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Playing in the rain, guitar wizard Will Owen-Gage doesn't let a little thunderstorm stop him from performing. The young performer, just leaving his teens, knows how to coax lightning out of a Stratocaster. Photo by Phil Houseal


Will Owen-Gage performs at Luckenbach Dance Hall on Saturday, April 19. More information at www.willowen-gage.com or www.luckenbachtexas.com.

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Will Owen-Gage: Scary Good

by Phil Houseal
April 9, 2008

When I first heard Will Owen-Gage in 2005, he was so good it was scary. The guitar whiz was all of 17 years old. But be played his Stratocaster with the skill of 37 and the wisdom of 77.

Young guitar slingers come and go. Just as in basketball there is always the "next Michael Jordan," in music there is the "next Stevie Ray."

Owen-Gage doesn't want to be the next Stevie Ray; he wants to be the "first Will Owen-Gage."

“He was my number one influence,” Owen-Gage admitted about the Vaughan comparison. “But it was more of a spiritual influence. I could feel his energy through his music.”

Owen-Gage was also influenced by the music his dad and brothers listened to. Born in Kentucky, he was raised on bluegrass. In fact when I interviewed him, the consummate blues performer was backstage waiting to play at the Kentucky Music Weekend in Louisville. He also tuned in to the likes of the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. He absorbed it all and is well on his way to finding his own voice.

Describing music in words is like describing a painting in flavors. Suffice to say that Owen-Gage plays with confidence, creativity, and taste.

With many musicians, you detect patterns, riffs, cliched licks they use over and over. Give Owen-Gage five breaks in one blues song and he jumps on every one, playing something totally different each time. Every note is unexpected; yet every note is exactly right.

Just as he is always ready to step up for a lead, he knows how to back up and give someone else the stage - a trait rare even in more seasoned players.

Another attribute that sets him apart is that Owen-Gage is grounded in music theory. He attended a magnet school for musicians in San Antonio, so not only does he know the difference between phrygian and mixolydian scales, he knows when to use them.

"I am not focused on one sort of music," he told me during a gig at Waring's Steak Nite. "I am trying to become a musician instead of a bluesmeister."

But no one is thinking of scales when they see him on stage. In the middle of one Roots concert, it started to drizzle. Out came the sheets of plastic to cover the amps. After 40 minutes of waiting, Owen-Gage had had enough. He ripped off the plastic, plugged in his guitar, and said, "Let's play some music."

For the next hour his screaming guitar defied the gods of thunder and lightning and made the crowd forget the dangers of dancing next to a maniac playing electric guitar on a wet dance floor.

With his great guitar skill, Owen-Gage is not looking to sell out, whatever that means. He stays and plays the hill country in order to perfect his art.

"I’m not attracted to the Nashville scene," he said. "The hill country is bringing in good artists. The scene is genuine because musicians are not coming here to be discovered, but to become better musicians."

In Will Owen-Gage's case, that is a scary thought.