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San Diego’s homeless make semifinals on America’s Got Talent

Alicia Previn, Steph Johnson, Roger!, Sluka, Sickstring Outlaws

Alicia Previn
Alicia Previn

Singer-violinist Alicia Previn is the daughter of André Previn (the conductor of the Houston, Pittsburgh, and London Symphony Orchestras) and jazz singer Betty Bennett. She began playing the violin at age seven and was classically trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London by Virginia Majewski and Joan Rotchford-Davies. Among the local acts she’s performed with are the New Archaic, Flogging Molly, In Tua Nua, Folding Mr. Lincoln, Tim Foley, Yael & Vlady, the Rose Three, Big Boss Bubeleh, Now Jazz Quartet, the Young Dubliners, and others. Those she has recorded with include Philip D’Arrow, Andy Leek, the Hothouse Flowers, Katmandu, Finn MacCool, Ten Bright Spikes, the Bumpin’ Uglies, Cracker, Great White and Jack Russell, Richard Thompson, General Public, and the Communards. Previn has also authored several children’s books addressing the Earth’s ecological future regarding earthworms, tortoises, and bees, sometimes tying her music in with the book projects. She recently added a new page to her website called Book Music, which features each song written for her four books in the Love of Nature series. “The Earthworm Book also has my narration with page-turning sounds, other instrumentals, and a dance by David Ybarra,” says Previn.

Steph Johnson

Singer-songwriter Steph Johnson quit her job at a bank in 2009 to pursue music as a full-time career. Her debut album Genesee was nominated for a 2006 San Diego Music Award, and her 2010 full-length Mysterious Feminine won Best Jazz Album at that year’s SDMAs. That album, however, was more R&B and funk, a sound she has since embraced and expanded upon. Aside from sharing the stage with headliners such as jazz bassist Stanley Clarke and Latin percussion master Poncho Sanchez, she’s been a member of various local combos featuring players like keyboardist Leo Dombecki, drummer Jesse Charno, bassist Rob Thorsen, and drummer Fernando Gomez, and her 2016 album Music is Art was produced by Kamau Kenyatta. Johnson just released a new album on all streaming platforms, So In Love. In addition to planning upcoming tour dates and other efforts to promote the album in the age of COVID-19, her involvement with the local Voices of Our City Choir has helped land the homeless advocates of that vocal ensemble in the live rounds of the TV competition America’s Got Talent, which this week advance them into the semifinals.

Roger

Citing influences such as Guided by Voices, Ween, Wilco, the Band, the Replacements, and Flaming Lips, Roger! was founded in Escondido circa 2008 by singer-guitarist Ernesto Garcia Jr. (Sour Mash Jack, Stunt Double), aka Ernie Garcia, who moved from west Texas to southern California in 2000. Their debut full-length Dark Matter was released in 2012, followed two years later by Wishing for Boredom. Whereas their debut was basically a rock and roll record, the sophomore effort displayed more of a country sound, no doubt inspired by Garcia’s Texas roots. Other releases through the years have include the EPS Circle of Willis, Try, and Ugly American, a full-length called Tomorrow is Today, and a concert album, Live in Long Beach. Another EP debuted earlier this year called Hivemind, and the band is currently is in the mixing stage of a new LP, which will be their first full-length to be pressed in a vinyl edition.

Sluka

Singer-songwriter Christopher Sluka is an FAA gold-seal-certified flight instructor, with a commercial pilot’s license and over 3000 hours of flight time, who has served as assistant chief instructor for National Air College, Montgomery Field. In 1994, Sluka bought PB’s Javanican Coffeehouse, soon opening a Mission Beach branch where he also regularly performed for years before getting out of the coffee business around 2010. His album releases have included Introversions, released in 2016 via his own Steel Flower Music label, and Colorful Radiation, released in November 2017. The latter full-length spawned a hit single, “Rise,” which he described as “my reaction to the Trump phenomena.” It reached number 17 on the Cashbox Rock Chart. Last year’s Ready to Connect album was promoted with a single for “Hey Oh” produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered by Rolling Stones producer Alan Sanderson at local Pacific Beat Recording Studio. A video for “Hey Oh” was directed and edited by Eric Bishop. Early 2020 saw the release of a new single and video for “VIP.” Sluka’s current four-piece psychedelic-goth rock band recently released a new single and video for “VIP,” as well as a politically-themed single called “Vampire’s Ball” that comes with a video featuring footage shot at recent protest gatherings around San Diego, mixed with band performance footage.

Sickstring Outlaws

“I feel it’s time to open up on my feelings regarding the Confederate flag,” says Sickstring Outlaws singer-guitarist Ron Houston. “I finally came to realize that to be an outlaw country band didn’t mean you had to embrace the confederate flag. I was born in West Monroe, Louisiana. Southern blood runs through my veins and I always felt that the Confederate flag was about heritage, not hate…when I was younger and drinking daily and totally immersed in the rebel country music scene, I bought into it. I got a tattoo of the Confederate flag on my arm, along with skulls which represented the lives lost fighting under the Confederate flag. What I have come to realize is that the Confederate flag has nothing to do with southern heritage, at least not for me. It’s not a state flag for any southern state that I know of. It was a war flag made specifically for the civil war and flown by the side that wanted to keep slavery alive and well…the Confederate flag should be in a museum as a civil war relic and be there to teach our youth about our dark past, not out in today’s society to make people feel angry or uncomfortable. I made the very heartfelt decision to have my tattoo covered up because I was wrong. It’s not part of my heritage at all. It’s not a part of who I am.”

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Alicia Previn
Alicia Previn

Singer-violinist Alicia Previn is the daughter of André Previn (the conductor of the Houston, Pittsburgh, and London Symphony Orchestras) and jazz singer Betty Bennett. She began playing the violin at age seven and was classically trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London by Virginia Majewski and Joan Rotchford-Davies. Among the local acts she’s performed with are the New Archaic, Flogging Molly, In Tua Nua, Folding Mr. Lincoln, Tim Foley, Yael & Vlady, the Rose Three, Big Boss Bubeleh, Now Jazz Quartet, the Young Dubliners, and others. Those she has recorded with include Philip D’Arrow, Andy Leek, the Hothouse Flowers, Katmandu, Finn MacCool, Ten Bright Spikes, the Bumpin’ Uglies, Cracker, Great White and Jack Russell, Richard Thompson, General Public, and the Communards. Previn has also authored several children’s books addressing the Earth’s ecological future regarding earthworms, tortoises, and bees, sometimes tying her music in with the book projects. She recently added a new page to her website called Book Music, which features each song written for her four books in the Love of Nature series. “The Earthworm Book also has my narration with page-turning sounds, other instrumentals, and a dance by David Ybarra,” says Previn.

Steph Johnson

Singer-songwriter Steph Johnson quit her job at a bank in 2009 to pursue music as a full-time career. Her debut album Genesee was nominated for a 2006 San Diego Music Award, and her 2010 full-length Mysterious Feminine won Best Jazz Album at that year’s SDMAs. That album, however, was more R&B and funk, a sound she has since embraced and expanded upon. Aside from sharing the stage with headliners such as jazz bassist Stanley Clarke and Latin percussion master Poncho Sanchez, she’s been a member of various local combos featuring players like keyboardist Leo Dombecki, drummer Jesse Charno, bassist Rob Thorsen, and drummer Fernando Gomez, and her 2016 album Music is Art was produced by Kamau Kenyatta. Johnson just released a new album on all streaming platforms, So In Love. In addition to planning upcoming tour dates and other efforts to promote the album in the age of COVID-19, her involvement with the local Voices of Our City Choir has helped land the homeless advocates of that vocal ensemble in the live rounds of the TV competition America’s Got Talent, which this week advance them into the semifinals.

Roger

Citing influences such as Guided by Voices, Ween, Wilco, the Band, the Replacements, and Flaming Lips, Roger! was founded in Escondido circa 2008 by singer-guitarist Ernesto Garcia Jr. (Sour Mash Jack, Stunt Double), aka Ernie Garcia, who moved from west Texas to southern California in 2000. Their debut full-length Dark Matter was released in 2012, followed two years later by Wishing for Boredom. Whereas their debut was basically a rock and roll record, the sophomore effort displayed more of a country sound, no doubt inspired by Garcia’s Texas roots. Other releases through the years have include the EPS Circle of Willis, Try, and Ugly American, a full-length called Tomorrow is Today, and a concert album, Live in Long Beach. Another EP debuted earlier this year called Hivemind, and the band is currently is in the mixing stage of a new LP, which will be their first full-length to be pressed in a vinyl edition.

Sluka

Singer-songwriter Christopher Sluka is an FAA gold-seal-certified flight instructor, with a commercial pilot’s license and over 3000 hours of flight time, who has served as assistant chief instructor for National Air College, Montgomery Field. In 1994, Sluka bought PB’s Javanican Coffeehouse, soon opening a Mission Beach branch where he also regularly performed for years before getting out of the coffee business around 2010. His album releases have included Introversions, released in 2016 via his own Steel Flower Music label, and Colorful Radiation, released in November 2017. The latter full-length spawned a hit single, “Rise,” which he described as “my reaction to the Trump phenomena.” It reached number 17 on the Cashbox Rock Chart. Last year’s Ready to Connect album was promoted with a single for “Hey Oh” produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered by Rolling Stones producer Alan Sanderson at local Pacific Beat Recording Studio. A video for “Hey Oh” was directed and edited by Eric Bishop. Early 2020 saw the release of a new single and video for “VIP.” Sluka’s current four-piece psychedelic-goth rock band recently released a new single and video for “VIP,” as well as a politically-themed single called “Vampire’s Ball” that comes with a video featuring footage shot at recent protest gatherings around San Diego, mixed with band performance footage.

Sickstring Outlaws

“I feel it’s time to open up on my feelings regarding the Confederate flag,” says Sickstring Outlaws singer-guitarist Ron Houston. “I finally came to realize that to be an outlaw country band didn’t mean you had to embrace the confederate flag. I was born in West Monroe, Louisiana. Southern blood runs through my veins and I always felt that the Confederate flag was about heritage, not hate…when I was younger and drinking daily and totally immersed in the rebel country music scene, I bought into it. I got a tattoo of the Confederate flag on my arm, along with skulls which represented the lives lost fighting under the Confederate flag. What I have come to realize is that the Confederate flag has nothing to do with southern heritage, at least not for me. It’s not a state flag for any southern state that I know of. It was a war flag made specifically for the civil war and flown by the side that wanted to keep slavery alive and well…the Confederate flag should be in a museum as a civil war relic and be there to teach our youth about our dark past, not out in today’s society to make people feel angry or uncomfortable. I made the very heartfelt decision to have my tattoo covered up because I was wrong. It’s not part of my heritage at all. It’s not a part of who I am.”

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