A country boy doing Dead and the Stones after 25 years in the Army, a former arts journalist/stand-up comic writing country-folk in Watsonville, and an L.A industry insider channeling Lennon-McCartney in Copenhagen – and bringing a dozen other songwriters with him to the stage. That’s part of the formula for a plentiful musical environment this week at Bay of Pines in downtown Monterey.
Kentucky-bred Rusty Preston credits the re-discovery of his music to local musician Andrea Carter. Walking off some unfortunate medical news on Asilomar State Beach in 2013, Preston chanced upon the guitar-picking Carter and asked her to cheer him up with a song. Carter obliged; Preston returned the favor, and she asked him to craft a tune for a boy injured in a rollover accident. The result became the title cut for Preston’s inaugural CD, When We Called, and a Virginia church flew him in to sing.
“It was a powerful experience singing in front of such an appreciative audience,” says Preston, who appears Thursday, Jan. 12. “The whole family waxed poetic. It changed me.”
Watsonville native Michael Gaither spent a decade writing arts for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, followed by a brief stint in comedy. His claim to comedic fame was selling four jokes to Jay Leno.
“That was a long time ago,” Gaither says, “back when Leno was still funny!” His lyric style is a wry and dry take on everyday life events. “Having done stand up for a bunch of drunks at 3am, playing the guitar for 30-40 minutes is a piece of cake,” he says. On Sunday he appears with Jonathan Foster, who owns Miracle Mile Records, for which Gaither records.
Lyricist Brett Perkins’ intricately constructed pop tunes positively ooze Paul McCartney, displaying an uncanny resemblance in both lyrics and composition. He moved to Copenhagen 13 years ago, where he now trains others at his Listening Room Songwriter’s Retreats, founded in 2002. The workshops landed in Ben Lomond in 2004 and all 12 of this year’s participants will join Perkins for an evening of song Saturday.
“Listeners are invited to come see very talented songwriters they’ve never heard of,” Perkins says. “Come hear something entirely new.”