ABOUT

John Cowan, hailed as the Voice of Newgrass, has been singing his heart out for more than forty years and his soaring vocals have only improved with time. A true innovator, Cowan applies his powerful pipes to genres from country, bluegrass, and gospel to soul, jazz, and rock – often within the space of a single concert. His ability to move fluidly through multiple styles, and carry mesmerized audiences on the journey with him, has set him apart as one of the most loved and admired vocal artists of his generation, not just by fans and critics but among fellow musicians as well.

With his distinctive, rock-tinged tenor vocal and heart-thumping electric bass, Cowan along with fellow New Grass Revival bandmates Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson, and Curtis Burch, and later Bela Fleck and Pat Flynn, introduced a new generation of music fans to an explosive, experimental and ultimately, an eponymous brand of bluegrass. The “newgrass” sound spawned popular jam bands such as Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String Band, opened the door for today’s young bluegrass superstars Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle and shaped the sensibilities of country megastars Garth Brooks, The Chicks, the Zac Brown Band, and Darius Rucker.

After New Grass Revival disbanded in 1990, John went on to record a series of critically acclaimed solo albums, including Soul’d Out (Sugar Hill, 1986), the self-titled John Cowan (Sugar Hill, 2000), Always Take Me Back (Sugar Hill, 2002), New Tattoo (Pinecastle, 2006), 8,745 Feet, Live at Telluride (2005, re-released by E-1 Entertainment, 2009), Comfort & Joy (E-1 Entertainment, 2009), The Massenburg Sessions (E-1 Entertainment, 2010) and Sixty (Compass, 2014).

The John Cowan Band, in various incarnations that inevitably feature some of acoustic music’s finest players, has been a force to be reckoned with these fifteen years – and counting. John Cowan is a fixture and a favorite at major festivals including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado and Wilkesboro, North Carolina’s “traditional-plus” MerleFest. He routinely sells out performing arts theaters and distinguished music clubs and listening rooms around the country. Stints in his band have helped launch Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers) careers, Luke Bulla (Lyle Lovett), and Scott Vestal, among others.

Cowan also is known for mixing it up; his creative collaborations range from his 2012 MerleFest performance alongside Darrell Scott and Pat Simmons to appearances with Nashville favorites The Long Players and Grooveyard. On his 2010 recording, The Massenburg Sessions, Cowan joined forces with legendary producer George Massenburg (Little Feat, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt…) to craft a collection that has the warm, intimate feel of a living room jam. It features duets with Maura O’Connell and Del McCoury.

In 2014, Cowan recorded what many say is his most adventurous one yet, Sixty. Star packed with the likes of Bonnie Bramlett, Ray Benson, Sam Bush, Rodney Crowell, Chris Hillman, John Jorgenson, Alison Krauss, Bernie Leadon, Huey Lewis, Jim Messina, Leon Russell, John McFee, and others, this album set a new standard of excellence.
These days, John Cowan fans have to wait a little longer between shows and possibly travel a little farther to get to them. That’s because he’s working his regular gig traveling the world with the Doobie Brothers, laying down the low notes and singing the high ones as they perform hits such as “Black Water,” “China Grove,” “Taking it to the Streets,” “What A Fool Believes” and “Listen to the Music” as well as new songs that showcase the relevancy of this iconic classic rock band.

In 2020 John Cowan, along with his former New Grass Revival bandmates Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson, Ebo Walker, Curtis Burch, Butch Robins, Bela Fleck, and Pat Flynn, was inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. This honor solidifies their place as one of the most influential bands in bluegrass music history.

2021 found John prepping for the recording of a new album, his first in more than 7 years, this time with an amazing pairing of world-class musician that include Andrea Zonn in a group they are calling The HercuLeons. Produced by the legendary singer/songwriter Wendy Waldman is has them recording with a superstar list of session players and is expected to be released in early 2025. The year also showcased him guesting on a star-studded tribute album to one of his friends and musical heroes, the late Tony Rice. The Rice Tribute album was released on Christmas Eve to critical praise.
2024 will see Cowan touring with the Doobie Brothers as well as playing some dates with his band with Zonn, The HercuLeons as well as his New Grass All-Stars, as schedules permit. (The HercuLeons’ self-titled debut album is scheduled for a January 2025 release.) 
Cowan’s memoir “Hold To A Dream” will be published in May 2024. For over forty years, Kentucky native, longtime Nashville resident John Cowan has been both a participant in and chronicler of country and bluegrass music history. Whether as the lead singer and bassist of the genre-bending group New Grass Revival, a beloved personality on Nashville’s WSM radio (“the most famed country music station in the world”), or the newest member of the Doobie Brothers, Cowan has had a front-row seat to seismic changes in American roots music and in the recording industry as a whole.

“Hold to a Dream” combines a rollicking account of Cowan’s life and career with interviews with some of the biggest names in country, bluegrass, and roots music including Kris Kristofferson, Bela Fleck, Loretta Lynn, Jim Messina, John Carter Cash, Sam Moore, and Bernie Leadon. It’s a fascinating look into a half-century of tradition, experimentation, and innovation in one of the most vital and enduring of American musical genres.

“I love my ‘job’,” Cowan says. “I love being in a band – a great band – and I love playing music for people every night. I’m also very grateful for every opportunity I have to play my own music for the fans that have been so loyal to me over the years. I don’t ever want to stop sharing my music with them.”