Before songwriter Michael Tiernan moved to town four years ago, he was playing solo sets in a Rome, Italy nightclub, attending seminary school, and studying to become a Catholic priest. "It was called North American College, on a hill right above the Vatican. We could do anything we wanted at night, but I kept getting in trouble for my musical performances in town. I guess they considered it unseemly for a seminary student to be playing out on the town in some Irish pub."
Tiernan left the church institution at age 27 and eventually settled in San Diego, playing gigs between here and in L.A. "It was through my L.A. connections that I heard about the  L.A. Music Awards, and I entered with a demo I recorded in my closet at home in Del Mar. They actually nominated me for Male Singer-Songwriter of the Year. That night, I went up to the Music Box Theater in Hollywood with a whole busload of San Diego musicians and friends, with beer and pizza for everyone. I ended up winning the thing." Two other local acts were nominated for awards, though neither Bridget Bridgette nor Faceles won.
Since January, Tiernan has been hosting a weekly Tuesday night open-mike night at La Mesa's Cosmos Cafe. "It's always a great atmosphere, with half spectators and half musicians coming in to see what's going on."
Tiernan performs at the Martini Ranch in Encinitas on Thursday, April 14.
WHAT'S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?
1. Patty Griffin, 1000 Kisses ("Little woman, huge voice, and the kind of melancholic songs that make you love being alive.")
2. Girlyman, Remember Who I Am ("Acoustic folk/pop trio from NYC with intensely rich harmonies.")
3. David Wilcox, How Did You Find Me Here ("Each track is like a course in songwriting and storytelling.")
4. Crash Carter (untitled demo) ("These guys are still in the studio, and I'm the lucky owner of a demo -- funk/pop North County trio who just rock.")
5. Christ Stuart & Backcountry, Mojave River ("Bluegrass wizards who make you want to do-si-do around the house.")
MOST UNLIKELY SONG INSPIRATION?
"Toothpaste, and the vast selection of choices I faced one day when making a 'quick' trip to the store to buy some. Kind of turned into a social commentary song called 'This One, Not That One,' and it's now a big crowd pleaser. Still never know which toothpaste to buy though."
CHRISTINA OR BRITNEY?
"Definitely Christina. But do they actually exist? I thought they were just lab experiments."
FAVORITE COVER SONG TO PERFORM?
"'The Day I Tried to Live' by Chris Cornell in his Soundgarden days. It's a shocking contrast to my own tunes -- dark but beautiful, and it hits so hard when it's translated on an acoustic guitar. Plus, I get to act like a rock star."
"Beavis and Butthead got me through college. I have an altar set up to them in my living room. Huh-huh...huh-huh...huh-huh."
WORST REALITY SHOW EVER?
"The Swan. Unhappy and unbeautiful women are given happiness and beauty by boob and butt doctors, oral surgeons, copious amounts of plastic and collagen, and a 'counselor' that convinces them of their new state of bestowed worth. Great song material, though."