William Owsley III

Born: Anniston, AL

In 1987, he moved to Nashville to look for work as a session musician and landed a job as the guitarist for funk artist Judson Spence. He had a video on MTV and VH-1 and toured Japan and Europe. He began working with pianist and songwriter Ben Folds who introduced him to Millard Powers and they all started writing and working together.

That collaboration led to the power-pop band called The Semantics. The group also included drummer Zak Starkey, son of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. Amy Grant asked Owsley to play guitar in her touring band. He spent almost two years on the road and also performed on her 1997 album, "Behind the Eyes." Producer Mutt Lange recruited Owsley to sing and play guitar with Shania Twain for several TV appearances following the release of her debut album, "The Woman in Me."

They appeared on TV with Jay Leno, Letterman, Regis & Cathy Lee, Conan O'Brien, and the American Country Music Awards Show. Owsley has also toured with Contemporary Christian artist Michael W. Smith. He wrote and served as lead singer for all of the songs on his solo rock album, "Owlsey." He also helped with engineering the album which was nominated for a Grammy award in the best-engineered album category.

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

William Reese "Will" Owsley III (March 6, 1966 – April 30, 2010), known professionally as Owsley, was an American singer-songwriter, best known as for his work as guitarist in Amy Grant's touring band. His solo albums won critical acclaim and one Grammy Award nomination. He was also a record producer and a recording engineer.


Owsley was born and raised in Anniston, Alabama in a musical household. His father was the drum major of the Million Dollar Band, the marching band of the University of Alabama; his mother was a singer and stage actress; his sister was a classically trained pianist, and his brother was a rock guitarist.[2] Owsley graduated from The Rectory School[3] and attended the Blue Ridge School. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1987.[4]

Owsley started playing guitar at age nine. He was a fan of Kiss and of Todd Rundgren, but mostly practiced Eddie Van Halen and Steve Morse licks note-for-note.[5] With his father's mentorship, he played snare drum in the Anniston High School marching band, whilst continuing his passion for guitar, playing in his high school jazz band and in top-40 cover bands at local venues.[2] Later, when he began writing his own songs, they were more similar to the style of The Beatles. As a guitarist, he also cited influences such as Chet Atkins, Jimi Hendrix and Robert Johnson.[5]


Early career and The Semantics (1986–1998)

Prior to developing his own band and solo work, he was added to the band of Judson Spence, appeared in various of his videos on MTV,[4] and was part of Spence's groundbreaking Nashville showcases that landed him 14 label offers.[citation needed] Nashville music executive Scott Siman encouraged Owsley to pursue his own writing and performing, which is why he declined an offer by Amy Grant in the late 1980s to become her guitarist.[6]

Together with Millard Powers, he founded the power pop band The Semantics, which included Jody Spence and Ringo Starr's son, Zak Starkey. They were signed to Geffen Records by John Kalodner.[6] The band recorded an album entitled Powerbill in 1993, which was never released in the U.S for being "too pop for alternative and too alternative for pop."[7] It eventually got distributed in Japan in 1996.[8] Fine-tuning the album under the tutelage of producer and manager Peter Asher for four years taught him much about the production process[9] and about management.[6] Suddenly being dropped from the label left the band members destitute and broke.[6]

Amy Grant turned out to have heard tapes of The Semantics and she contacted Owsley in 1994 to let him know how much she liked it, and to ask him to join her as her guitarist on the House of Love tour.[4][6] Owsley would subsequently hold the position of tour guitarist for 16 years, until his death.[10] He would later also co-write and record various songs with her.[11][12] Through his work with producer Mutt Lange,[7] Owsley was introduced to Shania Twain. Over the years, he would tour with her as guitarist and harmony singer, with appearances on many national television shows and awards programs.[6][10][13] Owsley went on to work with many mainstream and Christian artists, often in the country genre.[13] During the 1990s, he among others worked with Vince Gill,[12][13] Michael W. Smith,[12] Chris Rodriguez,[12] dc Talk[14] (for whom he also produced),[2] the Neville Brothers,[2] Vanessa L. Williams,[2] and Wynonna.


Solo albums (1998–2005)

Owsley (1999)

Main article: Owsley (album)

With the money he earned working with Amy Grant and Shania Twain, he bought a house in Green Hills, Tennessee and in it built a home recording studio.[6][7][15] In 1998, it led to the release of his self-titled solo album on Not Lame Recordings.[7] It was co-produced by Millard Powers[6] and Jeff Balding. Doug Morris of Universal Music Group picked it and proposed the album to be rerecorded,[6] but Owsley insisted that it simply needed to be remixed by either Tom Lord-Alge, Bob Clearmountain or Andy Wallace. Tom Lord-Alge signed on,[6] together with J.R. McNeely.[16] The eponymous album Owsley got re-released on March 23, 1999 under Giant Records.

Many of the songs on the album are about Anniston, Alabama, where he was born and lived until he was 21,[6] and his longing to the town.[2] With the first single off the album being "Coming Up Roses", Owsley sent the entire staff of Giant a red rose and a Valentine's Day card, expressing his hopes that things were "coming up roses" for all.[2] The single didn't catch on, but "I'm Alright" later did score a minor hit.[7] Recorded almost entirely on a vintage Studer A-80 (2-inch, 16-track of which one defective[17]) tape machine[18] in his home studio on Hobbs Road in Nashville, Tennessee, it garnered him a Grammy Award nomination for Best Engineered Album.[19] The album would be labeled one of the best pop records of the '90s.[20] During the ensuing tour, he among others joined the Pat McGee Band[2] and Fountains of Wayne,[21] whose bassist Adam Schlesinger Owsley has recorded with in later years.

The Hard Way (2004)

Main article: The Hard Way (Owsley album)

Owsley released his second album, The Hard Way, on the indie record label Lakeview Entertainment on February 24, 2004, five years after his first solo album. It was ready in 2003, but got delayed in part due to legal difficulties with his former label, Giant Records.[22] The album had a heavier and more mature sound compared to his debut.[4][19] Be With You was chosen as single,[20] but despite some rotation on triple-A radio stations,[4] it never reached the greater audience. The album was recorded over the span of three years, using a variety of recording formats, in his new home studio in Franklin, Tennessee and a number of studios in Tennessee.[19] Owsley played multiple roles on it, including that of producer.[2] It was entirely mixed by Paul David Hager, and dedicated to Owsley's maternal grandmother, the late Alys O. Boozer.[11] A cover of Paul McCartney's "Band on the Run", which Owsley recorded for a 2001 tribute album,[23] was included as a hidden track.

Psycho / Upside Down (2005)

In 2004, he entered into an agreement with UMe Digital, a new label in the Universal Music Group, and the first major label to distribute music only through digital downloads.[24] It led to the release of the combined single Psycho / Upside Down in 2005. That same year, Owsley contributed the cover song "Got a Lot on My Head" to Substitution Mass Confusion, a tribute album in honor of The Cars.[25]

Session work (2005–2010)

In the 2000s, Owsley continued work as a session guitarist, (backing) vocalist, mandolin player and less frequently as bassist and keyboardist. He among others recorded with Faith Hill,[5][13] Michael McDonald,[13] Charlotte Church,[12][13] Jump5,[12] Natalie Grant,[12] David Phelps,[12] James Ingram,[12] Rodney Crowell,[12] MercyMe,[12] The Katinas,[12] Nate Sallie,[12] Graham Colton,[12] and Kenny Loggins.[12] Producer John Fields arranged for Owsley to back various Disney stars, such as Miley Cyrus,[13] Selena Gomez,[13] Demi Lovato,[13] the Jonas Brothers,[12][13] and Luke Benward.[12]

Besides being a musician, Owsley also continued producing and engineering. He co-produced Kevin Max's 2007 album The Blood and toured with him.[26] He played various instruments on Chris Sligh's 2008 album Running Back to You[12] and produced several songs on it.[27] In the last two years of his life, Owsley occasionally worked as a session guitarist for Andy Sturmer's movie soundtracks.[citation needed] In 2009, Owsley made a version of "When Lonely Comes Around" (Grant/Owsley), sung and recorded by himself, available to fans for free.


In sports, Owsley was a huge University of Alabama football fan. He himself played soccer and lacrosse and competed in cross country running in his formative years. As an adult, Owsley was a reasonably good golfer and tennis player, as well as an outstanding table tennis and billiard player. Whenever he was on tour and playing a club that had a billiard table, he'd often pick-up a game prior to going on stage to perform. He was also a very good horseman and owned several Tennessee Walking Horses over the years.

Owsley had a great passion for telling jokes. He was widely known for his great sense of humor, as well as being a terrific mimic, skilled at closely imitating people. He also was a fan of card tricks and coin illusion tricks and worked for years to hone his skills in illusion. Whenever he was in Los Angeles, he frequently visited the Magic Castle, located in Hollywood.

Owsley was an American Civil War buff. He was very knowledgeable on the subject and loved to interact with others who were interested in it as well. On many occasions, he helped to reenact specific battles.

Owsley was a Christian and was a member of the Village Chapel in Nashville, TN.

Owsley was an avid collector of vintage guitars, amplifiers, microphones and mic preamps for his studio.[28] At one time, he had a very large collection.


Owsley died April 30, 2010 at Williamson County Hospital in Franklin, Tennessee; he was 44.[29] The Tennessean reported the cause of death as "an apparent suicide."[10] He is survived by his two sons Walker (c. 1998) and Liam (c. 2001) from his previous marriage with Rebecca Walker.[29]



The Semantics

1996: Powerbill

Owsley solo

1999: Owsley

2004: The Hard Way

2005: Psycho / Upside Down (digital download only)

[edit]Cover versions by other artists


Avalon recorded Be With You for their 2004 album The Creed under the title I Wanna Be With You. The lyrics were slightly altered.

Trevor Morgan, who toured with Owsley as bassist,[30] recorded his own version of Upside Down (Morgan, Dillon O'Brian, Owsley) as the opening track for Wonderlight (2004).


1^ Goodsell Amplifiers (2010). Artists. Retrieved December 9, 2010.

2^ a b c d e f g h i Bessman, Jim (March 6, 1999). "Giant's Owsley ready to go pop: Artist's debut album shows preference for melodic rock.". Billboard (New York: BPI Communications) 111 (10): 14. ISSN 0006-2510.

3^ The Birmingham News (May 3, 2010). William Reese III obituary. Retrieved on May 14, 2010.

4^ a b c d e Wynn, Ron (January 9, 2004). Nashville’s Will Owsley set for solo superstardom. Nashville City Paper. Retrieved May 17, 2010.

5^ a b c Swenson, Kyle (August 1999). "Owsley". Guitar Player (San Francisco: Miller Freeman) 33 (8): 49. ISSN 0017-5463.

6^ a b c d e f g h i j k Second chance: Nashville rocker gets burned, emerges from the ashes with a winning LP. Nashville, TN: Nashville Scene. March 18, 1999.

7^ a b c d e Everything2 (February 7, 2001). Owsley. Retrieved May 17, 2010.

8^ VanTassell, Kathy (November 21, 2004). "Zak Starkey's work with: The Semantics", Kathy's Zak Starkey Site. Retrieved May 12, 2010.

9^ Picks and pans main: Song. 51. New York: People. April 26, 1999.

10^ a b c Cooper, Peter (May 1, 2010). "Musician Will Owsley dies", The Tennessean. Retrieved May 1, 2010.

11^ a b Colurso, Mary (May 3, 2010). "The Birmingham News interviews Will Owsley in 2004", The Birmingham News. Retrieved on May 14, 2010.

12^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Artistdirect (2010). William Owsley III Credits. Retrieved on May 16, 2010.

13^ a b c d e f g h i j Flanagan, Ben (July 2, 2009). "'I want to be buried in Anniston': Anniston guitarist Will Owsley finds steady recording success in L.A.", The Anniston Star. Retrieved May 2, 2010.

14^ Discogs (2010). Owsley Discography at Discogs Retrieved May 16, 2010.

15^ "UMe Digital, World's First All-Digital Download Label from a Major Music Company, Set for Debut". Business Wire. November 23, 2004. p. 1.

16^ Owsley > Credits. Allmusic. Retrieved May 17, 2010.

17^ Barnes, Jonathan (May 2, 2010). "Owsley RIP", Posterous. Retrieved on May 14, 2010.

18^ Colurso, Mary (May 3, 2010). "The Birmingham News interviews Will Owsley in 2000", The Birmingham News. Retrieved on May 14, 2010.

19^ a b c Young, Clive (June 2004). "Owsley Records the 'Hard Way'". Pro Sound News (New York: United Entertainment Media) 26 (06): 25. ISSN 0164-6338.

20^ a b Harris, David L (March 12, 2004). "Owsley: The Hard Way (Lakeview Entertainment)". Boston Globe. p. C13.

21^ The Marshall Crenshaw Page. Archive Apr 28, 1999 – Aug 2, 1999.

22^ Bumgardner, Ed (July 22, 2004). "Owsley: The Hard Way". Winston-Salem, NC: Winston-Salem Journal. p. 9.

23^ D'Angelo, Joe (August 21, 2001). Props to Paul: Two McCartney tribute albums due. MTV. Retrieved May 26, 2010.

24^ Burlingame, Jon (January 17, 2005). "Net hits heavy rotation: First online-only major lures Web surfers at 'crest of wave'", Variety 397 (9): A1–3.

25^ The Cars tribute CD: Substitution Mass Confusion. MySpace. Retrieved on May 26, 2010.

26^ da Silvia, Dave (May 1, 2010). Will Owsley dies. Sputnikmusic. Retrieved May 17, 2010.

27^ Evans Price, Deborah (May 31, 2008). "Running Back to You", Billboard 120 (22): 37–8.

28^ "Owsley pairs with Soundelux ifet7 studio condenser". Pro-Audio Review (New York: NewBay Media). July 2006.

29^ a b The Anniston Star (May 2, 2010). "Accomplished Nashville musician and Anniston native Will Owsley dies at age 44". Retrieved May 2, 2010.

30^ Jesus Freak Hideout (September 24, 2004). Music news archive: September 2004. Retrieved May 17, 2010.

Source: Owsley (musician) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia




William Reese OWSLEY III

OWSLEY III, William ReeseFuneral services for William Reese Owsley III, age 44, of Franklin, TN, formerly of Anniston will be Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at Parker Memorial Baptist Church with Rev. Dr. Mack Amis, Rev. Kevin Garrett and Rev. Jim Thomas officiating. Burial in Highland Cemetery. The family will receive friends in the church parlor from 1-3 p.m., Tuesday. Mr. Owsley died Friday, April 30, 2010 in Franklin, TN. He is survived by his two sons, Walker Jackson Owsley and William Reece Owsley IV (Liam) of Franklin, TN; parents, William Reese Owsley, Jr. and Alys Hinton Boozer Owsley of Anniston; brother, Hinton Boozer Owsley and his wife Wendi of Anniston; sister, Lucie Jackson Owsley of Anniston. Pallbearers will be Scott Roberts, Joe Glaser, Vince Gill, Rick Goodwin, Chris Rodriguez, Spencer Campbell, Judson Spence, Jody Spence, Millard Powers and Scot McCracken. Will attended The Rectory School in Pomfret, CT and graduated from Anniston High School. He was a gifted guitarist from an early age and began his career playing in local clubs before moving to Nashville 24 years ago. Will was always surrounded by Christian artists and played with Judson Spence, Michael W. Smith and was Amy Grant's tour guitarist for 16 years. Will played with many top musicians and some of the best producers in the country, including Peter Asher, Robert "Mutt" Lange, Keith Thomas, Tom Lord-Alge, Andy Sturmer and John Fields. He toured the world three times, once with his own band, "Owsley". His first album entitled, "Owsley" was nominated for a Grammy Award. His second album, "The Hard Way", was produced in a studio built in his home in Franklin. Will had 10 gold and platinum records and played solos with Amy Grant and symphonies across the nation and sang in Billy Graham Crusades. He had many friends all over the world and had a great love for his family, especially his sons who inherited their father's musical talent. Flowers will be accepted or donations may be made to Parker Memorial Baptist Church, 1205 Quintard Avenue, Anniston, AL 36201. K.L. BROWN MEMORY CHAPEL, Anniston, AL, (256) 231-2334

Source: William Reese OWSLEY III Obituary: View William OWSLEY's Obituary by The Tennessean

More info: William Reese "Will" Owsley, III (1966 - 2010) - Find A Grave Memorial



Psycho / Upside Down - Single, OwsleyOwsley, Owsley

Listen: Owsley - Download Owsley Music on iTunes

The Hard Way


Listen: Amazon.com: Owsley: Songs, Albums, Pictures, Bios









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