Clare Maree Bowen was born on an island in the middle of the Pacific. Years before landing the role of Scarlett O’Connor on the CMT/HULU TV series “Nashville” and launching her career as a singer/songwriter, Clare Bowen was growing up in rural Australia, miles from the nearest city, writing down everything she felt, heard, saw and dreamed.
“Music was my connection to the rest of the world,” she says. As a child who spent more time around animals than people, she often “Didn’t do social very well...but music is the universal language. I felt no barrier there. I was brought up on my parents’ vinyl collection – everything from Paul Simon to Gilbert & Sullivan, Vivaldi to Elvis to Dolly to Springsteen, Edith Piaf and Etta James.”
Those references quickly expanded to include country legends like Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash. Bowen heard her first broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry on the wireless in her grandad’s kitchen. Soon after, her classical vocal coach paused one of their lessons to comment on the country lilt that had naturally crept into Bowen’s voice. It would be another decade or so before she’d duet with heavyweights like Zac Brown and Vince Gill, record songs with Grammy-winning producers like T Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller, or tour the United States with “Nashville” co-star Charles Esten, but those early experiences helped plant the seed, pushing Bowen toward Nashville and its musical community.
Along the way, she established herself as an in-demand actress on both sides of the Atlantic, earning critical praise in the highly controversial Australian film The Combination, directed by David Field, and as the leading role of Wendla in the Sydney Theatre Company’s musical production of Spring Awakening. It was during this time that Bowen took the advice of the STC’s artistic director, Oscar winner, Cate Blanchett, and bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles in 2012. During her first year in America, she caught the bus to her “Nashville” audition and landed the gig, playing a young poet turned songwriter, whose folk and Americana songs are influenced by a challenging childhood. For Bowen, who was diagnosed with cancer at four years old and struggled with the disease for years, the role hit close to home.
“Nashville” is more than just a television show to Bowen, though, “Nashville is a city with its own heartbeat,” she muses, and it has become a launching pad for her own music. Playing Scarlett O’Connor required Bowen to sing hundreds of songs, play multiple instruments, and overcome an irrational fear of microphones. When asked whether she could play the banjo, Bowen replied “probably” and learned. It pushed her to write songs that she’d actually share with people, drawing on everything she wrote down as a child for inspiration.
Along with being an artist, Bowen is also an activist. An advocate for kindness, she cut off her waist length hair in 2015 to express the need for people to look past the physical image. The act unexpectedly went viral, eliciting thousands of positive responses from all over the globe. Bowen was overwhelmed with joy and startled by the attention.
“I have come to terms with the fact that one person cannot save the world alone,” Bowen admits, “But by connecting with people, stage by stage, song by song, kindness by kindness; you can make a difference. My life has been really weird, and sometimes really scary, but I wouldn’t change any of it, because it brought me here and made me whatever it is that I am. Now I get to fill little corners of the world with love and kindness, and together – we make them glow. If you’re given any kind of blessing like what ‘Nashville’ is to me, you must use your powers for good.”
Bowen plays shows between shoots, touring the world on sold-out tours with her singer/songwriter husband, Brandon Robert Young. Once an introverted child, Bowen has blossomed into a ferocious performer and storyteller. She lovingly takes her audiences on a journey full of laughter, tears, dancing, singing, jumping up and down and for weeks afterward, wondering where all the glitter came from.
Bowen resides with her husband near Nashville, Tennessee, along with a small army of rescued dragons and the occasional unicorn.