Clare Maree Bowen was born on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and is still not dead.
Years before landing the role of Scarlett O'Connor on the CMT/HULU TV series NASHVILLE, and launching her career as a singer / songwriter, a young 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 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 U.S. with NASHVILLE co-star Charles Esten, but those early experiences helped plant the seed, pushing Bowen one step 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 Clare 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 TV show to Bowen, though. “Nashville is a city with its own heartbeat…” she muses. And it has become a launching pad for Bowen’s 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 show 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, but startled by the attention and reportedly retreated to the ceiling until her team got her down with a broom.
“I have come to terms with the fact that one person cannot save the world alone” Clare admits, “But you can make little corners of it better. Stage by stage, song by song, kindness by kindness; you can help people feel something… my life has been completely weird and sometimes really scary, but I wouldn’t change any of it, because it brought me here and made me whatever it is I am. And now I get to make little corners of the world 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 U.S. with fellow NASHVILLE actor Charles Esten, and her singer / songwriter fiancé, Brandon Robert Young. Once an introverted child, Bowen has blossomed into a ferocious performer with a penchant for flying off the stage to dance with the audience in full sparkle mode.
She now resides in a rip in the fabric of reality, quite close to Nashville, TN with Brandon, a small army of rescued dragons, and the occasional unicorn.