Bestie Feature: Mandy Rowden
I can't even remember how Mandy and I originally connected, but I'm so glad we did. I've been in her Girl Guitar class for the past few weeks and have learned more about guitar during these classes than since 2004 when I got my guitar! Plus, getting to learn guitar while also getting to hang out with some badass chicks and drink wine at the same time? Genius! Read on to get to know Mandy and the crazy busy and amazing life she lives.
Tell us about yourself! What do you do and what has your journey been like getting to this point?
I’m a touring singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist and the creator of Girl Guitar, a women’s guitar and songwriting school and rock camp located in Austin and Nashville. I’ve been playing classical violin and piano since a young age and started writing songs and playing in bands in my early twenties, which has led to several albums and recently, a record deal with Colorado-based Howlin' Dog Records. 10 years ago I started a women’s guitar class and off-handedly called it 'Girl Guitar;' now it boasts over 30 classes a week in multiple cities with courses including acoustic and electric guitar, songwriting, drums, bass, piano, vocals, harmony, theory, and rock, blues, country, and folk bands plus a whole lot more. Creating and growing Girl Guitar has been a really fun and trippy journey, and while I love helping others get better it’s had the awesome side effect of helping me get a lot better too.
What’s a usual day-in-the-life look like for you?
Between my own career and my involvement with Girl Guitar, pretty much every day is music and creativity from start to finish, but every day is also wildly different, which I really appreciate. Weeknights I’m probably teaching classes in Austin or Nashville, unless I’m on tour in which case I could be playing any kind of venue in any kind of city with any number of crazy things happening all around me. Daytimes are a mix of writing, Girl Guitar administrative stuff, planning classes, practicing, teaching private lessons, studio sessions, and trying to work out. Weekends are for gigs and with any luck and some decent weather, taking the paddle boards to the lake or hiking somewhere with my boyfriend.
Does community play a role in your career? How so?
I love this question because community has MADE my career as a teacher and is so important to me for personal reasons as well. I come from a huge family so I’ve always loved being around lots of people and having lots going on. This has played into Girl Guitar in a huge way because playing music is so much more fun with other people than it is alone, and while women come to us because they want to learn something, they stay with us for years on end because of the friendships they’ve formed. While I’m passionate about teaching them as much as possible I honestly think GG is successful as much for the social connections and the sense of family as it is for the music that comes out of it. We call ourselves a guitar class, but the truth of it is that after all these years, many of us have been through marriages, divorces, births, losses of loved ones, high times, low times, and more fun together than we could possibly ever quantify, so we’re every bit a community as much as a place to learn.
What’s your favorite part about the music industry?
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m still madly in love with playing music, pure and simple. The ‘industry’ to me is a big crazy machine that partly facilitates being able to make a living at what I do, but in a lot of cases it causes as much stress as it creates opportunities, so most of the time I don’t really consider the music industry in my day to day operations; instead I focus more on connecting with as may people as possible, creating as much as possible, and hoping to have a lot to show for all my efforts when a day is done.
Knowing what you know now, if you could go back 5 years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Practice more, write more, read more. Netflix binges and wasted time on social media have left me with absolutely nothing productive to show.
Teach us something! (Related to your area of expertise or something random just for fun)
One of my favorite soapboxes as a teacher is to encourage us all to ween ourselves from having paper (ipad, whatever) in front of us while we practice. Just as important as what you’re doing with your hands or voice is the development of your ear, which is seriously stunted by reading everything you play. Sure, you mess up more when you first stop looking, but in the big picture your playing takes a huge leap. If you want to do any one thing to kick your playing and overall musicianship up several notches, turn on your ears and give your visual side a break.
More about Mandy
Mandy Rowden is an Austin and Nashville-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and the creator of Girl Guitar, a women’s guitar school and rock camp that is celebrating it’s 10th Anniversary this year. Mandy played classical violin and piano through college, where she began writing songs and has since worked and toured playing guitar, bass, keys, drums, fiddle, mandolin, and harmonica. Besides teaching and touring, Mandy is the resident musician at Lucky Star Art Camp and a contributing songwriter for Songs For The Soul. Her first full-length studio album ‘These Bad Habits’ (2015) featured Grammy winner Lloyd Maines (Dixie Chicks) and Grammy nominee Redd Volkaert (Merle Haggard) and was voted #2 Album of the Year in the Austin Chronicle Music Poll; since then she has placed in the Top Ten as Musician of the Year as well as Songwriter, Female Vocalist, Album, and Song of the Year. Mandy is currently signed with Howlin’ Dog Records and you can find her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and on her website at www.mandyrowden.com.
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Katherine Forbes, Founder of Designing the Row
A Music City girl obsessed with creating confidence in my clients through designing, branding, marketing, and community. In today’s world, your visual branding and online presence will either make or break you. I’ve got my Diet Coke in hand and am ready to get started on your next project.