Locals: Watershed soldiers on after brush with mainstream success

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive
Photos by Meghan Ralston

In the mid-'90s, Colin Gawel, singer/guitarist for local power-pop quartet Watershed, appeared to be on the verge of big things.

He was living in New York City, and the band he formed as a teenager with friend Joe Oestreich (vocals/bass) was in the midst of recording its major label debut for Epic Records in a studio frequented by the likes of Lenny Kravitz and AC/DC guitarist Angus Young. Just a few short years later, however, the musician was back in Columbus, working the counter at a national sandwich chain and trying to figure out exactly what he wanted to do with his life.

"It's humbling," said Gawel, 44, who joins his Watershed bandmates for a performance at the CD 102.5 Andyman Benefit Concert at The Bluestone on Sunday, Dec. 15. "It's a lot to work toward, it's a lot to achieve and it's a lot to lose. I'd say 999 bands out of a 1,000 hit that point and just stop … [but] we battled through it and moved on to our next record. We liked playing music, so we never thought for a second about quitting."

These trials and tribulations form the backbone of Oestreich's 2012 memoir "Hitless Wonder: A Life in Minor League Rock and Roll," which documents the band's flirtation with mainstream success and its decision to soldier on after those teenage dreams of rock stardom ran headlong into adult realities.

"It's hard to read about yourself and your life, but I think it's really well done," Gawel said. "I actually kind of forgot about some of the close calls, and it was like, 'God, that does suck. These guys can't get a break!' [While reading the book] I was wondering if it was going to have a happy ending because Joe was really wrestling with it, like, 'Is this pathetic or is it admirable?' I was happy to see him be like, 'Yeah, it is cool to keep doing it even if you're not successful.'"

The singer attributes much of the band's down-to-earth demeanor to its blue-collar, Midwestern roots, saying, "There were always stable people around us who could remind us what it was all about."

"Even getting to play this week is really cool … because you never know how long it's going to last," he continued. "I wish some things could have gone this way and some things could have gone that way, but we did our best, and at the end of the day we'll come home and try again."

The Bluestone

5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15

583 E. Broad St., Downtown