Lyn Bowtell has a heart of gold and a voice to match.
The talented singer-songwriter is one of those people you feel like you have known forever – even though you’ve just met. She is warm and giving and she smiles when she sings. It’s a smile that reaches her eyes.
As a singer, her voice is sweet as honey with a gravelly edge. As a writer, her lyrics come straight from the heart.
When asked if she is “finally free from the clutches of The Voice”, Bowtell laughs. Loudly.
“It was great to be part of The Voice and it was a real boost for me but it is also great to be free to do what I want again.”
Bowtell had years of experience as a professional singer under her belt when she auditioned for The Voice and turned all four judges’ chairs. Well known in the country music community as a solo performer and a member of popular trio Bella, Bowtell had six Golden Guitar awards and an ARIA nomination to her name.
She didn’t need The Voice for her “big break”. What she wanted was the opportunity to expand her musical horizons.
Life is certainly busy for Bowtell these days. She has just been added to the Newcastle leg of Culture Club’s national tour and when Weekender calls she is on her way to a photo shoot on the Central Coast for her six-track EP, Calling You, which is due for release on September 15. Her first single, He Burns, is now available for pre-order.
“It’s bloody exciting,” she says, laughing.
“I worked with Shane Nicholson again and couldn’t be happier. He is such an incredible producer and a very talented man who can pick up just about any instrument and make it work. We had a great band involved and it was lots of fun exploring different musical styles in a way that I had wanted to do for some time.
“I feel The Voice has given me the confidence I needed to have a go.”
Moving from “country” to “alt country” to “anything goes” has been surprisingly seamless. Bowtell had expected a backlash of sorts.
“Look, there’s been the odd negative Nancy but overall I was impressed, surprised even, that there wasn’t that much of a negative response,” she says.
“I remember my first record contract with Bella and a big label wanting to pigeon-hole our sound. They wanted to know what our genre was and put us in a box. It still seems to happen in this industry today. To me that’s prehistoric.”
Bowtell is philosophical about the constantly changing state of the music industry.
“There are a lot of negatives and people are scared but I think one of the positives is that you can release more music, more often. It used to be one album every two years, every 12 months if you were lucky.
“Now EPs are far more common because it’s a singles market. We can release singles and tour off them. And the faster turnaround gives you an opportunity to stay fresh.
“It also helps you to reinvent and renew and people aren’t so shocked when they hear a new sound.
“I think that was the mental attitude for me with this particular EP. I went in there with a different vibe and I wasn’t trying to conform.”
Bowtell’s rendition of Foy Vance’s She Burns has definite pop and rock influences but doesn’t stray too far from her alt-country roots. She says she recorded the renamed He Burns “with a different vibe”.
“In a way I was terrified, I’m not going to lie, and it took some convincing from my partner and manager just to think in a different way and get my head around it,” she explains.
“Now I’ve embraced it and am excited about it.”
The only thing that could possibly slow the bubbly Bowtell down is her health – not that she lets it.
This is a woman who continued a performance at Tamworth’s Country Music Festival in January while in excruciating pain and stopped to sign autographs for fans after the show. That night, though, she was admitted to hospital and told an ovarian cyst had ruptured while she was on stage.
It also happened to be the week that The Voice was filming her for the upcoming series.
Bowtell simply gritted her teeth and continued. The show, after all, had to go on.
She has endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome and experiences chronic musculoskeletal pain for which she is receiving treatment from the Bostock Institute in Queensland. Nerve blockers and painkillers were, she says, hindering her voice and making her “feel drunk all the time”.
And before the recent Gympie Muster Bowtell was struck down with influenza. Regardless, she played to standing-room-only crowds, shared the stage with Judah Kelly and did a songwriting workshop with Tom Busby and Graeme Connors.
“I’m feeling amazing. I could run a quarter mile the way I am feeling now compared to how I have been,” she says.
“OK, I’ve never run a quarter mile but you know what I mean. Another cyst exploded the other week and I ended up at John Hunter but I think we’re coming to the other side of all that.”