Road Trip! One Portlander's Musical Journey Across America

Take one Portlander, one playlist, one continent and one Mini Cooper Clubman van and what do you get? Cover of America, is what...

By Fiona McCann July 1, 2015

Photo courtesy Bowen Ames

Imagine a road trip, where instead of following a map, you're following a playlist. That's what Bowen Ames is doing, a Portland art director currently on a one-month roadtrip around North America, driven by a playlist and documenting the artists he meets and places he visits on the way. And he’s bringing some 50,000 Instagram followers along for the ride.

“Here’s the idea,” explains Ames of the genesis of a roadtrip meets art project he calls Cover of America. “I’ll make a really long playlist. I’ll drive for a month straight and listen to that playlist and generate content based on the artists on the playlist, and the people on the road.”

Photo courtesy Bowen Ames

For the project, he’s been collaborating with Marmoset, a Portland-based music agency for filmmakers and advertising creatives that offers to "find the right soundtrack for your story."

Ames's Instagram followers also have input, and are encouraged to suggest new songs for the playlist that could help influence his journey, which so far has gone from Portland through Denver, Chicago and Toronto, with New York next on the cards.

“The thing that’s leading me right now is whoever is playing an interesting show at an interesting place and has a fun story to tell,” says Ames.

He’s already met up with Denver band Paperbird, and found Portland’s own Lost Lander on the road too, as they toured with Helio Sequence.  Whatever comes of such encounters—music, photographs, musings—all end up on the Cover of America site, a travelogue peppered with recordings and illustrated with the artful photographs that have garnered him so many Instagram followers. It doesn't hurt that Ames has chosen a particularly photogenic travelling companion in his Australian Shepherd, Camper. 

As for the title of the project, there's a pair of Swedish sisters with a penchant for American folk to thank for that. “I was inspired by First Aid Kit releasing a cover of a Paul Simon track (America), the most epic travel story,” says Ames. He's got a soft spot for cover songs, it turns out. “That’s how people learn how to play music—by learning cover songs. But it’s also how you connect with someone, if you both know how to play a song or can learn it together.”

Cover of America, then, is about cover songs, and America—and where the two intersect. Follow this work in progress on the site, or on Ames's Instagram feed. Or just kick back and stream the Marmoset mixtape and let the summer in.

Photo courtesy Bowen Ames

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