Beckett McDowell is dead set on being a rockstar, and he is not changing his tune.
Beckett grew up with a revolving door of musical guests in his home: his parents are friends with many in the entertainment industry. With rockstars in his living room, he was raised in a house ringing with music. He rocked in a cradle of rhythm with a binkie of blues.
Kelley, Beckett’s mother, recalls the first time he discovered the king of rock and roll. “He was watching a show, and he saw Elvis,” Kelley explained. “He said ‘Mom, why do they call him The King?’ And he was maybe three at the time. So I explained, you know, ‘King of Rock,’ and there was a long pause and Beckett turned back to me and said, ‘it’s a good thing he’s dead because they call me The King.’”
The first dog Beckett’s parents owned together was a stocky French bulldog that sung on command. She would perform at parties, impress house guests, and even went on TV. As proud dog parents, the McDowells showed Agnes off to everyone.
“Beckett is kind of the reincarnation of that dog. She was a singing French bulldog, and Beckett is… well… a singing French bulldog,” Kelley laughed, obviously enjoying the opportunity to compare her son to an animal.
Beckett has been singing since he was 2. He started somewhere close to the skills of that frenchy, but his abilities were just developing. While most kids may play with knights in shining armor Beckett was far more interested in one very specific king—The King of Rock. Mumbles of Buddy Holly turned into croonings of Elvis classics, and Beckett started improving massively. He consumes a truly incredible amount of music, absorbing songs and adding them to his seemingly infinite repertoire.
“For real, and this is not bullshit, I had two distinct dreams when I was pregnant with Beckett,” Kelley explained. “One was that he would have red hair, and I definitely had a redhead; and the second was that he was a baby standing on the side of the road singing and playing the guitar, like a baby just standing playing the guitar. So I always sort of thought that he might be made for that.”
While gifted with an incredible voice, Beckett’s true talent lies in his devotion to his art. Many mistake the abilities of a rockstar as results of a great genetic lottery, but the nights Beckett spends playing until his arms literally can’t play any more illustrate the intense commitment that this rockstar has to his music.
There is no better way to understand just how often Beckett rehearses than at bedtime with his two younger brothers: thanks to Beckett, these boys could sleep through anything. They are tucked into bed not to the sound of lullabies but of bedroom concerts and midnight jams, they snooze while Beckett runs through setlists with two amps cranked to their highest settings.
The hours Beckett spends practicing are apparent any time he performs. He knows just the songs to play and how to play them. Beckett will literally perform anywhere people will listen to him. He plays when guests are over, he plays at parties if he can get his hands on a guitar, he plays for Ojai Valley School’s garage band, he plays weekly at a local wine bar, he plays weddings, he plays concert halls, and he plays Los Angeles institutions such as the Maui Sugar Mill Saloon. No matter how many songs he has time for Beckett will make people dance and will make people cry.
“I pick songs that are groovy, and songs that are sad,” Beckett explained. “But I think what you gotta do is pick a song that you know so well in its original form that you can make it different, make it your own.”
In the past couple years Beckett’s relationship to music has gotten more serious. Beckett’s performance career really started when a middle school teacher who had heard him sing forced him to play for the whole school at an assembly. Beckett brought down the house on a Tuesday morning.
Since then he has played in a band with some friends, and taken a weekly spot at one of Ojai’s beloved music venues, The Vine. He plays there every Monday at 7:30. The weekly ritual of filling the suburban with amps, guitars and cables has become as much of a routine as soccer practice would be for another fifteen-year old.
And Beckett isn’t the only part of this event. He has gained a small following of people that make a point to stop by The Vine every Monday. The spot has given Beckett a great deal of experience playing in front of audiences, and has helped him mature into the performer he is today.
As he improves, Beckett’s stages keep getting bigger: he performed at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, a venue with a capacity of over 2,000, and a couple weeks later played the Maui Sugar Mill Saloon, a bar teeming with industry professionals and music lovers.
“I feel like I come alive on stage,” Beckett said. “In person I can be a bit shy, but when I’m on stage, doing what I love, I just immediately feel like I can go for it.”
Out of pure instinct he knows how to conduct himself. Before his show at the Saloon he was ushered into a cramped 21+ venue, a fifteen-year-old. He chatted with big league music people like it was no big deal; organized his guitarist, bassist and drummer; plugged in his red Fender Stratocaster; said “one two” into the mic; and took this Los Angeles music industry institution by storm. Not only was he invited back, but Beckett was invited to the Saloon’s Rock and Roll Circus, their cream of the crop event.
Despite knowing a seemingly impossible number of songs, Beckett is obsessed with creating more of them – he writes a song about every week. This impressive output is partially responsible for the rush he is in to release an EP. He stays up all night writing songs in a green spiral bound notebook, and some of the best ones migrate to a binder that has begun to fall apart. Beckett has hundreds of these torn-out pieces of lined paper, the tears uneven and the words crawling up the margins, itching to be sung. Although he enjoys writing with friends, most of his work comes from those nights spent alone in his backyard with a guitar, a notebook and voice memos.
Recently he has begun his work in a recording studio. Beckett sits in a small room, surrounded by audio cables and guitars; in the other room a guitarist and a drummer fill out the track. The control room houses a sound engineer who explains how most musicians spend hours achieving the level of perfection Beckett somehow pulls out of the hat in a couple of takes. The band hurries back to listen to what was just recorded and grab some snacks but Beckett sneaks off back to a silent room.
And like everything in Beckett’s life, he fills it with music.Share