I finally got a chance to ask Scarsdale’s Anthony “AC” Cowen some questions about his music (he’s along the lines of a clean-shaven Justin Timberlake, with some funk influences).Â He schools us on the true definition of “boy band,” the strength of his hair gel, and whether or not we will find him cavorting in the Meat Packing District with Hollywood A-listers.Â Meet AC:
(Photo courtesy of AC)
TH: Thanks for making time to talk to The Listening Room, AC.
AC: My pleasure. Thanks for having me!
TH: Tell us a bit about your background. How old were you when you first realized that you wanted to be in boy band?
AC: Haha- well I knew I wanted to be a singer since I was little. I had a really high voice when I was younger so the songs I would sing for people in those days were more soprano type power ballads like Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” Mariah Carey’s “Hero,” and, of course, “My Heart Will Go On.” Once my voice changed I started to head toward the field of songs from different pop groups of the time and realized there wasn’t anything these guys can do that I can’t! I figured starting a group would be a great way to break into the industry at my age.
TH: Once you came to the realization, was it like, “Mom, can you buy me this hair gel?”
AC: Actually I had been a big fan of hair gel long before I decided to start a group. The thing that did change though was the strength of the hold. Over the years I’ve gone from gel to glue and everything in between.
TH: But sersly, did you need to take singing/dancing lessons?Â If so/not, was it difficult to learn to do these things?Â They really are integral to boy-banding.
AC: Very integral. It’s always best to try and make the most of your talent by working at it. I did take voice lessons when I was young. When my voice changed though, I kind of gave it up for a while but I still sang in school all the time and in my personal life. I was in all kinds of choirs and groups through the years and every one of them contributed to strengthening my voice. I did what I could on my own to work at making it stronger and controlling it better as well.
As for dancing, that has really just come pretty natural for me. I remember dancing at my sister’s Sweet Sixteen when I was eight years old and keeping up with professional MTV dancers. Seeing the video years later is funny, but it surprised me how comfortable I was doing that at such a young age. I always tried to emulate moves I’d see on TV from all the great artists of the time. I would study them, remember the eight counts and then do it over and over. That’s how I started learning choreography. I guess you can say I made my own lessons.
TH: Do you play an instrument?Â Do you play on songs?
AC: I wouldn’t consider myself a pro by any means in either, but I do play piano and guitar. I always used to try to play songs by ear, but once I took theory, ear training, and sight singing in college, I learned to build chords around melodies pretty well. I still have a lot of learning to do, but I love making music anyway I can.
TH: What artist influenced you the most?
AC: That’s always a hard question to answer. I have had so many influences it’s impossible to pinpoint just one. Richard Marx has always been a big influence, Stevie Wonder, Brian McKnight…My dad has been a big fan of doo wop for the longest time and I would listen to all the groups when I was younger and sing along to the timeless tunes. You can’t beat that era of music. These days I think Justin Timberlake is an influence and inspiration for all male solo artists. The man can do no wrong and you can’t help but appreciate that kind of talent.
TH: Do you perform live now?Â Alone?Â Or with a band/dancers?
AC: Up until recently I was performing with my college a cappella group The Earth Tones. There’s not a group in the country that has more fun on stage than they do. Upon leaving school, though, I signed a contract with an amazing up-and-coming indie label as a solo artist. So far I’ve just been working hard in the studio preparing songs for my debut album, so I haven’t done any performances yet. But stay tuned.
TH: Boy bands have a mostly female audience, often teens.Â Are there certain things you need to do in your music to appeal to them?Â I guess you really have to stay current on what’s “cool.”
AC: I’ve always just tried to be myself. I wrote songs about love because there’s nothing in this world that feels better. I wrote songs about parties because hanging out with your friends takes away the stresses of the world. I think most artists try to write about how they feel at the time and that’s what I try to get across. I want the listeners to feel me in my music and in the tone of my voice. If that comes off as “cool” then that’s great. And, of course, the ladies deserve all the attention they get.
TH: If you were a New Kid on the Block, who would you be?Â Are NKOTB the founding fathers of boy bands?
AC: I think I’d be Jordan. I felt like I could relate to the kid. We have about the same same range, I think. I wouldn’t consider them the founding fathers of boy bands. Every generation has had their slew of boy bands. Think back to the Jackson Five, and The Temptations. Just two examples of groups prior to New Kids who incorporated harmonies and choreographed dance moves.
TH: That’s true.Â I wasn’t really thinking beyond “Hangin’ Tough.”Â Regarding your songs, the collaboration with Breed on “The Next Girl” really works well, in the vein of JT and TI.Â How did you and Breed get connected?Â Are you a big rap fan?
AC: Thanks a lot, I appreciate that. Breed is crazy talented. In a world of emcees who have no heart, Breed makes up for all of them. I hooked up with Breed through my manager at the time. He got me together with the producer who created the ridiculous beats on the tracks you’ve heard on my MySpace, Facebook, Clear Channel sites, or anywhere else you’ve heard them. Anyway, Breed is his brother and had been in the game for years. When we were doing the track we thought a rapper would fit so I was introduced to Breed and the verses he wrote for it were fire so it was a no-brainer. Look out for Breed this year, he’s gonna be big things. As for rap in general I have always been a huge fan of the genre but I feel as late it has fallen off. You can’t deny the ability of a great emcee.
(Photo courtesy of Breed via MySpace)
TH: Are you in college/working? What do you study/do?Â Does your music life ever cross over into your professional life?
AC: I was a music major in college and when I’m not in the studio I’m working at a music store. Haha- as you can see, no matter what, music is involved in all things I do. I would not have it any other way.
TH: What’s the Scarsdale boy band scene like?Â Are there competitors out there in Scarsdale/Westchester?Â Do you work together or is there animosity on the scene, like one group is more Backstreet, other ‘N Sync?
AC: The exact opposite, my friend. At least when I was in the scene. I only knew one person in my area who could sing. I had to recruit from other towns. I’m not sure how it is now, but hopefully there are more guys these days doing their thing.
TH: We’ve got to ask this for all of our love-struck fans out there.Â Justin Timberlake is often see cavorting around the pages of US Weekly with Hollywood starlets.Â Do you have a beau on your arm?Â If so, who?
AC: I prefer to leave this question open for discussion. It’s always best to leave ’em guessing. Sorry ladies.
TH: Thanks, AC.Â Let us know when your new tracks are dropping, and if we can see you live-
AC: Anytime man. I’m in the process of recording now. I should have some sneak peaks of new tracks available soon, and once the album is finished I will be doing some live shows. Stay tuned cause this is gonna be an exciting year!