Philip Bowen was the second contestant on the first audition show of America’s Got Talent 2023, which aired on May 30, 2023. West Virginia born and raised, Bowen is currently a project manager in Detroit, Michigan. Dangling his violin and bow, Bowen said he was appearing on AGT to show his three young kids that it’s never too late to chase a dream.
Bowen’s pre-performance banter was interesting for two further reasons. Bowen said he 1st got interested in the violin when he saw Itzhak Perlman on Sesame Street as a 4-year-old, prompting Howie Mandel to reveal that Perlman is his cousin. Bowen also joked that his mother is a fan of Simon, & was in the audience as much to see Simon as to hear him.
The video (uploaded by AGT) does not show the full reactions. Asked by Heidi Klum, “How did that feel?”, Philip Bowen poignantly said that when he was a kid practicing in front of a mirror, he would end by saying “And the crowd goes wild, so to have the crowd actually go wild …” This only increased the enthusiastic applause. After receiving praise from the judges for his reimagining of System of a Down’s Chop Suey, Bowen received four yeses. So Bowen will get another chance to chase his dream.
Guantanamo Bay Barbie comments on YouTube: “Philip, I just want you to know I gave you a standing ovation at home in my bedroom. I’m disabled, but I got to my feet for you because you deserved it. Loved the way you kicked the hat and kept going! I know your kids are proud of their papa!” NBC remarks on how Bowen bowed the vocal melody then slowed up for the bridge, “showing off his versatility”, before picking up the intensity. Philip Bowen has just released a single ft. Charles Wesley Godwin:
Well, that’s a long way from Bowen’s System of a Down cover, which confirms Bowen’s versatility and demonstrates the depth of his West Virginia roots. Philip Bowen wrote both the music & the lyrics for the song, Old Kanawha, which was recorded in Bridgeport, West Virginia, by producer Zach McCord at McCord Family Studio. McCord says “The song highlights the fact that most of the things that are really enjoyable about being here [in West Virginia] are done in community.”
Philip Bowen started pursuing his long-paused dream of playing music for the public in March 2020, when, like others, his life was changed by the pandemic. He’d played in bands in college, and was just starting to play the odd session in coffee shops when Covid19 disrupted the world, but, for the most part, after college, he concentrated on his job as a project manager.
From March 2020, he started practicing the violin and writing more. He started turning a camera on when he played and posting videos. He also broadcast live online. Bowen says it grew to the point that people started asking how they could tip him. He invested any money he received into his A/V setup (e.g. real lights instead of a cloth over a lamp), and his following kept growing.
Philip Bowen actually intended to enter AGT 2022, but he had to change his plans when he was invited to play at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. This January he played on Mountain Stage, a live concert in West Virginia that is broadcast nationally on NPR.
Surprisingly, SK Pop reports that the online reactions to Philip Bowen’s performance have been mixed, with some social media commentators left unimpressed. Perhaps some people just don’t like System of A Down covers played on a violin. One thing is for sure. Philip Bowen has a lot more strings to his bow than playing an innovative cover of Chop Suey. Judging by his single Old Kanawha (released 8 June 2023), Bowen might surprise AGT viewers in the next round.