Front Porch

Nisha Catron: Songs in the Key of Truth, Part 2

Raising a ruckus with CalAmity, the all-girl band, with Cathryn Beeks, Catherine Barnes, Julia Whelpton, Nisha Catron, Sierra West. Photo by Cathryn Beeks.

Raising a ruckus with CalAmity, the all-girl band, with Cathryn Beeks, Catherine Barnes, Julia Whelpton, Nisha Catron, Sierra West. Photo by Cathryn Beeks.

Nisha with her husband, Sylvester Bowen. Photo by Cathryn Beeks.

Nisha with her husband, Sylvester Bowen. Photo by Cathryn Beeks.

Once Nisha’s obligations to the Navy were fulfilled, she pursued the arts and became enrolled as a full-time student at San Diego State University, where she studied musical theatre. While there, she composed the background music for the play “Frontiers,” a period piece set in the 1800s. The story dealt with the challenges of women traveling through the open frontiers as they made their way out West. Nisha served as the play’s narrator and central figure head, tackling the role of an old oak tree, which officiated as the eyes of the community, while observing everything that went on as the women folk bravely crossed the wild frontier.

In 1987, after wrapping up her studies in theater, Nisha headed north to Hollywood to pursue acting and attend the Musicians Institute, an academy that prepares its graduates for a career in the music industry. The rock ‘n’ roll beast in her absolutely loved rockin’ the Sunset Strip, where she played a host of gigs at such renowned venues as the Whiskey, the Viper Room, and the Troubadour. Her music savvy and good looks definitely turned heads as she caught the attention of the press; she was featured in the August, 1988 edition of Newsweek magazine in an article titled “Making It in Metal Mecca.”

Even though she had established herself as a singer, Nisha never surrendered her dream of making it in show business as an actress. She was eventually cast to play the part of a waitress in Witchcraft IV: The Virgin Heart. For the film, she composed and sang the theme song, “Forbidden Fruit,” which was lip-synched by the movie’s leading lady and 1993 Penthouse Pet of the Year, Julie Strain. Nisha informed me that Witchcraft IV is still a cult favorite with legions of fans around the world.

In 1988, Nisha met Tane McClure, who would, later on, become a great friend. The daughter of the late actor Doug McClure (“The Virginian”), Tane is an accomplished actress, filmmaker, and director, who was responsible for bringing Nisha’s vision quest to fruition with the creation of her first music video for “Angels Come to Take You Home.” Nisha composed the song as a tribute to her beloved mother, Gloria, who had passed away in 2006, and who was also the point of inspiration of several other ballads written by Nisha.

Nisha explained her connection and their professional collaboration as band mates, with the Emmy-nominated director, who had also composed three songs for the soundtrack of the 1984 blockbuster film, The Terminator.

“I met my friend, Tane while attending Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Stevie Wonder’s management put together a group of women, with three lead singers, to include Tane and myself. A short time later, after multiple, artistic differences, our band fizzled out, but we remained friends. Tane was kind enough to help me with my first music video for “Angels Come to Take You Home,” a song written for my mother. I am forever grateful. We filmed it near Malibu in 2012, on the old, wooden western swing in her backyard. It was kismet.”

The kindred spirits of Nisha and Tane paired them as artistic collaborators; subsequently, they became confidantes along the way. They knew all too well the pain of losing someone very precious to them, as both had lost a parent. This common bond led them to connect on a very personal, more intimate soul level. Then, something quite extraordinary happened, as they worked on the video for “Angels Come to Take You Home.”

“Tane and I had conversations about her dad’s and my mother’s passing. I mentioned to her that butterflies were a message from my mom and about the occurrence of a butterfly phenomenon going on since her passing. It was during the filming of “Angels Come to Take You Home” that something quite mysterious and spectacular happened, when Tane suddenly said, ‘Don’t move, don’t move!’ Through the lens of her camera she could see that my shadow had formed into a perfect butterfly wing against the giant rock. Afterward, when we reviewed the footage, we both saw the image and were stunned!” exclaimed Nisha.

Nisha and Tane continued to work together, and in 2013, they filmed the video for “Keep Me Warm,” at Southland Farms in Agoura Hills, California, which featured Nisha standing atop the side of a very steep cliff as she played guitar. The song is featured on the 2012 album, Further South, one of the singer’s best-ever releases ,which showcases the proficient, at-the-control talents of producer Sven-Erik Seaholm and local stalwart/guitar maverick Peter Bolland. A triumphant, musical tour de force in every sense of the word, Further South was the journey Nisha took to find herself, emotionally and spiritually, to ultimately share those intimate discoveries about who and what she is all about. As this article went to press, it must be noted that Nisha and Tane are planning another video shoot sometime later on this year.

Somewhere along the way, Nisha teamed up with Sylvester Bowen to form Darlin’ and Rose, whose music is described as “Neo-traditional country, honky tonk, with a touch of the Blues.” Sylvester, who is co-owner of Freedom Guitars, along with his brother Dewey, had grown up surrounded by music, just as Nisha had.

With their no-nonsense approach to the whiskey-soaked ballads and “true-to-life cowboy ethos” that has become the signature sound of their music, Darlin’ and Rose are a perennial favorite amongst their fans, here and around the world. They recorded their eponymous debut in 2001, and a year later, the group released Tomorrow, Yesterday, which garnered them critical acclaim. Subsequently, their song, “Honky Tonk Eyes,” made it all the way to Number One on the World-Independent charts. Aside from recording and making beautiful harmonies together, Nisha and Sylvester fell in love and were married in 2013.

Nisha proved that her affinity for neo-traditional country/Americana could also support her artistry to go beyond the fray and, in the interim, she ended up with a body of work that rivaled any of Madonna’s strongest musical endeavors. In 2002, she released Step into My World, successfully coalescing the finer, aural nuances of electronica, pop, and modern rock and did so without overstepping the boundaries of predictable cliché. The album featured the electrifying title track, “Step into My World,” which won Nisha the January, 2005 round in VH-1’s “Song of the Year” competition.

In 2013, Nisha hopped aboard the pop/electronica/Americana bullet train and recorded one of the most deliciously ambitious albums of her illustrious career. Along with musical comrades Brooke Mackintosh and Sven-Erik Seaholm, they formed STLA, which combined their musical acumen to provide listeners with one, fantastic amalgamation of ambience and sound. The end result more than demonstrated that these artists were not only musically compatible as a trio, but that they, as a collective, were more than willing to step outside of their comfort zone to willingly experiment with other genres of music. There’s something to be said about any Americana artist, namely Sven-Erik, who jumped at the opportunity to put his guitar away long enough to stand behind a microphone and rap. For any of you who are the least bit skeptical about what you just read, well, take a listen to the rousing, get-off-your-butt mover-and-shaker “Dance Your Way Out,” and you will definitely hear what this writer’s talkin’ about.

Nisha looked back on the erstwhile collaboration that gave the world STLA, even if only for a short, sweet season. “Brooke, Sven-Erik and I all got together to write some cool songs with keyboards, acoustic instruments, harmonies and beats. After drinking a lot of Stella Artois, I would get behind the mic and let the words and melodies flow. Surprisingly, several of the songs on the album were written in one take!”

In 2013, Nisha was approached by Cathryn Beeks (, who had extended the invitation to her to join a new band she had put together. Recognized throughout the local community and well beyond it as one of its strongest allies and supporters, Cathryn plays host as the “den mother” of most every burgeoning musician in San Diego, helping them to secure shows at established venues and major music events in the city. This sounded like an offer that Nisha simply could not refuse and, so, she obliged.

“My dear friend, Cathryn, invited me to join an ensemble of talented front women, who are singer/songwriters and multi-instrumentalists. We all got together, rehearsed a couple of each other’s songs, harmonized, and it felt and sounded wonderful,” she said, reflecting back on the moment she became an official part of CalAmity.

CalAmity is a rollicking, all-girl powered band, whose music is best described as “pop with a country twang.” Nisha likes to think of them as a “female version of the Monkees or even the Beatles, when they were filming the movie Help, upping the ante with a triple dose of hi-jinks.” Its members are Cathryn Beeks (singer, writer, ukulele), Sierra West (guitarist), Julia Whelpton (bassist), Catherine Barnes (drummer), and Nisha, who also sings, plays guitar and, when the opportunity calls for it, the accordion. They all contribute to the songwriting process, which gives the creative output a much more balanced and well-rounded inclusion of each woman’s unique, sassy personality. They are an entertaining bunch, fun enough to not be taken too seriously, but with their combination of talent and deft instrumental skills, CalAmity brings the right stuff to each and every single performance. The band has graced the stages at music festivals throughout San Diego, including Art Around Adams and Indie Fest, while bringing their spunk-and-grit to any number of bars and venues around town.

Currently, CalAmity is working on a couple of recordings which will, more than likely, culminate in the release of future music videos. Of note, CalAmity was also nominated for Best Pop Band in 2015, at the San Diego Music Awards.

As the afternoon was quickly drawing to an end, Nisha and I both found our bellies and spirits sated by our delicious meal and the more than two-and-a-half hours-long discussion about her incredible life and music career. When I asked her what her advice would be for any aspiring musician determined to make it in today’s market, her response was this:

“Learn to play a musical instrument if you want to learn how to write songs. Do music for the love of it. Work very hard if you want to become a musician. Network, make connections. Be persistent. Never give up, because it’s going to be one, long journey. But, in the end, it will all have been worth it,” she mused.

Then, Nisha looked at me with that beautiful, pensive, sea blue-green gaze of hers, the stare overflowing with emotion and gratitude. At that very moment, it truly seemed that the realization of all that she had just shared with me was a revelation unveiled of a life well lived and fully embraced, while still allowing herself to dream freely and watch as those splendid fantasies took flight. That, my friends, is the gift she had ultimately given herself…songs in the key of truth.

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  • October 2016

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