West Virginia native to take ‘America’s Got Talent’ stage

A man from Montgomery, West Virginia, will take the stage of NBC's 'America's Got Talent' show.
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 4:30 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A musician with roots in Appalachia will share his talent on the national stage next week.

Philip Bowen has been playing the fiddle all his life and now he’s sharing his love of old-time music on America’s Got Talent.

The Montgomery native wears a WV on his hat with pride. It’s one of the many hats he wears every day.

“I’m a singer and a songwriter, I’ve been playing the fiddle my whole life. I do the artist thing, I do the fiddle thing.”

A fiddle player, a husband, a father of three - those are the foundations of Bowen’s life. His music is the soundtrack of it.

“I’ve been playing the fiddle since I was like four,” said Bowen. “I used to go to Vandalia gathering every year, and my dad would walk me up to musicians and I would just start playing with everybody.”

It's always been Bowen's dream to make a career out of his music.
It's always been Bowen's dream to make a career out of his music.(WSAZ/ NBC's America's Got Talent)

It’s always been Bowen’s dream to make a career out of his music. In 2019, he chose the right time to go for it.

“COVID happened and the whole world shut down, so I started to do it online because I wanted to do it for real and it just changed my whole life,” said Bowen.

You may have seen him on your For You page on Tik Tok, playing covers of songs in which you wouldn’t normally hear the fiddle along with some original music.

“Got a few followers on there, we hit like a million the other day, so that’s very surreal,” said Bowen.

His efforts on Tik Tok are paying off, because his next adventure is much bigger.

Bowen is taking his skills to America’s Got Talent.

“I went for it this year, and I got invited to go out to Pasadena, California to film it,” said Bowen. “I was out there for a week doing filming, and the audition, which is what you’ll see on TV, the audition in front of the judges.”

“It was a really cool experience to be able to do the Pasadena part was incredible,” said Bowen.

“I wanted to do something maybe a little bit unexpected, so when you see this 100-year-old wooden fiddle and somebody coming up from West Virginia, you may have a certain expectation about what you’re about to experience. My goal with the audition was to show them something they hadn’t seen before in a way they hadn’t seen before.”

A new perspective on music, because Bowen hears and senses music differently than most people do. It’s what experts have told him is called synesthesia.

“The reason I close my eyes so much is because I experience it very visually, almost like colors. If you’re trying to recreate a painting layer by layer, like there’s some red, there’s some colorful things at the top that are like the melody, those are maybe bright things to me. I try to have a conversation with the song.”

You can see the soul in the way he plays, and his soul, he says, belongs in Appalachia.

“West Virginia is still a big part of my life, I’m here all the time, most of my family is still here. To me, it’s a special place that can often be misunderstood.”

Bowen has played big stages far and wide, but you know what they say about country roads.

“Sometimes the further you get from home the more you realize what you had when you were there,” said Bowen. “At whatever scale it happens for me, I enjoy I can be proud of where I’m from.”

Bowen’s first album, called “Old Kanawha” after the Kanawha River, debuts later this summer. To find out how he did in his audition on America’s Got Talent, you can tune in right here on WSAZ on Tuesday evening.

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