From Friday Night Sing-Alongs To Frontman

Photo By Samantha Schwartz

One Tuesday night in February, Chris Owens was getting ready to perform with his band, The Other Brothers, for the first time. As he stepped on stage, Owens said he felt the anxiety he expected before performing in front of an audience, and that he was sweating more than usual – even taking nervous sips of his water bottle.

Once the music began, Owens said he was able to tune out all distractions. He sang covers of various songs that he and the band picked together. He recalled the audience cheering and yelling his name. For his first ever performance as a lead singer, Owens was satisfied with the turnout.

Owens, a third-year digital production major, had never taken lessons or performed on stage, but was used to singing in front of people because he would sing with friends at parties.

“Sometimes a song would come on that I knew the words to, and I would just sing it as loud as I could,” Owens said. “My friends started telling me that I actually had a really good voice.”

From Neil Young to Nickelback, Owens sought out a variety of songs to emulate. Owens’ roommate Charles Guenancia, a third-year anthropology major, said Owens seems to know every word of every song.

“He just has a knack for singing every word of a song in the exact same rhythm as the actual song,” Guenancia said.

Even after realizing his talent, Owens did not become involved with a band for a while. He said he preferred to “serenade” groups of friends. While he enjoyed singing more and more, Owens did not intend to perform anywhere besides wherever he and his friends were hanging out.

“Singing for me was a just a fun hobby, sort of a Friday night ritual,” Owens said. “Had I not been approached, I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to get further involved.”

Despite his original intentions, Owens was eventually noticed by members of The Other Brothers — a jam band without a vocalist.

“I’ve been friendly with Chris for a while now,” John Morrison, a third-year history major and the band’s guitarist, said. “But I had no idea he could sing until I randomly heard him one night at a house party. I suggested he get together with us and perform sometime, and he agreed.”

Since then, The Other Brothers have performed several times at New Paltz venues like Oasis Café and Snug Harbor. Owens has now become more enthusiastic about his role as a lead singer after he was received so well in his first few performances. He said a lot of his success comes from availability of venues in New Paltz.

“Here in New Paltz, the local bars are always willing to let new people come in and perform,” Owens said. “You don’t have to be the next Beyoncé in order to perform at these places, and now I’m usually able to sing at these events without feeling too much pressure.”

Although Owens has enjoyed the transition from singing in the shower to being the lead singer of a band, he is still a full-time student with other future goals. He said his tough class schedule makes singing more of a secondary activity.

“As much as I enjoy performing now, I expect to make a living off of what I’m studying in school right now, and that needs to be my primary focus,” Owens said. “That being said, being in this band has been a great experience, and has boosted my overall confidence in many aspects of life. If someone around here has a voice or can play an instrument, they should definitely go to one of the local bars and have their music heard.”