At only 26 years old, you’d be forgiven for believing China Bowls has lived her life ten times over. With a syrupy and mellow tone to her beautiful voice and a captivating narrative in her songs, China Bowls, otherwise known as Lucie Bowles, sings with the experience and emotion of a woman four times her age.
It’s a raw passion and a true soul, elements of which the English singer wonders herself where it all stems from. “I’ve had some shit happen in my life,” she chuckles, “I think the more you have experiences, the more you become aware of what other people experience around you… I dunno, I’m really interested in their stories, other people’s stories and I just wanna write about that, and everything about people. It’s all just so fascinating.”
Bowles’ music does very much tell a story and not just the standard he-said, she-said, kiss-and-make-up, her music, particularly what we hear in her debut EP Talk, is far more in-depth. Each song is a chapter that forms a whole story, an in-sight into China Bowls and what she’s about. Ultimately, she says, she’s living these stories all the time. “You know, you write something and you feel like you’ve explored that idea and maybe like two weeks later you’re like, ‘Oh what? I was coming at that from a really different angle than I am now able to see it’.
“I feel quite lucky to be a songwriter and have that way to extend myself, to get to write about stuff to work through it and see it in different ways – you’re ever-evolving.
“You might write a song and perform it and you’ve felt it a certain way so many times and then something happens in your life and it’s like, you’re never gonna feel that in the same way, you’re experiencing it from a different perspective. That’s really nice, when song’s get a new life. You never want to be expressing something but not actually feeling it as well.”
Bowles’ neo-jazz hybrid is the perfect audio medium to express the ever-changing motions by which she lives, though she admits it can be difficult to sing or relive certain songs and what they meant even though she’s moved on from their original sentiment. “It’s so dependent on where you are, who you’re performing to,” Bowles begins retrospectively. “For instance, the song ‘Stay’ on the Talk EP, it’s really quiet and it’s particularly personal.
“I won’t perform it always, it’s just if it feels right and people are with you and listening. I always get into it and get into a pretty vulnerable place, I find, when I perform it. You kind of want your space sometimes.”
That natural episode of vulnerability, admirable as it is for Bowles to admit to the experience, is something she says her audience want always pick up on – but when they do, it’s more often than not they relate. “Obviously I can have all the thoughts about what the song is about for me but it’s open to interpretation, absolutely, when you’re performing it’s for the ears of the audience.
“And you wouldn’t want to dictate how people take things as well, because it’s amazing when people find relevance for themselves in music – I mean, that’s why we crave music, isn’t it? To relate it all back to us. It depends on the audience.”
Everything about a performance by Bowles comes down to the audience. As a musician she’s played a multitude of different types of venues, some she calls starting-out venues like art galleries where Bowles might have only one person really listening and in receipt of her whole focus. Then she might play to an entire room who are completely with her, and that’s another level of experience for her.
There’s a kind of sensual cloak shrouding Bowles, in her manner, in her speech, in her music, in her song. Much like an onion, only sweeter, there are many layers to the artist that even she hasn’t fully discovered. But perhaps exploration into the as-yet unknown is something her Australian fans can help with when China Bowls performs at Queenscliff Festival – yet another venue where the nostalgia and emotive sway of her songs depend on several variables. Her first trip Down Under, it’s like all sign point to positive.
On the beautiful coastal town of Queenscliff, Bowles is hesitant to affirm there’ll be something in her music that will resonate with all who attend her set – her modesty is endearing as she giggles, “Hopefully! Obviously not everyone but hopefully there’ll be some there that hear something that resonates with them in my songs.
“It’s gonna be different as well because we’re gonna be performing in a totally different place so it’ll probably have a totally different energy – it’ll be really hyped!”
And hot. But the summer sun cascading down isn’t a worry to Bowles, the adrenaline of her debut Aussie festival performance is enough to ignore that. When she plays performances such as Queenscliff Festival, with other artists of other genres on the bill in a country that isn’t her own, Bowles is quick to take away from those experiences new lessons, from the other musicians and experiences. “Also it’s really great because, and I’m guilty of it too, you can get quite stuck in your comfort zone of what you listen to, so actually seeing things live, especially at festivals where you have a variety of a line-up, it’s so good for discovering new music you probably might not have found yourself because it lies outside of the things you naturally listen to.
“That’s so healthy, I think, to let those things in and try and seek influences that aren’t just creating a little bubble of a sound.”
The 2018 Queenscliff Music Festival will be held from Friday 23 November – Sunday 25 November.
Weekend & single day tickets on sale now via qmf.net.au.
Two day Sat & Sun tickets sold out.
Written by Anna Rose