Bowsie is a collaborative music project between Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Susan McKeown and legendary artist, guitarist, composer and producer Gerry Leonard in which they explore old songs in an expanded setting of ambient soundscapes and loops. For the first time ever, these Irish traditional songs and English murder ballad have been arranged with modern, ambient guitar and drums – and so much more! Yet, they stay true to the initial intent of these beautiful “creepy” and “spooky” traditional songs.
Susan and Gerry both studied classical music at the Municipal College of Music in Dublin but it wasn’t until the 1990s that they met in New York’s East Village.
Starting out as a tape operator in Lombard Sound studios in Dublin, Gerry got to see Sinéad O’Connor, U2 and Phil Lynott at work. He toured Europe with Hinterland, a band formed with fellow Irishman Donal Coughlan, that was signed to Island Records. Susan had toured Europe with her band The Chanting House when she came to New York in 1990 on a scholarship to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. She developed her solo career as a singer songwriter at Sin-É Café alongside other regulars such as Jeff Buckley, Tom Clark, Katell Keinig and Mark Geary.
Gerry moved to New York soon afterwards and recorded and toured, usually as lead guitarist, with Duncan Sheik, Laurie Anderson, Jonatha Brooke, Cyndi Lauper, Sophie B. Hawkins, Avril Lavigne, Rufus Wainwright and Chris Botti, among others. Gerry’s work with Suzanne Vega has been as co-writer, producer and essentially one half of her current touring duo. Gerry’s first live appearance with David Bowie, with whom he worked extensively was for the straight-through performance of the entirety of both Heathen and Low in the Roseland Ballroom in 2002.
Five months pregnant, Susan remembers that concert as the first time she felt her daughter kick. By then she had released a number of critically acclaimed solo albums, and been nominated for a BBC Music Award as a producer. She has performed and/or recorded with Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Natalie Merchant, Billy Bragg, Linda Thompson, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Johnny Cunningham and The Klezmatics, with whom she won a Grammy in 2007 performing lyrics by Woody Guthrie. Hers is the Irish woman’s voice featured in the Irish apartment of New York’s Tenement Museum.