For local singer and songwriter Luke Dowler, creating music is about more than playing a catchy tune for his audience; it’s also a vehicle to convey a message of unity and empathy.
“I think that at the end of the day I want to make meaningful music, but I don’t know why you wouldn’t as an artist,” Dowler said in an interview last week.
Dowler and his band have toured the United States and Canada extensively in recent years, spreading the message about caring for the marginalized members of society. It’s been a great experience for the band, Dowler said, but it has also meant that they haven’t been able to play many shows in the Flathead.
That changes on Sept. 28, when Dowler takes over the Red Lion Inn ballroom in Kalispell for the CD release concert for the band’s latest record, “Polarized,” and to kick off their two-month tour. Tickets to the evening are free, but are also necessary to get in, Dowler said. Tickets to the VIP section cost $10, and get audience members $5 off the record and other perks.
“We wanted to make it free for our fans to say thank you,” Dowler said. “And we’re hoping to earn the respect of new fans.”
Make no mistake about the nontraditional setting for a concert, Dowler added – this is going to be a rock and roll show, with a production value that could stand shoulder to shoulder with a typical concert. Guitarist and songwriter Mike Murray opens the show, followed by the Izzy Ray Band.
But the evening is still a Dowler production, which means it will have a purpose other than just rocking out. The evening’s proceeds will help benefit Emma’s House, a new nonprofit in Kalispell that offers a safe house for victims of human trafficking and other women and girls in need.
Fans of Dowler’s music likely won’t find the association with Emma’s House surprising. One of the band’s recently released songs and music videos, “Silence is Shameful,” is a cry for justice for these people, Dowler said.
The music video helped spark the inspiration behind the development of two women’s shelters, Dowler said, one in Canada and one in the United States. Seeing his music actually work to help those in need is one of his goals, Dowler said.
“That’s definitely the stuff that I love,” he said. “That’s where I want to wind up; that’s the target I want to hit.”
Dowler was born in Kalispell, but likes to say he was brought up “on the road.” When he was nine months old, his father joined the U.S. Marine Corps, which meant they would have to leave the area.
Music became the focus of his life early on, in what he describes as a moment akin to pulling the sword from the stone.
“I found my mom’s guitar when I was 12 under her bed and it was kind of like a King Arthur moment,” Dowler said. “I was like, ‘This is it. This is my thing. This is what I’m going to do.’”
As a teenager, his family lived in Okinawa, Japan, and Dowler spent his first three years of high school there. Then his dad retired, and wanted to come back to the Flathead. A major move and plenty of culture shock later, Dowler was back in Kalispell, and finished out his senior year with the Flathead High School class of 1999.
Dowler put together a few bands locally and toured regionally, but it wasn’t until 2008 that he started touring under his own name. He’s put out three records independently, and they’ve all done well, Dowler said. His current band includes Jamie Ferguson on the bass and vocals; Mike Murray on guitar and vocals; and Ben Summers on the drums.
The latest album, “Polarized,” is as socially conscientious as Dowler’s other music, tackling issues like politics, the war on terror, the Occupy movement and church politics.
And while he wanted to get a message out about how we relate to one another, Dowler also wanted to make a catchy album.
“My goal with making this record, I wanted it to be a record to put on in your car, roll the windows down and go for a night drive,” Dowler said.
Doors open for Luke Dowler’s CD release concert at 6:30 p.m. Free tickets can be found at Colter Coffee and the Red Lion Inn. For more information, visit www.lukedowler.com