Photograph by Jesse Sutton Photography
Indie electronic pop-rock singer-guitarist Heather Nation was already writing songs for bands while still a teenager, with her first recording studio session taking place while still in high school. She’s a founding member of synth-pop band Belladon, who were nominated Best New Artist at the San Diego Music Awards. She’s also been known to play with prog-leaning groove rockers Meadow, formed in 2017 with Jon Hasz (of Aja Alycean’s band), Erdis Maxhelaku (from Gayle Skidmore’s group), and Josh Frontiero. Her new solo single “Selene” drops December 11, with a pre-recorded live performance video debuting the same day on the website for Solana Beach music media group Halfway Home. The single was recorded and co-produced by Trevor LeVieux, and mixed and mastered by Mike Butler, whose credits include Ray LaMontagne, the Shins, the Pretenders, and Norah Jones. Nation also teaches classes in guitar, vocals, and songwriting, and she’s been one of the few local musicians to maintain somewhat of a gig schedule through the pandemic. She’s currently performing on Thursday evenings through December at Nick and G’s in Rancho Santa Fe, including a New Year’s Eve show.
Ravi Shankar was considered the master of the sitar, a 19-stringed instrument made of gourd and teak. Having performed at the Monterey Pop Festival (1967), Woodstock (1969), and the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh with former Beatle and sitar pupil George Harrison, Shankar and his family moved to Encinitas in the early 1990s, though they also maintained a residence in India. His daughter Anoushka grew up in San Diego; and the 1999 honor graduate of San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas who also plays the sitar. Her 2012 full-length Traveller, which fuses Spanish flamenco with Indian classical music, was nominated for a 2013 Grammy Award as Best World Music Album (as was her late father Ravi Shankar’s album The Living Rooms Sessions, Part 1). She earned another Grammy nomination in the same category the following year with her seventh album Traces Of You, which featured her half-sister Norah Jones on several songs, as well as in a video for the title track directed by Shankar’s husband, filmmaker Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina). In her seventh Grammy nod, the British-Indian sitar player and composer has been nominated for Best Global Music Album for her newest full-length Love Letters.
Post-hardcore band Secrets released their debut full length The Ascent in 2012. Produced by Tom Denney, formerly of A Day to Remember, it debuted at number three on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart and became the first Velocity Records release to appear on the Billboard Top 200. After their vocalist quit in 2013, their sophomore release Fragile Figures showcased new singer Aaron Melzer, formerly of local group Author & Finisher. However, Melzer left Secrets in 2015, announcing that “the touring lifestyle is no longer for me. I have different goals for my life now...This was a decision I made to better my life. I wasn’t happy so I made the decision to change it.” According to a band statement released November 24, “Today we lost our brother, our friend, and our family with the passing of Aaron Melzer. Aaron’s passing came much too soon in his life and in ours. Words cannot express how devastating and painful this is for all of us to hear and believe. We will miss Aaron every day. Every day we will remember his presence, his laughter, the joy he could bring to a room, the light he brought with him to the stage, his smiles, his heart, and every memory we were able to share with him. For now we ask that you please respect the privacy of the family and loved ones as we take this time to reflect and grieve.”
The Naked I
Back in 2010, three members of The Naked I were already stirring up trouble with a garage band that played so loud, cops were called to shut them down. That event was recently recalled by the band with an online photo post showing the cop who responded that night, posing with the young band and holding two thumbs-up. “He loved our music and was happy to take a picture to commemorate the milestone…[this is] the ten year anniversary of the first time we ever got the cops called on us for rocking too hard.” Founded in 2013, the Naked I released their Chance Encounters EP three years later and have become regulars on local stages such as Lestat’s, Tin Roof, the Holding Company, House of Blues, Tio Leo’s, and the Gator by the Bay music festival. Their second EP drops in mid-December, with a livestreamed EP release party planned for January. A music video is streaming online for their recent track “Further From Freedom,” a Jailhouse Rock-inspired production featuring the band dressed as prisoners and performing on a set adorned with little more than prison bars, bunks, and a toilet.
Bluesman Billy Watson is often accompanied by the International Silver String Submarine Band, an improvisational, all-star rotating cast of musicians, hand-picked from the California music scene. Since all members also work with their own bands, the lineup changes often, with both established local players and new musicians joining in. In addition to hosting open mic blues nights and recording albums with his own bands, his songs appear on a number of compilations, including a United by Music blues collection, That Ain’t It, which also features local star players such as Jonny Viau, Laura Chavez, Sue Palmer, Paul Fasulo, Harm Van Sleen, and others. Watson has also held long-running residencies at various local venues. On December 26, Old Town Blues Club in Temecula will host The Return of Billy Watson and his International Silver String Submarine Band Post Christmas Extravaganza. All distance safety precautions will be observed for the event, which takes place in an outdoor performance area.