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In the past decade, Chicago’s Mike Kinsella has played a variety of instruments in a handful of bands including Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc, The One Up Downstairs, American Football, Owls, Maritime, and Aloha. Owen is his solo project.
The impetus for Owen was a direct result of the demise of American Football. Up to that point, having been associated with a number of bands, Mike sought a project where he could have complete creative control over all aspects including songwriting, recording, album artwork, and overall artistic direction.
When it came time to record his solo album, Mike approached Polyvinyl with the idea to take the money that normally would be spent on a recording studio and instead spend it on software so he could record the album on his own. He ended up heading to his mother’s house in Chicago and turned his old bedroom into a recording studio. Wishing to avoid the connotations associated with solo singer-songwriters, Mike began recording under the pseudonym, ‘Owen.’
Owen’s debut, Owen was a stark departure from previous Mike Kinsella projects. There no longer existed a need to play odd time signatures just for the sake of being different or writing parts that were technically challenging purely for the sake of being technically challenging. What remained was an artist finding his way through his home studio for the first time while recording all instrumentation on his own.
For 2002’s No Good For No One Now, Owen’s second full-length, a similar arrangement of purchasing recording equipment instead of studio time was agreed upon. This time the money went towards the purchase of microphones. No Good For No One Now was more realized than the first album owing in part to the experience of self-recording Owen. The most notable distinction between the two albums was Mike’s increased use of lyrical, literary devices: each song told a story.
In 2004, in collaboration with Cale Parks (of Aloha), Bob Hoffnar, Jen Tabor, and Paul Koob, Mike began recording again. What resulted was (the ep). The joint effort marked a turning point of sorts for Owen. Rumors began to swirl that a live band would be taken on the road for the first time but these rumors never materialized as Mike again rejoined Joan of Arc and became a touring member of both Maritime and Aloha.
(the ep) had been written as a companion piece to a scheduled full-length. In summer 2004, Mike again began recording and collaborating, this time with cousin Nate Kinsella ( Make Believe, Joan of Arc) who lent assistance both on instrumentation and engineering. The results of these efforts were I do perceive., Owen’s third full-length.
On At Home With Owen, Mike figuratively leaves the at-home bedroom that has characterized so much of Owen’s past musical output. His step away from bedroom recording allowed for an alternative approach to the songs recorded on At Home With Owen. “I’ve always hated how two dimensional the other Owen albums have sounded, and I think this one’s finally got a third dimension,” says Kinsella. The new approach to recording involved a fraction of pre-recording at Mike’s mom’s house, followed by sessions at Semaphore Studios with cousin Nate Kinsella (Joan of Arc, Make Believe) and finally at Engine Studios with Brian Deck (Iron & Wine, Red Red Meat). This newfound transient approach to recording allows the music of Owen to reach a new depth; one that sways between organic overtures and fervent, lush ballads.