Demi Lovato’s tour bass guitarist, Leanne Bowes ’11, attributes her Marketing Communication degree for helping her rise the ranks of the Los Angeles music scene.
As a professional musician, she became her own client. “It was just a matter of using my advertising skills to promote myself and get other gigs.”
Her current gig is touring across North and South America with Lovato, as bass guitarist, backup vocalist, and bandleader, as Lovato promotes her latest album, Holy Fvck. She will also be joining Lovato for this year’s Jingle Ball in Boston and New York City.
But while Emerson taught her how to be seen and heard, her love of music started much earlier than college.
“The passion for [music] definitely came from my dad. That curiosity to just pick up an instrument and kind of twiddle around until you figure something out,” Bowes said. Her father was a hobbyist musician and drummer.
Bowes taught herself how to play after picking up the bass guitar at 12. She loves the bass because it “combines rhythm and tone” in ways other instruments don’t.
Her father also encouraged her to go after whatever goals she wanted to attain. In ninth-grade chorus, she wanted a solo, but didn’t get one. Going to her dad for comfort, he asked her if she had auditioned. She had not, but Bowes felt that her teachers should have seen her talent anyway. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, her father said. “That is hands-down the best piece of advice he gave me that I still use today,” Bowes said.
As her passion for music continued to grow, she also pursued the “sensible career” of copywriting and continued to play music in her free time.
She said she was attracted to Emerson’s Marketing Communication program because Emerson provides actual hands-on experiences. What she learned in classes she now uses every day to promote herself on social media.
While at Emerson, Bowes played with local bands and performed at open mics, including in the former Cabaret in the Little Building. She also got a gig to play at the New England Conservatory for a musical performance of The Lovely Bones.
But she never thought music would be such a huge part of her life. “That was all just for fun on the side. Never, never at that point did I think I’d make a whole career and life out of it,” she said.
Then, in 2011, her father died. He was a passionate drummer, but had worked a full-time office job.
“Just seeing him not get to do what he wanted to do was the catalyst for me to pursue my passion,” she said.
She quit her full-time job with an advertising agency and went after a life in music.
She went to New York to audition for Hunter Valentine to be the touring bass guitarist. Bowes got the job, and next thing she knew, she was on stage with Hunter Valentine opening for Sum 41 and Cyndi Lauper.
In the past year, she has performed with Rachel Platten, Big Time Rush, and Marina. Thinking about her musical journey, she said, “I’ve gotten choked up on stage before just looking around and being amazed at where I’ve come.”
Following Her Own Beat
After a decade playing with other musicians, Bowes now has music to call her own.
Last May, Bowes released her first single, “White Glove,” under the pseudonym Badways, which was the name of her grandmother’s cat when she was growing up. The song also was written and produced by Bowes.
“I wrote it for women in general. We bend over backwards for men and give men the white glove service, but put ourselves second,” she said. “It’s almost therapeutic to be writing music and kind of letting my own feelings flow,” said Bowes
Bowes has plans to release more songs of her own in the future, and is very focused on her career as a touring bass guitarist. And she continues to keep all options open.
“I mean if you asked me 10 years ago if there [were] full-time plans for being a touring musician, I would have said no, so you never know what’s going to happen.”
She said her path to the stage has taught her a lot, particularly to “honor your own journey.” Within any profession, she said it’s easy to get bitter feelings from seeing someone else get something you want, but it’s important to focus on our own path.
“There’s no one path towards anything, so just recognizing that it’s kind of exciting to have a different path and maybe that person was a little bit lucky, but you never know if it’s right down the road for yourself,” said Bowes.