Born in Syracuse, New York, Gwil grew up in the small town of Granville, Ohio. The Rolling Stones became his first powerful musical influence when “Honky Tonk Women” hit the airwaves in 1969.
He started playing guitar in the early '70s and was soon putting together bands playing mainly Stones and Allman Brothers songs, with a few Lou Reed numbers thrown in for flavor. After a brief stay at Antioch College in the late '70s, Gwil hitchhiked around the country with his guitar (under the influence of Jack Kerouac, naturally). Highlights were stints working as a mailman at Burbank Studios in Los Angeles, working in a salmon cannery in Ketchikan, Alaska, and a week-long songwriting class in Cannon Beach, Oregon taught by the late, great Bob Gibson.
Then a year in Boston playing in a skinny-tie new wave band called The Detonators with his old friend Jeff Finlin, after which the two decided to give Nashville a try and relocated in 1983. They put together The Thieves and released one album on Bug/Capitol Records in 1988 - the critically acclaimed “Seduced by Money.” The band broke up soon after, but not before releasing a handful of solo 45s on the Diesel Only label. Then began Gwil's focus on songwriting and, as it turned out, he's recorded only sporadically since.
Toni Price was the first to record Gwil’s songs on her debut album “Swim Away”. Since 1994 she has recorded over 30 Gwil Owen songs, and “Tumbleweed” was honored as song of the year at the 1995 Austin Music Awards. In 1999 Gwil and Allison Moorer received an Academy Award nomination for “A Soft Place to Fall” which was featured in the film “The Horse Whisperer.” The Gwil Owen/Kevin Gordon collaboration “Deuce and a Quarter” was recorded by Keith Richards and Levon Helm on “All the King’s Men.” Their songs have also been cut by Irma Thomas and Sonny Burgess. "Gravy" is Gwil's newest album, a funky collection of songs produced by Gwil and Richard Ferreira.