A Haines restaurant owner and songwriter is among about 30 Alaskans who will receive a financial boost to pursue artistic projects this year. Christy Tengs Fowler was chosen by the Rasmuson Foundation for an Individual Artist Award. Tengs Fowler’s songs are inspired by advice from a famous TV therapist.
Tengs Fowler has spent much of her adult life running the Bamboo Room Restaurant and Pioneer Bar. But her passion is songwriting. And she’s channeled that energy into a unique musical endeavor. Here’s how it started.
“I would do the tills with the TV on and the Dr. Phil Show was on,” Tengs Fowler said. “And so I found myself writing down his quips and quotes. And one day I realized those quotes would make good hooks for songs.”
Tengs Fowler decided to make an album of songs based on advice from the TV host and psychologist. Her goal was to one day share the project with Dr. Phil McGraw himself. Here’s one example.
“In his book ‘Self Matters’ he has a paragraph about Mr. Robert Jackson and it’s an obituary about someone who didn’t follow their dreams,” Tengs Fowler said.
The song she wrote goes like this:
Mr. Robert Jackson died yesterday of complications that grew
From regrettably doing a lifetime of crap he didn’t really want to do
She’s worked on these songs for about 10 years. There are 28 of them. A few years ago, a couple filmmakers, David and Monica Wulzen, found out about Tengs Fowler’s project. They decided to make a documentary.
“‘Above the Bamboo Room’ is not just about Christy and her dream of becoming Dr. Phil’s personal songwriter,” David Wulzen said in a 2014 Kickstarter video for the project. “It’s about having dreams and goals and aspirations in your life and not letting personal circumstances stand in the way of having those dreams, even if they are a little crazy.”
The film crew is still working on the documentary, called ‘Above the Bamboo Room.’ It’s estimated release date is in 2018.
And that’s where the Rasmuson grant comes in. Tengs Fowler wants to record demos of her songs to be used in the documentary.
“I just wrote one called ‘The 83rd Sheep From The Left’ which was based on another quote of [Dr. Phil’s], that if you’re not your authentic self, if you don’t use the gifts you’re given, you’re nothing more than the 83rd sheep from the left in row 487,000,946.”
The $7,500 grant is enabling Tengs Fowler to commission recordings of 25 songs, including that one. This is the refrain:
Does a fish have to swim in a school?
Do I gotta be somebody’s fool?
I don’t want to stare at your back.
I don’t want to follow the pack.
I think that I was made for the sky,
Sometimes a sheep has to fly.
The documentarians will soon have plenty of music to choose from for the ‘Above the Bamboo Room’ film. Tengs Fowler thinks the documentary, when it’s finished, will be her best shot to get the attention of the Dr. Phil Show.
“I could exhale finally,” Tengs Fowler said. “Yeah, that’s would be wonderful. And I especially want my songs to help people. So that would be the best part.”
Tengs Fowler says even though her songs are inspired by Dr. Phil, she also draws from her own life experiences. And she hopes the messages they convey can help people be more than the 83rd sheep from the left.
Note: Haines resident Jessica Plachta also received a Rasmuson Individual Artist Award. KHNS will have a report about her project in the near future.