2 January 2024

Nashville star Clare Bowen returns home to where it all began with acoustic show – and family

| Kellie O'Brien
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man and woman in formal attire

Former Minnamurra girl Clare Bowen with husband and other half of Bowen * Young, Brandon Robert Young. Photo: Supplied.

When Clare Bowen from the US hit TV series Nashville takes to the stage in Wollongong on 27 January, it will bring her back to where it all began.

Performing as the musical duo Bowen * Young with husband and former John Hiatt Trio member Brandon Robert Young, the intimate acoustic shows at IMB Theatre will see them joined by special guest Timothy James Bowen, who is Bowen’s brother and was a finalist on The Voice, along with Australian singer Imogen Clark.

Bowen and Timothy grew up in Stanwell Park and Minnamurra before being encouraged by Hollywood star Cate Blanchett to move to LA, with Clare getting her big break playing Scarlett on Nashville from 2012-18.

Bowen met Young when he was a last-minute replacement for her no-show duet partner at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and were later married by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash’s son John Carter Cash in 2017.

Bowen said being in Australia for the tour meant the family was able to fly to Melbourne for their performance at the televised Vision Australia Carols By Candlelight before Christmas at her parents’ home in Minnamurra.

“It’s always wonderful to come back down the South Coast,” Bowen said.

“I think this particular theatre where we’re playing is where I did my graduation performance.

“So it’ll be really nice to go back and just walk through the dressing rooms and walk back onto that stage.

“To have walked off it as a graduating student and the whole world bearing down on me and not knowing what I was going to do, but being really excited and having new dreams, to now walking back onto the stage as Bowen Young with the love of my life and feeling welcomed by this beautiful place that I call home, that’s some crazy stuff.

“It’s a good feeling. I don’t even have words for it.”

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It was through the University of Wollongong that Bowen was first discovered by David Field for his directional debut The Combination.

“When David asked me to get up and do this exercise in class, if you had told me that two years later he would cast me in my first feature film, I would have been really excited and I might have believed you but it was in that moment that I will never, ever forget that somebody really saw me and what I am as an artist for the first time as I was then,” she said.

“Just to come back here as an adult, it’s such a privilege, and to still have my family around me doing that – my brother’s going to be opening for us, along with Imogen Clark, who’s an incredible singer.

“Careers are such crazy things, they don’t go straight up or straight down, they go sideways and all over the place.

“I’ve been on such a massive journey since I left Wollongong and we’re going to be telling some of those stories.”

After an assailant broke into the couple’s Nashville home, inspiring their song Dangerous Love, the past year has seen more joy after opening for Billy Joel, the Nashville Reunion Tour, and the duo’s intimate shows in the UK and US.

“It’s special. It’s like bringing The Bluebird Cafe all the way to Australia,” she said of the famous Nashville music venue, which also featured in Nashville and at which Bowen’s character Scarlett regularly sang.

“It’s just Brandon and me and an acoustic guitar, so it really strips things back to show people the stories behind the songs.”

Promoting new gospel hymn-sounding single Brand New World, due out on 10 January, Young said it was a song that came late in recording when writer-producer Mikky Ekko helped inspire the idea.

“One thing that’s really special that I’m so excited about with his song is when we wrote the song, Clare started whistling over the guitar part that I recorded,” Young said.

“We said, ‘Man, it would be really cool to get your dad to whistle on this song’ because Clare’s dad is such an incredible whistler.

“So we sent him the track and he recorded it here in Australia while we were in Nashville.

“So Anthony Bowen is on the next single from Bowen Young.”

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Family is important to Bowen, with Timothy first touring with them back when he completed chemotherapy after unexpectedly being diagnosed with end-stage Lymphoma in 2015. Bowen herself is a cancer survivor, having had it as a child.

Timothy and Imogen Clark have regularly toured with the pair, with Young describing it as “one big travelling family”.

Bowen said it had been four and a half years since they were last in Australia, so it was a particularly special Christmas.

“Being with all of our extended families, there aren’t many words when you miss people that much and then get to be together again,” she said.

Young said a Bowen Christmas included a barbecue with fresh seafood from the local market and time spent in the Minnamurra River.

“I grew up in Connecticut, so I’m used to being covered in snow and freezing to death, so being in shorts and a T-shirt on Christmas Day and eating seafood is a little bit of a different experience that is quite beautiful.”

Tickets are now available.

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