'It was kismet:' How Calgary artist became a co-writer of Beyonce's historic country hit, Texas Hold 'Em

Article content

Elizabeth Lowell Boland takes a practical approach when asked about the success of Beyonce’s Texas Hold ‘Em.

This is perhaps the “left-brain” influence on her personality shining through, which has given the singer, songwriter, filmmaker and producer a sharp business sense. The Calgary-born artist, who performs under the name Lowell, is equally endowed with creative “right-brain” instincts, of course, and both sides have served her well when negotiating the music business. But when asked what it was like to watch Beyonce turn a song she co-wrote into a massive hit, Lowell remains low-key and pragmatic.

Advertisement 2

Article content

“It’s nice to have security financially when you’re a musician, although I was doing pretty well before,” she says, in an interview with Postmedia from her home in Toronto. “But this is just like a nice little retirement plan, I guess.”

This is not to say Lowell hasn’t felt pangs of excitement as she watched Beyonce’s Texas Hold ‘Em soar up the charts and become what Rolling Stone has already declared a “game-changer” in the country genre. The magazine ranked it at 192 in its recent list of the 200 best country songs of all time, not bad for a tune that is less than six months old. It was a surprise release from the superstar, a stomping singalong unveiled without notice on Feb. 11 during the Super Bowl. It has already made history as the first song by a Black woman to debut at the top of the Billboard Hot Country Song Chart.

Loading...

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

So Lowell hasn’t been completely immune to the excitement. She sheepishly acknowledges there is TikTok footage out there of Lowell and a friend sporting white cowboy hats and dancing to the tune in L.A. not long after it was released. When she returned to Toronto, she celebrated the success with a Texas Hold ‘Em BBQ/poker party with her friends and family.

But now more than a decade into her career as both a performer and behind-the-scenes writer, producer and mentor, Lowell tends to take these things in stride.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I’ve learned to just coast out on the highs and lows,” she says. “I think it’s important not to get too worked up when things are high and it keeps you from getting too worked up when things are low. That’s just, unfortunately, how the creative world works.”

Texas Hold ‘Em is the debut single of Beyonce’s eighth studio album, a left-field but hugely successful foray into country music called Cowboy Carter. Lowell and her Canadian collaborators Megan Bülow and Nathan Ferraro are credited as songwriters alongside Beyonce, A-list producer and R&B icon Raphael Saadiq and American songwriter Brian Bates.

Advertisement 4

Article content

This is the first time she has worked with Beyonce, but the job didn’t come out of nowhere. Lowell has collaborated on songs for JoJo, Madison Beer, Hailee Steinfeld and Calgary sensation Tate McRae. Lowell began her career as a performer not long after graduating from William Aberhart High School in 2014. At 18, she left Calgary for Toronto, initially to go to university but also to pursue a music career.

She gained attention for her 2014 debut We Loved Her Dearly, earning attention from Rolling Stone before the album even landed. She released the follow-up Lone Wolf in 2018, but these days she is mostly known for her work behind the scenes in music production and writing.

It has given her connections and clout in L.A.  Beyonce’s team knew of her work and were fans. At the same time, Lowell, Bülow and Ferraro had switched gears and began dabbling in country music. Lowell was looking for a change from the electronic, indie-pop she had been writing. After all, she was a Calgary kid who had grown up listening to her father’s Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Hank Williams records.

Advertisement 5

Article content

The stars aligned.

“It was just kind of a zeitgeist thing because we were really into country music at the time and so was Beyonce,” she says. “So it was kind of kismet when it came together.”

Lowell’s contributions to Texas Hold ‘Em and Cowboy Carter — she also co-wrote and sings on the song Bodyguard — were never a secret. But, until now, she has remained tight-lipped about the experience. She still has no interest in fielding “what-is-Beyonce-really-like?” questions or revealing details about the day-to-day work that went into the album. But she understands the curiosity.

“I’ve been avoiding press, mostly because I don’t want to talk too much about Beyonce’s creative process because I think that’s for her to talk about,” she says. “I just want to be respectful of that because she only gives out as much as she wants to give out. But I do understand wanting to talk about Beyonce.”

Still, there are plenty of other things to talk about when it comes to Lowell’s recent endeavours. Until a few weeks ago, she was in Alberta filming her feature-length debut film as a director, a horror-thriller shot in Millarville called Witches X. She is also working on music for the soundtrack of the film, which is about “a grunge band being hunted in the woods as witches.” It’s not her first foray into film. She co-wrote her first screenplay, Bloodthirsty, with her mother Wendy Hill-Tout, an Alberta film and television veteran. It was also a horror-thriller with musician protagonists and was eventually shot in Edmonton and released to the festival circuit in 2021.

Advertisement 6

Article content

Loading...

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 7

Article content

In June, Lowell won the inaugural Billboard Canada’s Non-Performing Songwriter Award, which was presented by SOCAN, in recognition of her success collaborating with the McRae and Beyonce as well as Charlie XCX, Charlie Puth, Lennon Stella and The Beaches. She co-wrote The Beaches massive break-up hit, Blame Brett, and others on their acclaimed 2023 album Blame My Ex.

She recently started an artist development company and label called FLP, signing Vancouver queer artist Sarah Thompson and releasing her first single, Emotional Capacity.

Thompson is the first of what Lowell hopes will be several artists signed to FLP, which stands for “For the Love of Pop.” She specifically wants to give opportunities to Canadian performers, producers and writers, stressing that homegrown artists do not need to move to L.A. to develop their careers.

“I used to only look for talent, and then I quickly shifted to looking more for work ethic and personality and intelligence and emotional intelligence,” she says. “But most of all I think I look for what I feel other people are not looking for… Usually, everybody is just swarming at something and they don’t even know why. It’s just because somebody said they should. I often find that somewhere over in the other corner is someone who is way shinier, they are just not being looked at… I find this generation is a lot more intelligent and they aren’t looking for the typical thing that a lot of the industry thinks they are looking for.”

Article content