Watershed Reflections: A Conversation With Colin Gawel.

By: Hannah Herner, In The Record Store staff writer.

You might know Colin Gawel as the singer and guitarist for the band Watershed. You also might know him from his namesake coffee shop, Colin’s Coffee, in Upper Arlington. Or maybe his solo music work or with his backing band, The Lonely Bones. Perhaps you’ve seen him perform with The League Bowlers or cover band Why Isn’t Cheap Trick in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? On top of that, he runs a blog, Pencil Storm, and coaches his son’s baseball team.

It’s a busy life for Gawel and it’s about to be a busy summer. The League Bowlers will reunite at the Ohio State fair to open for McGuffey Lane on July 26 and Colin Gawel and The Lovely Bones will play Fashion Meets Music Festival on August 19.

Images courtesy of Colin Gawel / Watershed.

Images courtesy of Colin Gawel / Watershed.

But first, Gawel says he's looking forward to Watershed playing the main stage of ComFest on June 24th - the first time in almost a decade.

“The first time that we played on the main stage Comfest is a big memory and playing it again this year will be a good memory,” Gawel says.

Watershed was founded in 1987 and has not broken up since then, with varying periods of activity.  In its tenure, the band toured with Insane Clown Posse, The Smithereens, and Gawel’s favorite, Cheap Trick.

“It’s rare but if you get to open up for bands that you’re just really a fan of is the best because you get to play and watch one of your favorite bands play every night,” he says. “It’s like a dream.”

Gawel says the band toured consistently for 15 years, only taking the last 10 or so to focus on other projects. He opened Colin’s Coffee and bassist and vocalist Joe Oestreich decided to dedicate time to writing a memoir on the band, which would become the nationally-acclaimed “Hitless Wonder: A Life in Minor League Rock and Roll.”


Gawel says more people care about Watershed now than ever because of the book.

“It’s a real honest look of what it’s like to be in a band with your friends,” Gawel says. “If you’re a band from Columbus, it’s almost like you’ve got to read it because there’s not really a happy ending per se. I mean, that’s how 99.9 percent of bands go. We wouldn’t change it, but it’s not some storybook ‘oh we got a hit record and bought limos.’”

Readers commonly see the memoir as a sad one, as the band had little commercial success, but he wouldn’t change his lifestyle overall.

“Everyone would not like to worry about bills and have people like your records,” he says. “On the other hand, I like where I’m at. I like my family, I like what I’m doing.”

The often uncertain and turbulent lifestyle of a musician prepared Gawel for small business ownership. He took over the coffee shop that he worked for part time when it was in danger of closing.

“It’s lots of work and lots of fun for no money. It’s almost exactly like being a musician,” he joked.

Following Comfest, Gawel says Watershed would like to go out on a more extensive tour next year, to see their dedicated fans that double as friends in different cities around the country.

“We were kind of a cult band, so when we go to town we always recognize people,” Gawel says. “We were accessible, so if we played your town 20 times and you came every time, we probably got to be pretty good friends.”

When they do get together to play, Gawel says “Manifesto,” “Anniversary,” and“Fifth of July” are his favorite songs to perform.

“If we don’t play them no one else is gonna,” he says. “It’s fun to bring them back to life when we can.”