It’s noon on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and Kris Bowers answers the door with a toothbrush in his mouth. He’s only just woken up. Bowers was up until 4am the night before, working on a composition for Kobe Bryant. He doesn’t look tired, but like a man who has chosen to devote his time to a craft that he loves. He explains the upcoming Kobe campaign as one that forces you to observe the two sides that exist within a human. “You really have to embrace the inner villain side of you to be great at anything. Villains don’t have any conflict, they’re comfortable with who they are. Heroes have this conflict of doing good vs. bad, while villains will do anything to be great.” And yet, even while talking about how he agrees that there’s a villainy to anyone that achieves greatness, there’s a certain air of humility that follows him and everything that he does.
Yet it is villainous determination and comfort that’s made the last five years of Bowers’ life a rollercoaster. Obtaining a Master’s degree in Jazz Performance from Juilliard was the foundation for Bowers’ career. From touring with the likes of Marcus Miller and Jose James, to collaborating with heavy hitters like Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, and Jay-Z, Bowers’ skill and passion has put him in the same breath as today’s most talented musicians. More recently, he’s worked on scores for documentary films about Kobe Bryant, Norman Lear, and Elaine Stritch, among others—all seemingly without breaking a sweat. Bowers’ attitude doesn’t betray even a hint of braggadocio or smugness, rather, he comes off as someone who is deeply grateful for every opportunity that has crossed his path.
“Little things are really fascinating to me, especially when people have such strong emotional reactions to certain sounds.”
It’s interesting to hear him talk about his personal takeaways from each of these experiences. “While I worked on the music for Elaine Stritch’s documentary, I remember writing a piece for one particular moment where she was in the hospital. It’s a low point in the story, and the director said it was too sad. We didn’t want her to feel like she was going to die. I’d written the piece as this really high sentimental piano melody, and the only thing that wound up changing was that I put it in a lower register with a different instrument,” he says. “Those little things are really fascinating to me, especially when people have such strong emotional reactions to certain sounds. I’m trying to get better about which sounds elicit which responses.”
The connection that Bowers makes between driving awareness to certain sounds and melodies in films emerges in his interest in Here. For a storied musician like Bowers, the EQ, sound effects, and filters are his bread and butter. But for someone who has never worked with recording studio tools or created their own music, Here opens up a world of possibilities. “Here raises people’s knowledge of sound and audio in general...now, an average person can play with this and realize that they don’t like when the bass is really loud, or that certain EQ settings might make their experience a little more enjoyable. Here takes average musical education to another level, in terms of knowledge around EQ, sound quality, sound, and how it actually affects their ears.”
“Here takes average musical education to another level, in terms of knowledge around EQ, sound quality, sound, and how it actually affects their ears.”
He says that in the same way Instagram turned everyone into a photographer, Here democratizes audio, giving people a gateway to music education that may have been previously inaccessible. “It definitely makes it more interactive, it allows them to have fun with music that they didn’t think they could have fun with before. You give this to someone who doesn’t really know how any of these effects play into music making, and suddenly, by playing with these effects, doors begin to open that might pique more of an interest in music and sound.”
“By playing with these effects, doors begin to open that might pique more of an interest in music and sound.”
It comes as no surprise that the educational possibilities of Here are what get Bowers most excited. Despite having worked with big names and possessing a tremendous dedication to craft, Bowers continues to have the utmost enthusiasm for the quest for knowledge. He pushes himself not only through his own experiences, but through people around him who are similarly eager to learn to succeed. He talks about working with people like Q-Tip, who possesses extensive aptitude for pitch, a myriad of instruments, and music history. He also cites Kobe, who dedicated himself to becoming an overnight expert in Darren Aronofsky and John Coltrane simply because they came up in conversation while working on his documentary.
In the end, no matter how big the success story, there’s always room for education and growth. That’s what makes Bowers so humble—a willingness to learn and a love for knowledge. Technology like Here gives people who aren’t musicians an opportunity to be a part of the bigger music community, and conversation.