Cosmos Project is the experimental arm of successful Texas musician, Clark Nowlin. Recorded in his bedroom in-between touring with big name acts, Nowlin created The Recycled EP with the vision to ‘recycle’ songs from Andrew Belle, Coldplay & Local Natives in a soft-electronic manner. At only 19 years of age, Nowlin (a multi-instrumentalist) creates powerful music that ties together detailed instrumentation with a pop backbone. When Clark isn’t on the road touring, he enjoys an ice-cold Topo Chico while playing Super Smash Bros on N64. For a limited time only, download Cosmos Project’s debut CD, “The Recycled EP,” for free on bandcamp.com, or right HERE on Noise Trade!
Entertwine: Could you give us some insight into your musical background? What stands out most about your time spent as a touring musician with other bands?
Cosmos Project: I picked up the guitar in elementary school after many failed attempts at sports. I first played live music in my good buddy Chuck Gasser’s attic in 5th grade and there was no going back after that. We were just messing around attempting Toadies and Nirvana covers, but the fire had been lit! A few years later, while still in high school, I connected with Tim Halperin (American Idol Season 10) and started playing bass and guitar with him for some local gigs. My senior year of high school Tim got on Idol and that’s when things went to the next level. Next thing I know, I was showing up late to my high school classes because we were performing live on TV and national radio. That was a trip! Around that time I decided to take music more seriously than just a hobby, which led to the birth of my own personal music through Cosmos Project and opening myself up to gigging as much as I could.
Since then I’ve performed over 200 shows with over a dozen artists, including Tim Halperin, Green River Ordinance, and Jason Castro (also American Idol). I’ve released 1 personal cd and produced 4 records for other artists which can all be found on iTunes & Spotify. I have a home studio and really love recording. Some of the more significant shows I’ve played include opening up for: The Fray, All American Rejects, Jason Derulo, Kelly Clarkson, The Jonas Brothers, Blake Shelton, and Gym Class Heroes. It’s been fun.
ET: What brought about the creation of your Cosmos Project in the first place?
From a young age I had always wanteded to make my own music–Cosmos Project was my first attempt at it. It started off with the “See You Soon” cover, which, I initially made as a gift for Tim Halperin when he was in California for American Idol. We’re both big Coldplay fans, so I figured he’d dig a fun Coldplay cover. But, I had so much fun making that cover that I decided to make some more and release my own CD with them.
ET: What inspired you to record and release an album of other artists’ material (your debut EP “Recycled”), & re-imagining them as electronic-styled arrangements? What encouraged you to release the album as an optional free download?
Since the CD started off as a covers CD with the “See You Soon” cover, I decided to just stick with that. Conveniently, I am not a songwriter either–so I didn’t have much of an option. The idea of the CD’s name, “The Recycled EP” came from the fact that I was just ‘recycling’ other people’s songs.
The electronic-style arrangements were inspired solely by the Postal Service’s album, Give Up. At the time, the band had not come back together, so my goal was to create music that had a similar sound because I felt like the world needed more of that sound. If I had to pick an all-time favorite record, it would probably be “Give Up.” The music Ben and Jimmy created with that record still blows my mind.
I’ve always been a fan of giving stuff away, so it was my plan from the beginning. If I spend all this time and emotion creating art, I care MUCH more that someone connects with it rather than pays for it. For a short while, the album was only available to purchase at a $3 minimum and all of the proceeds were donated to a non-profit that feeds people in 3rd world countries. Now it’s totally free!
ET: Can you tell us a bit about the music scene of Fort Worth, Texas? How has the area shaped you, both personally and musically?
The music scene in Fort Worth (and all of DFW) is solid. It has LOTS of crap, but definitely has its gems. I grew up listening to mainly local artists: GRO, PlayRadioPlay, and Balance Problems (to name a few)… I wouldn’t have ended up pursuing music if it wasn’t for the local scene. The locals made the dream of playing music seem so much more tangible when I saw them doing it and kicking ass. I decided to get into recording my junior year of high school after finding out that one of my favorite local artists, Brack Cantrell of Balance Problems, recorded some of my favorite records in his bedroom with decently affordable gear.
ET: Who are your biggest musical influences? How do the sounds, styles, and textures of these artists find their way into your original material?
Here’s my top 7. I tried to cut it down to a more normal 5, but couldn’t let any of these artists go! They’re listed in no order: Sufjan Stevens, Copeland, Death Cab/Postal Service, James Taylor, Coldplay, Balance Problems, and anything Jon Foreman does.
Each one of the above artists has shaped the music I play and create to a great extent. For the Recycled EP, the Postal Service is obviously a HUGE influence for the overall vibe. But, other artists found their way in too. Examples: Copeland inspired me with their guitar tracks & production; Sufjan by his creative instrumentation & orchestration; Jon Foreman by the donating all the proceeds and seeking a higher deeper cause with the music; Balance Problems as a model for how to track efficiently in a home studio (Brack actually mixed the record too). The list goes on and on.
ET: What gear do you use to achieve your overall sound?
About 60% of everything are guitars run through my pedal board then recorded very strangely into Pro Tools. I’m not a keyboard/synth player, so I just use what I know and understand. Other than that, most other things are done using stock Pro Tools virtual instruments. Critical pieces of gear include: UA6176, Studio Projects C1, Roland Re-201 Space Echo, Fender Telecaster, Deluxe Memory Man, and Topo Chico.
ET: What have you been up to since the Recycled EP release 3 years ago?
Dang, it’s hard to believe it’s been about 3 years! I am (and have been) a full-time student Monday-Friday and a touring musician on the weekends to pay the bills. College has definitely taken its toll on Cosmos Project–sorry to everyone who’s asked for more material! I’m going in to my senior year at Baylor University. The vast majority of my work with other artists has taken place in the past 2 years.
ET: You engineered and produced “Recycled” using Pro Tools LE 9, correct? Could you give us some insight into the way you go about recording your material?
Correct! I recently upgraded to PT 11. I always start with a beat (in Boom) and then add bass to lay down the foundation for the song. I try to move as quickly as I can in this process to keep up with the initial creative spark. Then comes a scratch vocal take. After that I let my spontaneity take over and usually mess around with guitar pedals for hours on end to see if I can add some cool sounds/textures. After the vibe for the song has been set I will go back and change up the beat, looking for newer tones and things like that. I did the whole Cosmos Project CD in my bedroom, minus a few vocal tracks at a local recording studio.
ET: What has it been like playing for/with American Idol finalist Tim Halperin?
It’s been incredible. Tim’s like an older brother to me, so I really value our time on the road together. If I owe my start to any one person, it’s him! Also, the majority of the big time gigs have been with him.
ET: What do the remaining months of 2014 hold in store for Clark Nowlin and the Cosmos Project? Are you currently writing and recording any original material?
I finish up school in December and have plans to record new music under Cosmos Project starting early in 2015! I aim to release something by summertime. I CAN’T WAIT. It’s been awhile. The goal is to do original songs this time. Until then I will be gigging 2 or 3 times a month in North and Central Texas with my buddies Luke Hicks and Marshall Young. I live in a house with 4 of my best friends, so a lot of Super Smash Bros and college life is to be had in this upcoming year.