Suzanna Spring: Music and Yoga

Country singer-songwriter and yoga instructor Suzanna Spring strongly believes that there is a definite connection between her two passions. “In every element of life there are moments of unpredictability. Music and yoga are harmonious, combining elements of breathing, movement and focus,” Suzanna states. “They are both a dance of grace and strength that unexpectedly brings the mind in tune with the heart,” says the charming green-eyed red head I initially met through a mutual friend.

Born in Oakpark, Illinois, Suzanna moved around a lot as the daughter of a commercial pilot. The family eventually settled in the Livermore Valley where she graduated from Livermore High School before attending U.C. Davis, studying fine art and design. She began playing the French horn at the age of eight, but it was her mother, a member of a three-piece country band, who taught her to sing and play guitar. “Stylistically, it was my mother who exposed me to the classic country singers.” Suzanna’s style, in songs and voice, trended more toward the likes of Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and Townes Van Zandt as she played in a series to bands during her college years.

After graduation, her graphic arts career kept her busy and moving around the country, however performing was still a big part of her life.  By 1987, she relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a graduate degree at Cal Arts when an opportunity presented itself to join an all-female band called The Mustangs, a country version of the successful alternative band, The Bangles.

During their seven-year run, The Mustangs toured extensively in the western United States, and toured Europe and Scandinavia. Highlights of her tours included appearances at the famed Palomino Club, Los AngelesCountry Fest, SXSW (South by Southwest), the Powerhaus in London, the Roskilde Music Festival in Denmark, and the International Country Music Festival in Zurich.

Nominated by the California Country Music Association as “Vocal Group of the Year,” the Mustangs were featured performers at the Jimmy Dale Gilmore & Friends Show in Austin. Suzanna says there are talks going on currently about a possible Mustangs reunion.

As one of the primary songwriters for the band, Suzanna submitted several songs to a Nashville music magazine as the band was starting to come apart in the mid 1990s. The magazine’s editor forwarded the songs to a music producer who encouraged Suzanna to move to Nashville and record with Cary Richard Beare of Riverdogs. Suzanna later secured a publishing deal with EMI as a staff writer before ultimately finding a home at Bluewater Music as a writer and artist. “I loved writing songs, knowing that my job was to let my imagination soar and play music. The time in spent in recording studios was just magic. All of us who lived that lifestyle felt the camaraderie, the mutual appreciation that comes from recognizing a great song when you hear it.”

Her first solo CD, She’s Got Your Heart, won Music Row’s DISCovery Award and her performances have included Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Café, NPR’s World & Music Program, Nashville Folk Festival, WPLN’s Songwriter Sessions, Nashville’s Independent Music Festival, SXSW Music Festival in Austin, and shows in Boston and New York City.

“Suzanna has a beautiful voice, a quick wit and is a gifted songwriter.”~ Paul Jefferson, Nashville recording artist and acclaimed songwriter.

It was during this period in her life when she also discovered yoga at a Nashville gym frequented by many musicians. “Yoga gave my life balance,” says Suzanna. After studying at studios around town she was one day asked to fillin as an instructor, which turned out to be the beginning of a new love and passion. Today, she is a 500-hour certified E-RYT (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher).

Following the release of her song, Time, as a radio single for country recording artist Doug Stone, she retuned to California in 2007 to find her home town of Livermore had become a popular wine region and burgeoning music/film community. She was introduced to vintner/musician Karl Wente who invited her to join in on jam sessions on the front porch of his home. After months of jamming with a host of talented musicians, together they formed The Front Porch Band, which played regularly at the summer Home Grown concert series along with a succession of club dates and local gigs. “Playing with a rotating collection of amazing musicians, eventually led me to start my own band, The South Livermore Boys Club band, aka The Surly Jackasses—a name coined by my band mates,” Suzanna went on to explain.

Suzanna was again a featured artist at SXSW in 2013 and invited to play with her band on the Sony City Independent Artists Stage. The band also performed at Craneway Pavilion in 2016 for the Bay Area’s largest yoga fundraiser, Yoga Reaches Out, benefiting cancer research and treatment.

Around this same time, Suzanna also began teaching yoga at studios in the East Bay. Three years ago, she and two other yoga instructors, Laurie Johnson Gallagher and Stacy McGinty, teamed-up to open DragonflyYoga + Wellness LLC in Downtown Livermore. Suzanna and Stacy have continued as owners, while Laurie remains an active instructor. Their highly successful studio resembles a grand ballroom complete with large windows, high ceilings and good acoustics for music. “It has great energy,” says the immensely popular instructor.

When Suzanna teaches there is a magical calmness to the room. Her voice guides me into that peaceful place while her movement inspires fluidity and breathing to create a unique vibration. She cares about every person’s comfort and has the skill to make adjustment suggestions without judgment. She is a true gift.” ~ Pam Clemmons.

At present, Suzanna is on a hiatus with her band while she writes and performs acoustically. During the holidays, she was the feature act for a holiday showcase at Tommy T’s in Pleasanton, performing an amazing acoustic set along with SLBC guitarist Art Thompson. She has also expanded her yoga to include a teacher’s collective called the Tonic of Wilderness, the name inspired by a quotation from writer/naturalist Henry David Thoreau. The group offers yoga and nature retreats and has taken students on trips from Calistoga and New England to Costas Rica, Tuscany and Bali. This year she has yoga excursions planned to Yosemite and Spain. “Creating a yoga community has been such a gift. The practice of yoga gives people the tools to face life’s ever changing circumstances.”

Suzanna’s path is limitless as evidenced by her legions of devoted music and yoga followers.

 

                       

You’re not a Millennial if;

Wikipedia, not me, defines Millennials (also known as Generation Y, Generation Me, Echo Boomers and Peter Pan Generation) as the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when this cohort (they used that word twice) starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early1980s as starting birth years and ending birth years ranging from the late-1990s. This puts the average Millennial in the age range of 20 to 36 years old.  The term was apparently coined in 1987, by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, likely as a way to identify a subculture of soon to be tech savvy, coffee consuming, battery car driving, designer label wearing, EDM festival raging, hair product jellying, no body fat trending, self absorbed narcissists. Don’t get me wrong, I have alot of friends and business associates who identify as Millennials. For gosh sakes, my niece and nephews are the “M” word, but if you want to know the truth, as a whole, Millennials can be really annoying.

Personally, I’m a hybrid of two intersecting generations, the tail end of the Baby Boomers and the beginning of Generation X. “Boomers” described again by the people at Wikipedia, are the demographic group born during the post–World War II baby boom, approximately between the years 1946 and 1962. As a group, Baby Boomers were the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation up to the era in which they arrived, and were amongst the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. Whereby, Gen X, are Wiki-defined as children who were raised during a time of shifting societal values and as children were sometimes called the “latchkey generation,” due to reduced adult supervision compared to previous generations, a result of increasing divorce rates and increased maternal participation in the workforce, prior to widespread availability of childcare options outside of the home.

Research describes Gen X adults (1963 – 1982) as active, happy, and as achieving a work-life balance. The cohort has been credited with entrepreneurial tendencies. I’m not saying that both the “Boomers” and “Gen Xers” don’t have their share of losers, but as a whole, our Gen-blend has accomplished some cool stuff. Perhaps you’ve heard of Jon Stewart, Garth Brooks, Paula Abdul, Jerry Rice, Kate Spade, Steve Carell, Bo Jackson, Tom Cruise, John Bon Jovi, MC Hammer, Jodie Foster, Bobcat Goldthwait and Chris Christie.  Like me, all were born in 1962.

Getting back to the Millennial generation, I’ve made a few observations about this demographic and come to the conclusion that;

You’re Not a Millennial if …..

You work in an industry other than tech, international finance, sports entertainment, craft brewing or “growing.”

You aren’t on a first name basis with your barista.

Your coffee order has less than three words.

You’ve ever made a pot of coffee.

Your preferred mode of transportation doesn’t involve a Clipper Card.

You wear glasses because they help you see.

You don’t consider playing X Box participating a sport.

You go home from the club before last call.

You’ve ever washed your own car.

You’ve actually “popped the hood” of a car.

You mow your own lawn.

You have a lawn.

Your definition of being a “Gamer” involves a bowling league.

Your favorite vacation destination involves an RV.

Hydrating your body means something other than upping your “shots” count on  

a Friday night.

Your music collection consists of anything besides obscure European EDM DJs.

Your hope of a new car is something other than an Uber XL Max.

You prefer to be at home as opposed to the office.

You don’t consider your smart phone a physical appendage to your body.

You use your smart phone mostly for phone calls.

You spend more than the three major holidays (Thanksgiving,

Christmas/Hanukah and Easter/Passover) and a few birthdays with your immediate family.

You can easily go to bed without one last look at your inbox.

You don’t suffer withdrawals if you haven’t downloaded anything in more than

a day.

You haven’t taken a Selfie at a wedding, funeral or during a medical procedure.

My father was part of The Greatest Generation (The Greatest Generation is the title of a 1998 book by American journalist Tom Brokaw, which popularized the term “Greatest Generation” to describe those who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II). USN Chief Petty Officer Steven Copeland would roll over in his grave if he saw how millennials seem to lack common everyday life skills because most are so driven to create the next (totally unnecessary) mobile app designed for gamers that will appeal to a VC with aspirations of taking it public, that they’re too busy to learn how to change a tire.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate them Millennial generation for the advancements they will likely bring to our future. It will probably be a Millennial who invents the affordable flying car, recreational time travel and a cure for cancer. It might also be a Millennial who organizes a Friends reunion show featuring the entire cast. If David Schwimmer doesn’t attend, it’s not a full cast!

Each generation in our country has offered something different to our cultural landscape, our American fabric or the structure of our lives. How we define their contributions is immaterial. If the Millennial generation ends up kicking-ass on The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers and Gen X, then good for them because as a country we win. That said, I wish they would try to be a little less annoying in the process.

Mika’s Houseboat Ark

As I keyboard away on my monthly piece for Alive, I might be overstating the obvious when I report that it’s been raining a lot lately. For days and days, there has been an abundance of precipitation in our ecosystem. It makes one wonder if it will ever stop. In fact, it reminds me of that story about a man that, at the request of God, built a really big boat and stocked it with a bunch of animals before hitting the high seas for a joyous family cruise. You know the one I’m referring to, Mika’s Ark. Please allow me to tell the tale.

Their once lived a ruggedly handsome/athletically built, yet humble man who we’ll call Mika (the Hebrew name for Michael or one who is like God—really). By day, Mika was a moderately successful commercial real estate agent, but at night he spread the good word. By good word I mean he wrote a monthly magazine column consisting of sophomoric humor and occasionally funny observations of life. This story is full of undeniable coincidences. One day, while completely sober because it was still early, he heard a voice. The voice provided Mika with a long-term weather report and instructions on building an ark. The voice, presumed to be God and not Al Roker, didn’t take into account that Mika wasn’t very skilled when it came to hammering nails or sawing wood stuff. Consequently, Mika chose to honor this divine intervention by visiting a houseboat showroom and placing an order for the biggest baddest boat in the company’s inventory.  

For the houseboat aficionados in the audience, both of you, the majestic Titan is one of the grandest models in the entire houseboat fleet. This triple deck, 65-foot vessel offers the finest in comfort and entertainment. A widescreen TV, home theater system with surround sound, tracking satellite for TV, fireplace and full wet bar with a temperature-controlled wine cabinet integrated in the main salon. Relax in the sunken hot tub or take an exhilarating ride down the enclosed spiral tube waterslide, both located on the spectacular sky deck.

The Titan boasts eight HD, flat screen TVs and four refrigerators! Sixteen people, and/or some animals, can be served at the spacious dinette, and the couches convert into two full sized beds. The main deck also has four private staterooms and two full baths.

A sliding glass door on the starboard side of the vessel provides convenient access to and from your small boat or dock. The second story, created to offer privacy and space, provides one private stateroom and one master suite with its own entertainment system, coffee maker, fridge, microwave and private deck area. The bunkroom can accommodate six people in two double and two single bunks. For convenience, an additional full bath is on the second deck.

The aft observation counter is an ideal spot for dining, relaxing and taking in the view. Located on the Titan’s third deck is a designer wet bar with a fridge, propane barbecue, TV, crows nest dining area and another aft observation counter. Obviously, some modifications will be made for the animals.

According to Genesis, the Book of not the awesome 80’s rock band featuring Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, God gave Mika a blueprint for building the ark. It is presumed that God also gave Mike a Home Depot gift card because ark building ain’t cheap. Given that Mika strategically choose to purchase the Titan ark instead of building one, he used the gift card for a top-of-the-line BBQ, a really cool riding mower, an assortment of Ralph Lauren paints and a lot of doggie doors.

Seven days before the deluge, God told Mika to enter the ark with his household (family) and pairs of animals. With that, Mika and his daughters started rounding up neighborhood pets such as dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and roaming bands of Mt. Diablo wild turkeys. Pets were easy enough to come by, but the tigers, gorillas and anacondas were a little tougher to find in the suburbs. Ultimately he found a three-legged coyote, a blind skunk and couple of squirrels and called it a day. Fortunately he was able to pack, excuse me, load, a few extra cows and chickens, just in case the kids got tired of fish, veggies and gummy bears.

As most people know, the rains lasted 40 days and 40 nights and the ark was afloat for a total of 150 days before coming to rest on the top of Mt. Diablo upon the eventual receding of the waters. Once everyone did eventually disembark, Mika grabbed a latte at Peet’s Coffee and Tea and life resumed—just somewhat soggier. 

It is written that God caused the flood because he saw great wickedness in the people of Danville and Alamo. No big surprise there, however rumor has it that Mika did ask a few of his friends and neighbors to join he and his family on the houseboat ark, but most people thought he was a 72-hour hold candidate at the Contra Costa County Psych Ward or a 5150 – police code for “CRAZY”.

When it comes to movies about Noah’s Ark (Noah being Mika’s 2nd cousin once removed by a divorce), there’s Noah starring Russell Crowe, which was released in 2014 and Evan Almighty, starring Steve Carell released in 2007. Both have an interesting take on the whole Ark controversy and Mika appreciated each film for it’s artistic beauty. At the risk of being a “buzzkill,” technically, there is no scientific evidence for a global flood, and despite many expeditions, no evidence of the ark has been found. The challenges associated with housing all living animal types would likely have made building the ark a practical impossibility.

It won’t be until the spring that we know how much rain we got this year, but given how the year has started we may be looking to the heavens to account for this deluge. In the meantime, you might want to consider building a little dingy or looking into a used Master Craft. 

One Writer’s Voice

My #1 New Year’s Resolution is to watch fewer singing competitions on television. Is it cheesy to admit that I like The Voice, American Idol and The Sing-Off?  Actually, only the Voice is still on, but I resolve to stop watching that incredibly entertaining NBC reality singing show where the winner goes on to do absolutely nothing with their career except to occasionally pop up on the next season of The Voice to promote a CD we’ll never buy.

The truth is, after eleven seasons, there’s never been a Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson or even a Chris Daughtry (American Idols) in the entire Voice bunch. That’s probably a little unfair. I’m confident the past winners have sung their share of National Anthems at minor league ballparks and monster truck rallies. I bet there’s been the occasional ribbon cutting at a Piggly-Wiggly grand opening. Then, of course, there’s the prestigious gig of being the celebrity judge at a bowling alley karaoke competition.  Sadly, I don’t think I’ve heard so much as a single single on the radio by any of the past winners from The Voice.

That said, I still like the show for a variety of reasons. For those of you keeping score, the past winners look a little something like this;

  • SEASON 1: JAVIER COLON.
  • SEASON 2: JERMAINE PAUL.
  • SEASON 3 CASSADEE POPE
  • SEASON 4: DANIELLE BRADBERY.
  • SEASON 5: TESSANNE CHIN.
  • SEASON 6: JOSH KAUFMAN
  • SEASON 7: CRAIG WAYNE BOYD
  • SEASON 8: SAWYER FREDERICKS
  • SEASON 9: JORDAN SMITH
  • SEASON 10: ALISAN PORTER

I remember every single one of those past winners, except maybe Jermaine, Danielle and Josh, but that’s because I’m into this stuff. Seeing an actual show taping is high (#4) on my bucket list and I’m not getting any younger. Just for the record, I have actually seen two alumni of The Voice perform live and in concert.  season eight winner, Sawyer Fredericks, played a corporate event at Bishop Ranch and I took my daughter to see Matt McAndrew (season seven runner-up) open for the Plain White T’s last year at Slim’s in San Francisco. My review? Matt had very strong vocals and was very entertaining and Sawyer was inexperienced and slightly off-key. My favorite contender of all time, you ask? That was Will Champlin. He got robbed and finished third in season five. I don’t know what he’s doing today, but I hope he’s got a microphone in his hand and not a specula.

I’m actually watching the Season Eleven finale as I bang out this article on my lap top. Season Eleven has been a good one and I think it’s safe to say that I like this season’s Final Four as much as any other Final Four I’ve seen in the past. I’m avoiding choosing a favorite because, based on past experience, it’s too emotionally draining, filled with an exhausting array of the cheers and tears.  I wish all the contestants’ good luck as I know I will never see any of them again.

Fast forward to the next night, and your Season Eleven winner is…wait for it…Sundance Head. There is an overwhelming abundance of applause and fanfare as the winner’s family rushes the stage. Mr. Head does his best to perform his soon to be released single, available on iTunes, as confetti rains down on the stage. Despite this winning singer having a name more suited for the adult film industry, he’s actually a charming and talented country troubadour. It was nice knowing you Sundance.

Speaking of reality shows, it’s hard to believe the former star of The Apprentice will be our next president. What? I think Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, judges on the Voice, should run in 2020. They could represent the Music-tarian ticket. Why not, the reality President precedent has been set.

I find it hilarious that Donald Trump prepared for being leader of the free world by evaluating B-list celebrity’s business abilities with the tag line, You’re Fired! That was after he and his spawn humiliated them in the board room. I’m also amused by how upset The Donald gets at Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live immediately followed by a Twitter-Tantrum.

Here’s some Presidential advice from a guy who was once President of the Crow Canyon Swim Team: Stop watching SNL. When I knew someone didn’t like how I was running the swim country, I avoided that person at every swim meet and social event. I never read their emails and I certainly didn’t pick up my mobile phone, thanks to Caller I.D. I intentionally bumped more than one kid into the pool just to create a momentary distraction enabling me to escape a possible confrontation. Hopefully President Trump will be too busy not upsetting China to watch late night sketch comedy once he takes office, but I digress.

I have this reoccurring dream that I am a contestant on The Voice. I have this really cool Justin Bieber-meets-Sammy Hagar-type voice and of course I get a “four chair” turn. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the show, a four chair turn is pretty much the most awesome thing that can happen during your blind audition.  Anyway, I choose Miley Cyrus to be my coach, just because my daughters loved Hannah Montana growing up and I was a fan of her Wrecking Ball video. Creepy, I know. Sadly, I don’t end up winning The Voice in my dream, but that’s okay, because I didn’t want to vanish into singing obscurity anyway.

 

I’m already living a life in writing obscurity and a guy can only take so much obscurity. The New Year means another season of my favorite show and I can hardly wait for The Voice to resume… If I was going to watch it… which I’m not, because I never break a NY resolution.

The White Elephant Gift Exchange

At our family White Elephant Gift Exchange this holiday season, I ended up with an actual white elephant. Excuse me, an albino pachyderm to be more politically correct. I was a little distraught to say the least when my name was drawn last and the only gift still under the menorah tree was a two-ton elephant calf. Who knew someone could actually buy a “white elephant” for a White Elephant gift exchange? That gift, that was apparently ordered through Amazon, came by way of my out of work, over tattooed, legalize pot voting niece.  I thought we had a $50.00 limit? Now, in addition to a costly wellness visit to Blackhawk Veterinary, I should probably be expecting a hefty HOA fine next quarter for housing a pet the size of a recreational vehicle in my home.

African elephant with santa's cap delivering christmas gifts.The folks at Wikipedia tell me the term “white elephant” refers to an extravagant but burdensome gift that cannot be easily disposed of, based on the legend of the King of Siam gifting rare albino elephants to courtiers who had displeased him, that they might be ruined by the animals’ upkeep costs. Last year, my White Elephant present was a gift card to Fuddruckers. I love Fuddruckers! What are the chances I can re-gift my elephant between now and Christmas? I do have an office party coming up.

Our family transitioned to a White Elephant gift exchange format after years of going into debt buying presents for every niece/nephew, brother/sister, aunt/ uncle, grandparent, grandchild, step child and second cousin twice removed by a divorce or annulment. I was buying gifts for relatives I never knew I had, assuming they were actually my relatives. I once bought a tie for a guy who was either my half brother-in-law or the young man who delivers our Contra Costa Times paper in the morning. Why do we do this? I don’t see a lot of these family members except during the holidays and I certainly don’t feel overly close to most of them. To be totally honest, I’m more emotionally connected to Hazel in the Costco photo-mat, Rob, a teller at Wells Fargo, and Donna, my favorite checker at Draeger’s, than I am to my sister’s third boyfriend (following her legal separation) and his five children.  Granted, it’s the spirit of the season and it’s better to give then to receive, but do we need to “give”ourselves into the poorhouse? 

I don’t want to come off as a more handsome and athletic version of Ebenezer Scrooge, however, it seems to me that families should place more emphasis on connecting throughout the year and not stress so much about what to get each other on this one specific day. I truly don’t need any of my friends or relatives spending their hard earned money on another gift basket from Cost Plus World Market, complete with an inexpensive red wine, assorted international cheeses and chocolate covered expresso beans simply out of obligation. It’s bad enough that every gift our privileged kids want today is a real life adaptation of the popular Dr. Suess novel, The Grinch that Stole My Holiday Paycheck.  There’s no such thing as an inexpensive i-anything. Even elephant toys are grossly overpriced.

Getting back to my pachyderm predicament, here are some of my concerns when it comes to raising an elephant in my suburban enclave;

Apparently elephants love to cuddle. My Lazy-Boy recliner isn’t that big or that sturdy.

Apparently elephants have bad eye site, but a keen sense of smell.  Great, I can hide the peanut butter cookies, but he’ll probably sniff them out.

Apparently elephants can live to be 70 years old. That’s 70 people years. I’ll be lucky if I live to be 70 given that I have an elephant to take care of now.

Apparently elephants laugh, cry, play and have incredible memories. So do my neighbor’s kids, less the includible memories.

Apparently elephants love to swim and use their trunks like a snorkel in deep water. What’s the leash policy at Oak Hill Park in Danville?

Apparently elephants are herbivores, spending 16 hours a day collecting plant food. Their diet is at least 50% grasses, supplemented with leaves, bamboo, twigs, bark, roots, and small amounts of fruits, seeds and flowers. Great, there goes my newly landscaped backyard. If only she just liked an occasional sandwich, our neighborhood has enough wild turkeys and gophers to last her a few years.

Apparently elephants are one of the few four legged animals who can’t run or jump. That must explain the weight issue. Scratch the Frisbee idea.

Apparently an elephant’s trunk has more than 40,000 muscles in it and no bones, which give it the flexibility. However, the trunk can get very heavy at times. So, the elephants are seen to rest it on nearby objects. I better not catch her resting that big old thing on our horribly expensive BBQ Island or she can spell home, S-P-C-A.

If any of my loyal readers thought I actually got a real live elephant at a White Elephant holiday gift exchange then we’ll have to ask your attendants to take away your paste and crayons for the day. You know how I like to tease. The annual White Elephant family, friends, neighbors, office, club or cellmates gift exchange is a delightful holiday tradition. Sadly, now that I’m finally out of Alive and Chillin’ books, I may actually have to go out and buy something this year. Maybe I can find a white elephant carved out of actual ivory? Something about that idea doesn’t sound ethical, but it’s a start. Happy holidays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Victor of Rock Stars & Stripes

Walnut Creek native and Northgate High School alumni, David Victor, is a bona-fide “Rock Star” as a former member of the legendary rock band BOSTON. Yes, that BOSTON. The More Than a Feeling, Don’t Look Back, Piece of Mind and Amanda BOSTON who dominated the AM/FM air waves from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s and are still a staple on classic rock radio playlists. Today, David is still “rocking out,” but also giving back through rock music.alive-media-magazine-david-victor-of-rock-stars-stripes-michael-copeland-band-concert-playing

David moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music after graduating from Cal State East Bay with a degree in Computer Science. After modest success with the band Velocity, David played with the BOSTON tribute band Smokin’, where he was discovered through a YouTube video by BOSTON’s founding member, Tom Scholz. David spent five years with the band, and was featured as the lead vocalist on their #1 classic-rock charting single Heaven on Earth from their 2014 album Life, Love & Hope. I caught up with him recently at Side Board in Danville to talk about his BOSTON experience, and to hear more about his current project, Rock Stars & Stripes.

Mike Copeland : What was it like playing with BOSTON? Did you do a big tour of large venues?

David Victor: I joined BOSTON in late 2009, and we did a couple of North American tours with the band in 2012 and 2014. We rehearsed in north Boston for several weeks before I did my first show in Hollywood, Florida in 2012. Rehearsing with the whole band was a trip. The lineup was not settled. I thought they were going to ship me out the first day. But I stuck around. One of my vivid memories was working with Tom Scholz who wrote Peace of Mind, my favorite BOSTON song ever. Of course, I learned way more than I ever could possibly have given back, most importantly exactly how the guitar parts went from the guy who wrote them!

The two tours I did were amazing, but the Boston Strong show was especially moving, because some of the survivors got up to talk about their recoveries, and it was very personal and a huge event. There were 20,000 people packed into the Boston Garden, and we opened the show with The Star Spangled Banner. It was practically a religious experience. All the Boston-area bands played, and then Aerosmith closed the show. My wife encouraged me to jump up on stage, and I actually got a chance at the mic with Steven Tyler singing Come Together.

MC: How was Rock Stars & Stripes conceived?alive-media-magazine-david-victor-of-rock-stars-stripes-michael-copeland-band-concert

DV: That Boston Strong event was obviously very moving. Seeing the unity and strength from the assembled people of Boston made me start to think about how we are all related to each other. And of course the fact that it was a big rock concert, well it kind of dawned on me: one common bond that many Americans share is their love of rock ‘n roll. This is not a show about our political or ideological differences; this is a show about music and our common bonds.

Then it was just a matter of figuring out how to deliver that kind of a show, start to finish, in a compelling way. That led me to presenting the show as a “Rock ‘n Roll Road Trip across America” to tie all the great musical areas of the United States together into one show. I wanted the videos to relate directly to the music being performed, so that people got a sense of the areas we were traveling to, the people of those areas, and the music that was created there. We’re very gratified that the show is being extremely well-received.

MC: What do you enjoy most about these shows?

DV: No question, the great community vibe and unity that we generate. There’s much more to this presentation than just the musical journey. We also have a “Local Heroes” segment, in which we honor individuals for their positive contributions in their communities. We bring them on stage, tell the audience their story, and honor them with a special Rock Stars & Stripes medallion. We also have a Charity of the Evening, which is connected to the local community. It’s about paying respect to the communities in which we perform. People leave this show happy, entertained and even a little prouder to be Americans.

MC: Rock Stars & Stripes has a show at the Lesher Center in your hometown of Walnut Creek on November 12th, how is ARF involved?

DV: Obviously ARF has been part of the Walnut Creek scene for many years, and now has a national presence as well. I was checking out their website a few months back, and hit upon their “Pets for Vets” program, which meshes with our message perfectly; people doing good for their communities. Anyway, we asked them if they would be interested in being our Charity of the Evening for this Lesher show, and we were delighted they said “yes.” We are donating three wrapped Rock Stars & Stripes autographed guitars to ARF, one for auction, one for raffle that night, and one which will hang at the ARF HQ. We’ll also be selling customized show programs for this event, also to raise money for ARF and “Pets for Vets.”

MC: You’re a newlywed. Where did you meet your wife, Tamra?

DV: Tamra and I were introduced to each other by our mutual friend, Michael Brandon. We were both happily single, but wow, we just fell head over heels for each other! We were married just this past December 5th in Kona, Hawaii. So yes, we’re newlyweds.

In retrospect, I was really happy that I didn’t meet her at a show; instead we met in a much more natural way. It’s not exactly ‘keeping it real’ to first set eyes on someone when they’re performing on stage. As it turned out, once we were already a couple, the first show she saw me play was Boston Strong. I’m up there on a 75-foot Magnatron screen performing with BOSTON, in Boston, for the first time the band had played there in 20 years. Then I’m singing with Steven Tyler, and we’re meeting all these celebrities backstage. I told her “Honey, not every day is going to be like this!” And she’s good with that.

MC: What does the future hold for David Victor?

DV: Of course, we’re going to be working hard on booking shows for Rock Stars & Stripes as well as my other bands, which includes BOSTYX (a tribute to the music of BOSTON and Styx). I’m also planning on opening a music school in Danville in 2017 for private lessons, guest seminars and career education.alive-media-magazine-david-victor-of-rock-stars-stripes-michael-copeland-band-concert-playing-2

Today, David lives a suburban rock star life which includes encouraging his friends and neighbors to come out to his shows. I saw one of the very first Rock Stars & Stripes shows back in August at the Firehouse Theater in Pleasanton and was blown away by the music, the video and the great time had by people in the audience.

David is currently performing as the founding member and lead vocalist of Rock Stars & Stripes, a polished, high-impact live rock show with powerful and moving visuals celebrating some of the greatest American rocks artists and hits including music by: BOSTON, Styx, KISS, REO Speedwagon, The Eagles, The Cars, Billy Joel, LynyrdSkynyrd, Journey, ZZ Top, Night Ranger, and many more. The show takes the audience on a “rock and roll road trip” across the country with a positive, entertaining musical and visual experience. David fronts a seasoned group of All-Star musicians accompanied by an evocative video produced by Emmy and MTV award winning video editor Jeffrey Clark. Rock Stars & Stripes is a patriotic tribute to the people and music of America.

Feel free to “Friend” David on Facebook or visit his website at davidvictor.com. Tickets to the Lesher show can be purchase at the Lesher Box Office or through rockstarsandstripesshow.com

 

Pass Me the Drumstick

I am a leg man! I love me some legs. What? I am referring to the turkey leg (aka drumstick) when it comes to our Thanksgiving Day entree. Did you think I was going the way of Donald Trump and Billy Bush in a hot mic ACCESS HOLLYWOOD motorhome conversation? This is a holiday piece for a nice family magazine. I really do like the turkey leg and usually spend most our holiday meal gnawing on the dark meat filled drumsticks like I’m an overweight European Baron from some Elizabethan romance novel. “Serving wench, what do you mean there’s no Cool Whip for the pumpkin pie latte? Off with her head!”

Flat modern design with shadow Icon chicken legsI suppose it’s more refined to dine on the finely carved white or dark meat of a Tom Turkey, but I’m not some snooty overdressed English Pilgrim trying to hook-up with one of the hot looking Native American squaws. I’m all about calorie consumption and a taste bud orgasm. For what it’s worth, I also enjoy the drumsticks from the Turkey’s less prestigious cousin, the chicken. I was practically raised on fried, baked, barbequed and KFC’d chicken drumsticks. Like my father before me, referenced in last month’s article on frugal spending, we like our reasonably priced bird meals. Come to think of it, I believe I’ve had drumsticks from squab, duck and pheasants, to name just a few other edible birds. I’ve had an ostrich burger at Fuddruckers, but that’s one drumstick even beyond my comfort level.

This Thanksgiving Day holiday, a lot of us will be welcoming home our college freshmen for the first time since they departed on their quest for higher education. For most of these kids, it will be the first time sleeping in their beds, arguing with their siblings and adhering to Mom and Dad’s rules since they departed for college approximately twelve weeks ago. My independent living collegiate daughter best not have acquired a taste for turkey drumsticks while away at school or she can enjoy her holiday meal at the university dining commons. I may extend her curfew and let her sleep in until the crack of noon, but the drumstick thing is non-negotiable.  I’ve heard that it takes both parents and their college freshman children about three months to acclimate to their new life and routine. That’s roughly the time period from the start of school at most universities until Thanksgiving break. Their new found lifestyle does potentially raise some issues when the kids return home and have to follow house rules again and curtail their partying ways. They’ll also be driving again and having to avoid all the wild turkeys that populate the greater Mt. Diablo landscape. Trust me, they don’t taste near as good as a Butterball turkey from Lunardi’s in Danville.

By the time this article hits the stands, we’ll have elected a new POTUS (President of the United States) with a new FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) or FHFPOTUS (First Husband Former President of the United States). I can only speculate on who won, but what’s the point, the American public has likely lost. It doesn’t matter if either candidate likes the drumstick or not, they both have so many character flaws that their fowl anatomy choices don’t override the scary direction their constant indiscretions may lead our country. As I am a liberal conservative and my wife is a conservative liberal, we usually either agree on a candidate or we cancel out each other’s votes. I wish there had been a realistic write-in candidate this year, but neither Condoleezza Rice nor Paul Ryan wanted the job bad enough to give it a go. Well if nothing else, it gives me, and the equally talented writers at Saturday Night Live, plenty of material to work with the next four years.

The month of November is special for more than just Thanksgiving and an occasional insignificant election. This is a month with more going on than most people realize. There’s No-Shave November (all month), National Men Make Dinner Day (November 3rd), National Donut Day (November 5th), the official birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps (November 10th), Veteran’s Day (November 11th), Mickey Mouse’s birthday (November 18th), The anniversary of the Gettysburg Address (November 19th) Black Friday (the last Friday of the month), Small Business Saturday (the last Saturday of the month) and College Football Rivalry Week including; Sunflower Showdown – Kansas vs. Kansas State, Iron Bowl – Auburn vs. Alabama, Civil War – Oregon vs. Oregon State, The Game – Michigan vs. Ohio State (Jim Harbaugh vs. Urban Meyer—should be awesome!), Duel in the Desert – Arizona vs. Arizona State, and The Jeweled Shillelagh – USC vs. Notre Dame. There is so much happening in this mid to late fall month that if I didn’t have so much leaf raking to do (thanks to the occasional galeforce winds), I might be able to enjoy more than just a delicious drumstick.  

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sully: Our Hometown Hero

This article was originally published in the April 2009 issue of ALIVE.AliveCover_0409.qxd

Prior to January 15th, Lorrie Sullenberger was the most famous person in the Sullenberger household. As a featured fitness expert on ABC-7’s View from the Bay, contributing writer for ALIVE Magazine and creator of the Fit and Fabulous Outdoors TV show, Lorrie was often recognized when she shopped or when she and the family dined out. Then Lorrie’s husband, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, and his courageous crew miraculously carried out the successful water landing of a US Airways Airbus A320 (flight 1549), on the Hudson River in New York City. At that moment their lives were forever changed. “We haven’t been home for more than a few days since then,” Lorrie told me when we all sat down to talk one Friday afternoon. “We’ve always enjoyed a certain amount of predictability and routine since moving to Danville, thirteen years ago. We miss that level of calm. It feels nice to just be at home enjoying dinners together again.”

Overnight, Sully became a legitimate national hero at a time when the country desperately needed one, and the Sullenbergers went from being an ordinary suburban family to international celebrities. While they know that the intense and demanding schedule will eventually settle down, they can also accept that their lives will never be the same.

“I thought initially the story would run its course and eventually fade away when the next big story happened,” Sully says, “but due in large part to the wide variety of media outlets that are available it has garnered worldwide attention and seems to have taken on a life of its own.” alive-media-magazine-october-2016-32-sully-our-hometown-hero-michael-copeland

Since that fateful day, Sully, Lorrie, and at times their daughters Kelly and Kate, have been living a whirlwind existence of media attention and public appearances. Sully has done interviews with 60 Minutes, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America and People Magazine. He has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and Larry King Live. He has been a celebrated guest at the Presidential Inauguration, the Superbowl, the Oscars and the President’s nationally televised speech to Congress. All of this has fueled a never-ending desire for the American public to connect with our hometown hero. The Sullenbergers agree that timing had a lot to do with interest in the story. “People seem to need a good news story right now. This event seems to have given them hope,” Lorrie says.

Sully readily admits that he was initially uncomfortable with the amount of public interest and adulation he was receiving. “I wasn’t prepared for all the attention, nor did I understand the magnitude of what was happening. I’m not a celebrity, nor did I aspire to be one, but I’m willing to do what I need to at this time to try and generate as much good as possible from this opportunity.”alive-media-magazine-october-2016-22-sully-our-hometown-hero-michael-copeland

Upon his recent return from Washington D.C., Sully, Lorrie and I sat in the Sullenberger’s living room on a sun filled afternoon—the same room where Katie Couric and the 60 Minutes camera crew was set up roughly four weeks prior. Intentionally, we didn’t touch on the events of January 15th , but instead focused on how the outcome of that day has forever changed the trajectory of their lives.

As the outpouring of support and interest started to pick up speed, the Sullenbergers agreed that they wouldn’t allow the recent event in their lives to change them personally. That was apparent, firsthand, when the Sullenberger’s pool maintenance man knocked on the door and awkwardly asked if it would be okay to speak to Sully for a minute. Sully politely asked if we could interrupt the interview and made his way over to the front door. The brief exchange between the two men was unpretentious as Sully assured the gentleman, who was obviously in awe and unsure of what to say, that he was fine just talking with him like it was any other day, “pre-January 15th.”

Fortunately the public’s attention has been respectful and courteous. Unlike an actor or athlete who, to some degree, must court the spotlight, Sully believes people have respected their privacy because they don’t have that air of entitlement. They do admit to the need to adjust their time allowances when going out in public because of the sheer number of people that respectfully want to shake his hand or request an autograph or photo. “We were at Costco recently and people were shocked to see us,” Lorrie playfully said, “We still need to shop!” Both Sully and Lorrie know that their lives will get back to normal in time, but they seem more than willing to provide people with that “feel good” positive energy so many of us desperately need right now.  alive-media-magazine-october-2016-68-sully-our-hometown-hero-michael-copeland-lorrie-sullenberger

While the Sullenbergers have hired a PR team to assist them with chronicling the huge number of requests they receive daily, they have final say on any new projects or commitments. Other than an upcoming trip to New York for Sully, they plan to slow down and begin evaluating the offers and projects coming their way. When asked if they were at all burned out being in the limelight, both assured me that they weren’t, although Sully admitted to being physically and mentally spent on three or four occasions. “It is incredibly demanding to be constantly sharp and on top of your game from early in the morning until late in the evening. I feel a tremendous obligation to represent my profession and colleagues to the best of my ability,” Sully states.

John Macholz, a twenty year veteran pilot with American Airlines flying the S80, said pilots across the country truly appreciated Sully’s impassioned address to the Aviation Sub Committee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “Sully did a wonderful job detailing the reduction in compensation and tattered retirement packages pilots have had to endure within the aviation industry over the last several years,” says Captain Macholz.

Of the many grand events they’ve attended recently I was curious if there was anything that particularly stood out. Both were quick to say attending the Presidential inauguration and meeting the Obamas ranked high on their list. “President and Mrs. Obama were very gracious and kind. You feel like you’ve known them forever.” Additionally, Sully was humbled by the standing ovation he received from the members of the House and Senate prior to President Obama’s televised address before Congress on February 24th. Lorrie proudly recounted her day with Maria Shriver. Lorrie has been a volunteer for years at Maria Shriver’s annual women’s conference and when introduced to California’s First Couple, Maria Shriver pulled her aside and said, “You are the one I’m here for.”

At the Vanity Fair post-Oscar party, the Sullenbergers were seated between Academy Award winners Michael Douglas and Sydney Poitier. While Sully enjoyed a lengthy conversation with Mr. Poitier on a variety of life topics, Lorrie said the whole experience was surreal.

Amidst all the traveling, never far from Sully and Lorrie’s hearts, minds and cell phones, are their two teenage daughters, Kate and Kelly. One might expect teenage girls to get caught up in all the red carpet invitations, but in this case, you’d be wrong. “Teenagers can be wonderfully self-absorbed,” Lorrie says. “Once they determined that their dad was safe and well, it was back to business as usual.” Sully playfully added how the girls almost had to be coerced into attending the Presidential inauguration with their parents. “They were concerned about missing school and getting behind with their homework.” However, while attending Danville’s “Key to the Town” ceremony on January 24th. Kate actually turned to her father and with a smile on her face said, “This is pretty cool.”    alive-media-magazine-october-2016-221-sully-our-hometown-hero-michael-copeland

With over 20,000 hours of flight time in the left (captain’s) seat, I wondered if Sully was at all uncomfortable being a passenger as he travels back and forth across the country to meet his appearance obligations. “This is my job now,” he says, “if I didn’t plan to resume flying it might feel strange, but as soon as I’m ready I’ll go back to work.” He predicts it will be a few more months before he returns to work as he continues to assist the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) with their investigation of the accident and takes advantage of this opportunity to promote a safety culture that works within every organization.

Sully owns a company called Safety Reliability Methods which assesses precursor incidents and identifies changes that need to be made or training that needs to be implemented to avoid future accidents. He is passionate about the aviation industry’s need to not only attract the best and the brightest to the profession, but also to prepare and train his peers for any unforeseen emergency situations.

As we concluded our interview I noticed the enormous amount of mail that’s arrived at their home over the last several weeks. Stacks and stacks of letters were piled high around their family room. Some were a request for an autograph or photo, others were simply notes of thanks and gratitude. The Sullenbergers said it was their goal to personally respond to each and every note.  They are also trying to determine how to best help further the cause and provide awareness to a handful of charities near and dear to their hearts including, but not limited to, Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

While researching information for this article online, I read a quote from an unnamed source that also expressed my assessment of Captain Sullenberger. “This man is worthy of our admiration. Forget athletes and celebrities. The values, competence and humility displayed by this man should be contemplated by anyone looking for something to aspire to.”

As our country faces domestic hardships, economic struggles and international negativity never before experienced by this generation, we all need something positive to believe in and a person or event to provide hope for the future. We yearn for some form of bravery, decency and pride to illuminate this period in time. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was the right man at the right time. For that we can all be grateful that he has embraced the opportunity to set forth an example and lead the way however he can.

Writer’s note: When friends and family learned that I had spent the afternoon interviewing the Sullenbergers, I was repeatedly asked if Sully and Lorrie were as genuine and sincere as they appear on TV. I’m happy to report that they both are warm, open and engaging. They responded to all of my questions without hesitation, yet their answers involved consideration and contemplation. Sully exudes a relaxed and subtle commanding confidence that comes from a lifetime devoted to preparation and attention to detail—a different type of assuredness from any I have observed during my meetings with corporate CEO’s, politicians or professional athletes in the course of my primary business, writing and fundraising efforts.

Conversely, Lorrie exhibits the vivacious charm of a successful businesswoman, supportive wife and proud mother. The highlight of my afternoon with them was the casual “neighborly” conversation we engaged in after the interview had concluded. Given the unimaginable demands on his time, Sully eagerly inquired about my father’s naval background. We also talked about the wonderful local public school system and the similarities of how we both migrated to Danville. Our interaction epitomized his true sincerity and character. I would like to thank my editor, Eric Johnson for giving me this unbelievable opportunity and the Sullenbergers for inviting me into their home. This experience was truly the pinnacle of this writer’s fledgling career.

I’m Not as Frugal as My Father

My dad was frugal. Frugal is a nice word for being cheap. Steven D. Copeland was an emotionally generous guy, but the generosity ceased when it came to spending money. Halloween was a good example of his frugalness. Every October 31st, he and my mom would turn out the lights in our house, pretending not to be at home, while they sent us kids out into the neighborhood to replenish their candy supply. He carved a Jack-O-Lantern out of an orange from the neighbor’s tree.

Closeup portrait greedy banker executive CEO boss, corporate employee funny looking man holding dollar banknotes scared to loose money, suspicious isolated grey background. Human face expressionHalloween is a wonderful holiday and costumes are a big part of the festivities. People, old and young alike, spending ungodly amounts of money on the most elaborate costumes imaginable, just to make a statement or grab some attention.

That was unacceptable to my dad. To my dad, Halloween costumes were a needless waste of money. He would say, “Mike (that’s what he called me), anyone with half a brain and some imagination should be able to come up with a costume using crap from around the house.” My dad was very profound. There was no way Mr. Copeland was going to take out a loan at the Halloween Super Store just to dazzle his co-workers with an authentic Batman Costume at the annual company Exotic Erotic Ball.

For five years in a row, I was a variation of brown paper bagman. I was paper bag hobo, paper bag knight, paper bag robot, paper bag cowboy and paper bag pimp. I was a plaid-sheeted ghost a few times too. When I was in college, I’ll admit to resurrecting paper bag pimp. I was straight-up paper bag pimping when I convinced a few sorority girls to dress as paper bag hookers. It was a hoot.

Looking back, I assume my dad was so frugal because he grew up during the Great Depression. For those of you clueless millennial kids, the Great Depression took place between 1929 and the late 1930s. It was a cosmic combination of Black Monday (the stock market crash of 1987) intersecting with the mortgage fall out of 2008 (Think –The Big Short meets Too Big to Fail), but much worse. Somehow my dad always seemed like he was preparing for the Great Depression, Part II. I truly didn’t know the depths of my father’s frugalness until I became an adult. Before that, I just assumed what he told me was the actual truth when it came to monitoring our household expenses. The following is an example of what we experienced…

My dad frequently asked for price checks at the Dollar Store.

My dad would never pay for a Mt. Diablo campsite permit, so during the summers we crashed overnight at Osage Park. He told me the baseball dugouts were chain­link caves. Fortunately for us, the goose hunting was plentiful.

My dad was passionate about finding a good deal, which explains his Christmas shopping excursions to every garage sale in town.

When we were little kids, instead of taking us to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, he took us to the Dreager’s fish and fresh meat department. While I thought it was natural for the majestic Swordfish to sleep on a bed of ice, I did wonder why the Halibut was breaded.

Instead of taking us to the Oakland Zoo, we would visit the local SPCA. I was seven before I learned that our Terrier wasn’t an aardvark.

My dad used to brag that we had waterfront property, but that was only when our septic tank would back up.

The only time we went swimming during the summer was when we took a dip in the lake at Oak Hill Park.

Going to the drive-in meant sitting in our lawn chairs while watching the neighbors TV through their plate glass window and eating un-popped popcorn from their bird feeder.

My dad wanted me to learn an instrument and convinced me, after years of practice, that the kazoo was an integral part of every orchestra.

Our “vacation” was a new disk for our Viewfinder.

When we went to the park, the ducks would throw bread at us.

Kids from third world countries sent us money.

Our black and white TV had two channels: On and Off, and I was his remote control.

My baseball cleats were actually tennis shoes with nails hammered through the soles.

Going out to dinner always included the phrase, “Do you want fries with that?”

Instead of getting a chemistry set for my birthday, my dad just gave me a set of test tube shot glasses from Chili’s and a Bunsen burner in the shape of a Bic lighter.

When I asked for Nike tennis shoes, what I got was a pair of Keds with the “swoosh” drawn on with a Sharpie.

At my mother’s annual company holiday party, we were the Adopt-a-Family.

My dad routinely “borrowed” office supplies from his work… and he was self-employed.

If my dad had been at the Last Supper, he would have asked for separate checks.

I once asked my dad to borrow $50.00. His response was, “40.00? I haven’t got $30.00. What do you need $20.00 for?”

It goes without saying that as an adult I appreciate my father’s life lessons about the value of a dollar. I may be a little freer spending than the old man, but it’s not like I have tech stock IPO earnings to throw around on crazy purchases. If I desire a good or service, I instinctively price shop looking for a bargain. I’m not afraid to negotiate for the most favorable terms. It’s not even beneath me to pretend I don’t speak or understand English.

This Halloween, I’m thinking of rocking a new paper bag costume—sassy magazine columnist. I’ll be party-hopping. Instead of paying $0.10 for paper bags at Safeway, I plan to use my recycled grocery bags to reduce my carbon footprint and save the planet. I’ll be the guy wearing the Trader Joes/Bev Mo/Goodwill canvas bags. Make sure you have plenty of Twix and Milky Way on hand at your party as I plan to stock up. I’ll also take a carton of milk, a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs if you really want to treat me right. As I learned from my dad, they won’t say yes if you don’t ask them. Apparently frugality is hereditary.

Paul Jefferson

Nashville singer-songwriter Paul Jefferson will be headlining Discovery Counseling Center’s fifth annual fall fundraiser, An Evening of Laughter and Music. Paul is an accomplished country artist; as a solo performer, a duo and as part of a popular band. However, it’s Paul’s songwriting talent that has kept him in high demand in and around Nashville for the past twenty years. Paul has written songs for the likes of Keith Urban, Little Texas, Jon Bon Jovi, Timothy B. Schmitt (Eagles), Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey (Go-Go’s), and Buddy Jewel, to name just a few. He co-wrote Aaron Tippin’s number one song, That’s as Close as I’ll Get to Loving You. Not bad for a kid from Northern California.Alive Media Magazine September 2017 Nashville singer-songwriter Paul Jefferson

I first met Paul Jefferson Jaqua in the spring of 1989 at a little coffee shop in Mountain View. A mutual friend, Steve Silver, convinced me to check out this aspiring country artist whose brother was the starting quarterback on our community college football team. County music was beginning a surge in popularity with the emergence of such popular acts as Garth Brooks, The Judds, Travis Tritt, Brooks and Dunn and the band, Restless Heart, along with the more established artists like George Strait, Alan Jackson, Alabama and Reba McIntire. I’ll admit, my expectations were relatively low, knowing that Paul had grown up in Woodside, California, playing tennis and learning to fly while earning a Bio­ Medical degree at Cal. However, the minute he hit the stage, I could tell by his old-school country sound and appeal that audiences would gravitate toward such an authentic performer.

Over the next couple of years, I became Paul’s booking agent, merchandise manager, publicist, roadie, bodyguard and confidant. It wasn’t until the unexpected death of our good friend Steve that Paul would leave the comfort of the Bay Area to pursue his dreams in Nashville. “When Steve died, I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t push myself and give Nashville a chance,” Paul recalls with a heavy heart.

Before leaving for Nashville, Paul played a lot of small clubs and cafes around the South Bay. “Playing those blood buckets was tough. More than a few were barely keeping the doors open trying to capitalize on the popularity of country music,” says Paul, “What made it bearable was playing with a lot of really good people and talented musicians.” A highlight during those early times was when he was cast as Hank Williams in the San Jose Stage Company’s production of Lost Highway. Paul’s connection to the music of Hank Williams would live on for the next 25 years.

Originally signed as a songwriter by a Los Angeles based publishing house in 1993, Paul was flown to Nashville to perform a collection of original songs at the legendary Bluebird Cafe. While in Nashville, he was recording demos and performing new material with a session vocalist named Steve McClintock, a slightly older music veteran.The pair was quickly offered a record deal, as the duo, Jefferson McClintock. Paul had fewer reservations about dropping his given last name, Jaqua, than he did becoming part of a duo, so he passed on the offer. Oddly, Paul has certain regrets about both of those decisions to this day.

Paul Jefferson signed a management contract with legendary music manager Miles Copeland (no relation) who had managed The Police, REM, The Go-Go’s and The English Beat. “Miles was new to Nashville and looking for country artists. He also signed a young Keith Urban,” Paul recalls. Shortly thereafter, Paul released his first CD with Almo Records and his first single, Check Please, hit number 40 on the country music charts. Sadly, Paul was going through some personal and professional struggles just as his video for Check Please made its debut on CMT (Country Music Television), which didn’t allow him to truly enjoy a lot of his early success. He parted ways with both his management team and Almo, and eventually went on to record and self-release his follow-up album; Greatest Hits Volume Ill which he says is a record he is extremely proud of due to the strength of the songs. This trying period did open the door to writing sessions with Sonny Lemaire of the band, Exile, and with John Scott Sherrill (Paul’s all-time favorite songwriter) and Porter Howell of the band, Little Texas. His work with Porter eventually led to the foundation of their group, Hilljack.

Paul likes to say he and Porter just clicked when it came to writing and performing. Hilljack released an independent record, but had a major league management and booking team. This allowed the band to tour the U.S. and Europe opening for some of country music’s biggest names including; Dwight Yokum, John Berry and Wynonna Judd. Unfortunately, after little more than a year, and just as the band’s popularity and success was starting to take off, Little Texas reunited and Porter left Hilljack to rejoin his original band.Try as he might to replace his good friend, the chemistry was never the same with other guitarists and the band eventually broke up.

Paul met the immensely talented and very successful Canadian country artist, Lisa Brokup, in 2008. She and Paul were married 24 months later and the couple has a daughter, Ivy, who just turned seven. When asked if Ivy can sing, Paul gave the response, “She’s very loud, but she prefers to dance.” Lisa and Paul regularly write together and perform regionally and around Nashville as a duo, The Jeffersons. Their debut album, TheJefferson’s Vol. 1, was released in June of 2011 by Royalty Records to very strong reviews. Today, Lisa is enjoying success performing in a critically acclaimed Patsy Cline tribute and the couple takes turns touring so that one of them is always home with their daughter.

Throughout the course of our interview, I juggled the role of journalist with friend and fan. When I asked Paul how he felt about the success of the ABC series Nashville, he indicated that it’s brought a lot of new fans to country music and packs the venues around town, but he admitted that it feels the storylines hit just a little too close to home.”I feel, in a way, like the show is imitating my life.” When I asked if he has a favorite song that he’s written or one that he’s most proud of, “You’re not my God,” was his immediate response.The song was written with and recorded by Keith Urban. Paul candidly revealed that the song is about addiction. “Keith and I are both in recovery and it’s a song about conquering your demons. It’s inspired a lot of people, and that’s something that really means a lot to me.”

Knowing that Paul has played the Grand Ole Opry twice (solo and with Hilljack), I asked him if that was the pinnacle of his career. While he acknowledged that playing there was a wonderful experience, he recalled a tour opening for Trisha Yearwood in Europe. “Playing the Civic Center Opera House in Birmingham, England was the greatest performing experience of my life. It was a magnificent theater with absolutely perfect sound,” Paul recalls.

I also inquired about the cross-over “pop” appeal of such country artists as Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum and The Zack Brown Band. Paul never expressed any animosity or jealousy, but he did say the music market goes through cycles.”A lot of the new songs are catchy and they appeal to the younger buyers, but it’s gotten away from the music I came here to make. Music goes through cycles and it will eventually come back to pure country.”

When it comes to the pure country sound, it doesn’t get any more pure than the music of Hank Williams. Over the years, Paul has often talked about how much he loved performing as Hank in the Lost Highway production in the early 90s. It’s with this in mind, along with his wife Lisa’s success with the Patsy Cline project, that Paul has begun working on a Hank tribute. “This isn’t a play where I have to portray Hank in his 20s, it’s just me doing Hank songs and a few of my own that were inspired by Hank.” The Hank project has already received a lot of advance buzz, and Paul hopes to launch a tour early next year. Until then, he is always in demand to collaborate with his peers and for a guy with Bay Area roots that’s pretty flattering and impressive.

For tickets to Paul’s upcoming show at the Village Theater in Danville on September 29th, go to: www.discoveryctr.net/eventsandnews/fallfundraiser.html