Though many locals take it for granted, San Diego’s vibrant music scene continues to draw international media attention. As the global media profile increases, so too does the amount of musical transplants from around the world, making the local music community an amazing melting pot of sounds. Of course, some artists find their ways to San Diego, at least initially, for reasons other than music. Such is the case with Scottish singer-songwriter Colin Clyne, who arrived in San Diego on July 4, 2003.
“I was inspired to come to San Diego by a girl, who is now my wife,” Clyne explained. Though the timing of his arrival proved symbolic, it was also accidental. “I was meant to arrive the day before but my connecting flight from Chicago got canceled, so I basically stepped straight from the plane onto the beach for the 4th of July,” he said. Clyne now spends half a year in La Jolla, with the balance working as for an offshore company. The set up allows him time to concentrate on his music. “I work approximately four months a year, surveying the seabed around the world; the rest of the time is spent either touring back home in the U.K. or enjoying the weather, losing golf balls, and promoting my music here in North America.”
Clyne has toured extensively over the past six months, including shows in Scotland, England, Canada, and the Western U.S. In June he debuted a new project, Celtic Crossroads, with a concert at Sunshine Brooks Theatre in Oceanside. Done revue style, the event partners were fiddler Patric Petrie and multi-instrumentalist David Lally. The trio performed separately and together, with Clyne backed by his band as well. In addition, they were joined by Irish dancers and special guests.
Now known for his singing and guitar playing, Clyne’s first instrument was the tuba, though not by choice. “I prefer the guitar as a main instrument because it’s easy to carry with me on my travels,” he said. “However, the first instrument I played, albeit briefly, was the tuba. I was summoned in front of the class by my music teacher, due to messing about while he was showing us the instrument,” Clyne recalled. “He insisted I play the tuba in front of the whole class to teach me a lesson, having never laid my hands on one before. When I managed to get a tune out of it he sternly told me I had to remain behind after class. That’s when he asked me to consider doing lessons so I could join the orchestra.” Not long afterward, soccer, girls, and general childhood misadventures got in the way of practice and the tuba was soon forgotten. His interest in music piqued, Clyne soon turned to the guitar. Unfortunately, it would be some time before he could begin playing in earnest.
“Initially, I first picked up the guitar at 16,” he remembered. “Unfortunately, I had an accident with my hand and therefore didn’t touch one for another seven years.” The time away from the instrument only strengthened his resolve to play. “It’s hard to explain but I just kept obsessing about the guitar and finally I got one. I immediately started writing songs.” He notes that he had had some preparation for life as a musician. “I had always written poetry and I was in the school choir as well as the orchestra both very briefly. My attention span was a bit wild as a youngster.” Although the influence isn’t immediately obvious, he cites the Oasis record, “What’s the Story Morning Glory,” as his inspiration to learn the guitar, although he “only recently started to even consider learning covers.”
He’s released two albums to date, Songs from the Cold Store (2006) and Doricana (2010). The songs on Doricana, are a blend of Clyne’s Scottish influences and love of Southern California’s music. Recorded and produced over the course of several years and locations by Grammy award-winning producer Alan Sanderson, best known for his work with the Rolling Stones and Burt Bacharach. “Capturing the live performance was crucial,” Sanderson said. “Trying to create a new sound from California with the Doric sound from the Northeast of Scotland was a fun and interesting challenge.” The bulk of the album was laid down at local studio, Signature Sound, with guests including Dennis Caplinger (Johnny Cash) and Matt Hensley (Flogging Molly), though it was finished elsewhere. “We had mixed a few tracks in London last August and wanted that analog sound we captured there. San Diego, being somewhat limited in pro recording environs compared to London, didn’t seem the place to mix, so we decided upon the famous Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco. It was very inspiring to work there, a lot of history and the sound was incredible. Great studios only inspire great performances and sound.”
Visitors to Hensley’s Flying Elephant Pub & Grill in Carlsbad are directed to look at the wall behind the soundman’s booth, where Matt Hensley’s fee to play on Clyne’s album is proudly displayed: a football scarf.
While seen as a confident artist today, with a slew of tour dates and a pair of albums behind him, unusually, he didn’t get his music career under way until his relocation to San Diego, at the age of 30. He’s thrilled by what he’s found here. “Just before I came here I’d been playing with a band in Scotland. We played one show, but a guy in the band and I wrote some songs. That all kind of started just before I came here. But this is where things really began,” Clyne remarked. “When I came over here my expectation was to just play the guitar, keep learning, and write music. I was hoping I could meet somebody here [whom] I could maybe just jam with and maybe write a couple of songs with. I didn’t expect things to go the way they went.”
He’s almost incredulous at where his music has now taken him. “I first picked up the guitar to give me something to do when I stopped playing soccer,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to be two albums down and working on a DVD, with several tours behind me. It’s a bit surreal to me,” Clyne commented. Now working with major producers and award-winning musicians, he considers his move to San Diego to have been a good one. “Although my heart and my sound obviously comes from where I come from, if I’d stayed in Scotland, maybe none of this would have happened,” he said. “I think [San Diego] is a very welcoming and safe environment. People really appreciate artistic types here. As a guy who got a late start, I had a pretty steep learning curve, because I wasn’t that young. But this is a very welcoming community, with lots of venues, lots of places to play. It was a great thing for me. It allowed me to develop and work on my craft.”
It’s hoped that Celtic Crossroads will be a touring show, but Clyne intends to continue with his own road trips, with another tour of the northwestern states and festival dates in Scotland this summer. He’s also begun to work on songs for his next album, with a DVD/documentary in the works from film maker Craig Rian.
In the meantime, Clyne is clear on what he enjoys most about being a musician. “It’s striving toward writing the greatest song that’s within me. And, getting to drink beer while you work,” he joked. www.colinclyne.com