Will Owsley died April 30 of an apparent suicide. He was 44. And it was way too soon.
We have no idea what was going through his mind before he took his own life – maybe he suffered from chronic depression, maybe financial or personal issues were taking their toll on him. But I can’t help thinking that he was a victim of the typical indie musician’s curse: not enough exposure and appreciation for his work.
Will Owsley was part of a rising Nashville pop music scene. He was part of my new hope for music, one that valued melody and chord progressions over style and hype. He got it.
And his career started out in a promising way – His first album, a self-titled record released in 1999, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album. He began collaborating with first-tier artists such as as Shania Twain, the Neville Brothers, Faith Hill and Michael McDonald. And he was Amy Grant’s session guitarist for a number of years.
But fame and success were elusive. Two more albums failed to capture any attention, and by the late 2000s he found himself playing guitar for teen sensations Selena Gomez and the Jonas Brothers. How hard was that – knowing you had plenty of talent, but watching teenagers whose careers were created by Disney make platinum records, assisted by auto-tune and your own guitar playing?
Suicide is always a waste. It’s selfish and too tragic and melodramatic. He left behind two children who may never understand why he did what he did. But they will have his music. And I hope that they can listen to it and appreciate the amazing gift that he had. That’s what I’ve been doing all weekend.