Seth Bowen recently turned 21 years old. And over the last 16 years, he’s never spent more than a couple of years living in the same place.
Such is the life of a pipeliner, or in this case, a pipeliner’s son. And Seth wouldn’t change any of it.
Born in Coatesville, Indiana, Seth spent his school years traveling the country, while his dad, Brent, would work pipeline jobs. Somewhere along the way, the Bowen family met the Ashby’s and Johnson’s of Marion, and they became good friends. It’s what would eventually lead Seth to Marion.
And when Seth found Marion, he brought his guitar with him. From the age of 10, no matter where he went, he brought his guitar with him. So while life on the road had its own set of challenges, it gave him the opportunity to learn the guitar. And learn it he has.
He’s been playing recently for praise worship at the Marion Community of Christ, along with other local events. He’s an incredible guitarist, and is hoping, with a little hard work, to eventually turn his hobby into a career.
We caught up with Seth recently and learned more about his story. We learned that Seth Bowen is certainly more than just another face in the crowd.
Marion Press: Where were you born and raised? What kept you busy growing up?
Seth: Coatesville, Indiana. It’s about an hour west of Indianapolis, out in the country. I had two older brothers, Tyler and Clint, and we spent most of our time riding our bikes around our family’s farm. It was a farm, but we didn’t have any animals or anything; it was all croplands.
We started traveling for my dad’s job when I was 5. My family still has that property in Coatesville, and that was always home base when my dad, Brent, was between jobs traveling. He was a pipeliner, so he worked out of 798 – a union out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. So he’d get called to do jobs anywhere from a few hours away to Salt Lake City, Utah. I believe I’ve been to 38 states. I just turned 21. Abram, Mike and Nicole Johnson’s son, he’s been to 43 states, and he’s 15. They’re pipeliners too – my dad did the same job that the Ashby’s and Johnsons did.
MP: Of all the states you’ve been to, which have been your favorites?
Seth: Probably Montana or Utah. Just a slower paced lifestyle, it was like going back in time. In Montana, it looks like when you’re watching a TV show that’s kind of corny, showing all the cowboys. It really was like that, people walking around in cowboy hats, boots, spurs and everything. We were in a little town called Baker, and it was about 3 hours from the nearest Wal-Mart. There was more cattle in that town than there were people.
MP: How did you get into music and playing the guitar? Did anyone else in your family play?
Seth: My brother got a guitar out of our attic. It was a 1960s Silvertone guitar, and he started to learn to play. When he wasn’t looking, I’d swipe it. Eventually, he quit playing and I kept playing. I was 10 or 11 when I started. There was nobody else in my family that was musical. I guess on my paternal grandfather’s side there were some distant relatives that played in a bluegrass band, but I never even met them. I had two or three guitar lessons, but pretty much everything else was off the internet.
I was homeschooled while we were traveling, so a lot of times there weren’t very many kids my age to hang out with at the campground that we were staying in, so I’d just have hours a day to play guitar. I always loved mountain biking, but other than that I didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities to play sports or anything like that.
MP: Who have been some of the musicians and bands that you’ve looked up to?
Seth: My main influences, people I tried to learn from, are probably Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Atkins. I really like Neil Schon, the guitarist for Journey. And then there are a bunch of obscure musicians who I really like.
MP: What is it about music and playing guitar that you enjoy the most?
Seth: That’s kind of a hard question. At first, I’m sure it started out as wanting to show off! I started with an electric guitar, and then went acoustic, but I’m sure my main reason at first was wanting to show off. But now, I just really enjoy it, and it has that potential if I were to be successful, and maybe work a little harder, I could hopefully make a career out of it. And if you make a career out of something you enjoy, you’ll never work a day in your life. And that’s the goal.
MP: Since you’ve finished school, where has life taken you? How did you wind up in Marion?
Seth: After I graduated, which was right around the time Covid hit, I got a little summer job doing wildlife management, and then in the fall of 2020 I got a job working at a supermarket stocking shelves at night. That got incredibly depressing – I hated working nights! The next summer, I decided I needed to get out of Indiana. At that point it had been two years since I’d been on the road traveling – and two years was the longest time I’d been in one place since I was 5 years old. So I was bored out of my brain; I wanted to get out and go someplace. And my dad was working up here in Reed City, and staying in Evart.
So I quit my job, and I came up here to hang out with the Johnson’s and the Ashby’s, because I was friends with them from traveling. So I was just going to hang out with them for a couple of weeks, and then go back to Indiana and join the operator’s union – to operate heavy equipment, I was actually offered a job.
I ended up getting a part-time job at UPS in Cadillac, and I worked there seasonally for Christmas. After Christmas, I started working for Four Winns, and then when dad went home to Coatesville, I stayed up here!
MP: What do you enjoy the most about living in the Marion area?
Seth: The people. I suppose I’m kind of biased, but the Ashby’s and the Johnson’s are an incredible group of people to hang out with; they’re fantastic. And the main thing I really like, is that this is a very outdoorsy area. Every summer, everybody’s out on the river, kayaking, and having fun. People up here, when they’re not at work, they’re outside enjoying nature.
MP: Who have been your role models over the years?
Seth: My grandpa. He was always a hobby-oriented person. He wasn’t a musician or anything, but he made implements for little 1/64th scale tractors, little toy tractors. My grandpa was literally a toymaker, so that kind of got me interested in hobbies in general – and guitar has been a part of that. And I have a million other little hobbies that soak up all my money!