowlie’s next venture is an 11-date tour of Western Canada starting in Calgary on Sept. 25.