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As a boy, Christopher Owens was raised by a single mother, a follower of the nomadic religious cult Children of God. They skipped across continents — no telephones, no TV, no outside books — just their tight-knit community of hippie expatriates.
The Children of God taught Owens and the other kids in the cult to sing and play guitar on the street for spare change. That's partially how they supported themselves. It's also how Owens found a way out.
He turned his busking into a one-way ticket to Texas when he was 16.
Eventually, he was playing before packed arenas with his band, Girls. Once Girls' first album came out in 2009, its momentum was hard to stop. Rapturous reviews and arena tours followed.
Owens left Girls recently, and he's using his first solo album, Lysandre, as a way to look back at that experience. The album is named after a woman he fell in love with in France at the end of the tour.
On growing up in a cult
"I kind of grew up being very indoctrinated by these beliefs that were very important to the people in my mother's generation that joined this group, and it wasn't necessarily the case for the second generation. We kids kind of had a hard time just accepting blindly that we were supposed to live in the same way they had [chosen] to live in."
On his musical education
"We weren't really schooled in a regular way, but we all learned to sing, and so I had a lot of musical experience in my life, but I didn't view it as some kind of career or as trying to be a rock star. It was more of a religious background for me. But many years later, by the time I moved here to San Francisco, I met some young guys who were playing rock 'n' roll music, and I became friends with them. ... They let me kind of travel with them a little bit, and that's what really got music back in my life."
On the album's love story
"To be honest, it's really more about the time period that I wanted to talk about, and then the fact that at the end of the whole thing there's a beautiful, romantic story is just the best way that I could think of presenting the album. But it's a record about the way I was feeling in a time that was very new."