Jimmy Bowskill: New Look, Old Soul

Since I started my music “journalism” career, (which began somewhere between 2011 and 2015) there have been a handful of people on my list of dream interviewees. One of them was Jimmy Bowskill. For those not familiar with this kid from Bailieboro, Ontario, he is quite the phenomenon. He was discovered at the age of 10 busking Robert Johnson and was brought to the attention of the late, great Jeff Healey. His first album – which was very traditional blues and even included a great rendition of “Stones in My Passway” – followed shortly thereafter. He made history with his second album “Soap Bars and Dog Ears” as he became the youngest ever Juno nominee at age 14. “Back number”, his fifth album was released in May 2012. All of this happened before he turned 22. Sounds like one of those musical prodigies.

When I finally got to see Jimmy perform three years ago, he had shaggy hair, a leather jacket, and looked a bit ragged as he was just coming to into adulthood. When I spoke to him yesterday, he looked a little more clean cut. The shag was gone, his fashion was a little more casual and he had the sproutings of a goatee. It was easy to tell that he was still, in many ways, a youthful kid (he is only 22 after all). Although he is one several musicians I have interviewed that are around the same age as myself, he is the only one that actually felt like a contemporary and peer.

It was a bit of odd set-up to the interview, as the venue where he was playing – the Vancouver Fan Club – was hosting a social for all the gay male hockey players in Vancouver; an event which wrapped up a couple of hours before Jimmy’s set started. We also did the interview on the stairs in the back alley behind the club. As is typical of Granville St and Vancouver alleys, as I was walking to the skytrain I got asked if I needed or wanted any drugs. While that is certainly not the first time I have been asked that question, given the previous twenty minutes it definitely made for an interesting end to it all.

It’s hard to believe that I have been a fan of Jimmy for over ten years. For a minute I almost let Dan the fan interfere with Dan the interviewer. To his credit, Jimmy seemed pretty chill and nonchalant about my fan boy moment (I believe the phrase he used was “oh right on” or something to that effect”. For a kid who was given the box set of Robert Johnson when he was listening to artists like Jimi Hendrix and Cream, he definitely seems to have found the right evolutionary path for his creativity and music. With Back number the whole band got involved in the writing process, which manifested as a more well-rounded and diverse set of blues-rock tunes. Right on Jimmy, right on. It’s nice to see young people playing Blues music again.

Back Number was released in May 2012.

RIYL: Jeff Healey, Tom Cochrane, Bruce Cockburn, any blues musician really.

For the record, there are three other people on my “must-have list”


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