“I’ve been playing for seven years but I only learned the pentatonic scale three years ago!”: She’s only just started exploring music theory, but that hasn’t stopped 17-year-old Grace Bowers from grabbing her blues heroes’ attention

Grace Bowers
(Image credit: Press)

From a child prodigy in Nashville, Tennessee, to a 17-year-old gunslinger with an affection for a particular cherry red Gibson SG, Grace Bowers has burst onto the scene with just the right amount of old-school cool.

Her band Hodge Podge will debut a yet-to-be-titled EP – currently being produced by John Osborne – later in the year. Asked to describe the music, Bowers offers the word “authentic” before digging into her process. “At this point, I pull from a little bit of everything – soul, funk and classic rock.

“But lately, I’ve been focusing on writing songs rather than jams. I take a lot of inspiration from songs like Mountain’s Mississippi Queen; that riff’s always been a favorite of mine.”

Asked if shades of Leslie West’s blues licks are an influence while recording, she confirms: “Leslie West definitely influences me. He’s one of those players you can recognize just by sound alone because it’s so unique. I really respect that. Not to mention he’s written some of the most iconic riffs ever.”

Bowers’ star is rising: she’s crushed events like the Newport Folk Festival and Crossroads Festival and she’s consistently compared to some of the classic players she names as inspirations. It may seem unfathomable for someone so young, but since Devon Allman, Margo Price, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, and Susan Tedeschi keep on name-checking her, there must be something to the notion.

Surely, when she was 9 years old and just starting to play, Bowers never imagined she’d be in the studio less than a decade later, recording an EP with a band of musicians that she didn’t just assemble, but leads?

“It started with seeing Slash on YouTube playing Welcome to the Jungle,” she says. “I got really into ‘80s music – but that changed when I heard B.B. King when I was 13.

“I discovered the blues, and now I find myself listening to lots of soul, funk, and great stuff like Mountain, Buddy Miles, Shuggie Otis, and Sly & The Family Stone.”

Such a varied musical lineage sheds light on the reason for naming her band Hodge Podge. But there’s more to it than that: “For a while, people would book me for things, and I didn’t have a band. I would throw a bunch of random musicians together and make it work.

“Doing it that way was great, but at the same time, it was a total shit show! So I called the band Hodge Podge and found a winning combination of people. We’re more of a band than something thrown together.”

Even during the cobbled-together period, Bowers must have been doing something right, since the six-stringer has amassed a hell of a following: she boasts 178,000 followers on Instagram and 51,000 on TikTok. 

“I view social media as a tool that one must use in moderation,” she says. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without it, and I’m grateful for that. But I do catch myself getting sucked in too often, which is something I don’t like about it.”

Grace Bowers performs onstage

(Image credit: Press)

Her increasing success has manifested in other ways, such as the Gibson endorsement she scored when she was 14. However, her primary guitar isn’t very modern: “My guitar is a Gibson ’61 SG, which was gifted to me two years ago,” she reports.

“It’s my absolute favorite – it’s all original and has P-90 pickups. I play it on almost everything and I’m very connected to it. I’ve been pairing it with a Fender Reverb and a sparse pedalboard, including a Grindstone Audio Solutions Nightshade overdrive, an Echoplex tape delay, and a wah. That’s it!”

With her love for vintage kit, tried-and-true add-ons, and an affection for emotive blues and hard-driving classic rock, it's clear what Grace Bowers is after. Still, she’s not just about three-chord, set-it-and-forget-it rock: “My taste and feel have evolved,” she says. “I’ve been playing for seven years – but only learned the pentatonic scale three years ago!

“Figuring out a bit of theory and what you can do on the guitar has been huge for me. Even looking back at videos of myself from one year ago, I feel there’s a pretty distinct difference – and that came from a lot of practice, with more to come.”

Since things are moving quickly for Bowers, she’ll have to learn on the fly. And with the deluge of information out there and the competition being fiercer than ever, she’ll have to drive her amp harder than ever to keer her edge. 

”There’s so many great new players and bands out there,” she agrees. ”Living in Nashville, I’m surrounded by this new wave 24/7. A lot of amazing music that nails that classic sound is being made now. But sometimes solos can be overblown. You have to go with whatever serves the song best – and the answer isn’t always another solo!”

Bowers has the right idea, some not-so-subtle blues chops, and a decent head on her shoulders to boot. Just how high her star will rise remains to be seen; but she’s too busy to worry too much.

”Right now I’m happy to be in the studio with my band, recording this EP with John Osborne, and we’ll be playing tons of festivals very soon,” she says. ”I just want to be happy while making the music I love and continue to play it for people who love it too.”

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Andrew Daly

Andrew Daly is an iced-coffee-addicted, oddball Telecaster-playing, alfredo pasta-loving journalist from Long Island, NY, who, in addition to being a contributing writer for Guitar World, scribes for Rock Candy, Bass Player, Total Guitar, and Classic Rock History. Andrew has interviewed favorites like Ace Frehley, Johnny Marr, Vito Bratta, Bruce Kulick, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Rich Robinson, and Paul Stanley, while his all-time favorite (rhythm player), Keith Richards, continues to elude him.