Bow Thayer Makes Green Music in a Solar-Powered Recording Studio

By Jules Zucker

August 3, 2015

Bow Thayer

Courtesy of Beautiful Day Media

The music industry is generally a notorious energy consumer, using massive amounts of electricity to power the studios, amps and instruments that create the music we love. But in the tiny town of Stockbridge, Vermont, Bow Thayer is doing things differently.

The multi-instrumentalist, whose musical career spans more than two decades, recorded his most recent album in a completely solar-powered studio that he built right in his backyard.

“I moved up to rural Vermont about seventeen years ago with the romantic idea of creating a studio where I could make my music away from the city,” Bow told Sierra over the phone. “There was no real plan—I literally dug the foundation with a shovel.”

Four years after his move to Vermont, Bow began work on his studio, which is made predominantly of salvaged materials he collected at various construction sites. Solar panels provide all the electricity Bow needs to record, and separate panels power his home. Because of Vermont’s generous net metering policies, unused electricity generated by his panels is fed back into the grid.

“During the summer months I get way more electricity than I use, and Vermont Electricity has to buy it back from me, so I’m making electricity for other people as well.”

Bow swears by the panels, citing their efficiency as his main argument for why all musicians should consider going green for their studio work.

“Really all I wanted to do is have good, clean power,” he said. “A lot of my music is environment-based, so I didn’t want to be a complete hypocrite. But the panels have exceeded my expectations—if you couldn’t see the panels on the roof, you wouldn’t know the studio is solar powered.

Bow’s latest album, which was released on July 24, was recorded entirely in his backyard studio and has environmental undertones like much of his earlier work. It's called Sundowser, a word that Bow, himself, invented.

“A dowser is a person who uses a stick or something similar to search for water,” said Bow. “Waterdowsing is a big thing in Vermont, so I made up my own version—sundowser, looking for light. It can refer to good old fashioned energy or be taken in a more spiritual, metaphorical sense.”

When he’s not recording, Bow is busy crafting new instruments like his signature “bojotar,” a banjo-guitar hybrid. He also founded the Tweed River Music Festival in Vermont, which is in its fifth year and draws roots and Americana bands from all over the country. Above all, he’s a man trying to balance his love of music and his respect for the planet. He understands how influential bands and their songs are, and he believes any musician can (and should) send a positive environmental message to their fans.

“Anyone with any sort of popularity has an important role to play in getting the word out,” said Bow. “Install panels. If you’re doing a festival, get solar trucks. Lead by example.”

Listen to Bow's music here.