In tune with Southern Oregon Songwriters
Musicians have no limits when it comes to interests in musical styles, but those with Southern Oregon Songwriters Association are like-minded in their pursuits of crafting good songs. Two SOSA songwriters, Kid Valance and Patrick Tovatt, along with bands Hired Gun and Soul Reflections, will showcase their original material from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, on the outdoor Wheeler Stage at the Talent Community Center, 260 Main St., Talent. The show is part of SOSA's annual summer concert series.
Valance and Tovatt have been across the nation and back: Valance as a lead singer for rock and R&B bands, and Tovatt as a playwright and actor.
"I've always valued adventure more than security," says Valance. "I've always been able to sing and found that I was a natural frontman."
He headed to Southern California and joined the band Rockslide, a group inspired by The Rolling Stones, in 1980. Later, he connected with Delta blues musicians based in Cincinnati and founded an R&B group, The Roosters.
"Near the '90s, I began writing my own songs, and the old band wasn't a good fit," says Valance. "I started a new group, Mongrel Soup, and started playing original music."
The group recorded an album called "Her Perfect Soul" in 1998. It picked up good reviews but no major distribution. Valance began touring solo and selling the CD out of his car.
"That was pretty much it for Mongrel Soup," he says.
Tovatt learned to play guitar while attending college during the United States' folk revival — "when anyone with a little moxie and five or six chords could hold his own in the coffeehouses of the era." Then his guitar was shelved as he began a long career in professional theater.
"I was a member of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco in 1967," says Tovatt. "We opened in the old Geary Theatre and the smaller Marines Memorial Theater."
Moving to New York City, Tovatt worked as an actor and director on NBC and CBS soaps. Around 2000, he played roles in Michael Frayn's Tony-winning "Copenhagen" and David Auburn's Pulitzer- and Tony-winning "Proof."
In 2005, Tovatt retired from the stage, moved to Oregon and reclaimed his guitar from under the bed.
"I'd written plays and books for musicals but never wrote a single song," says Tovatt. He began attending SOSA's song-sharing workshops about nine months ago.
Valance was in New England when some old friends asked him to help them move to Oregon.
"I fell in love with it here," says Valance. "I decided I'd do what it takes to stay. It's tough to get paying gigs, but I'd play at open mics at local bars. That's how I heard about SOSA."
Valance says his biggest inspirations have been Chuck Berry and Hank Williams.
"They took their guitars and told stories," says Valance. "I've got a lot of things I want to say. My style is basic, roots rock, but I put a lot of care into my lyrics. Someone called it melancholy. I get good feedback at the jams. The people there really listen."
Tovatt's acoustic, folk style is topical, and the first songs he wrote were political in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs. He also writes more personal songs. His CD, "Plain & Nothing Fancy," is straightforward: just him and his guitar. His second CD, "Lost & Found," is in the works.
"SOSA is a diverse and interesting group of people," says Tovatt. "There's a wild range of ages, interests and backgrounds."
Tovatt says he wants his songs to have a certain amount of wit and a little bounce.
"It's good to hear if the ideas are clear and funny," he says. "Not just tiresome and doctrinaire. It's all been positive."
SOSA holds its song-sharing workshops from 2 to 4 p.m. the second Sunday of every month at the Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave. Open-mic sessions are every third Saturday at the Talent Community Center. Sign-ups are at 6 p.m.; music is from 7 to 10 p.m. The workshops and open-mic sessions are open to anyone.
SOSA membership costs $25 annually and, along with the summer concert series, offers musicians opportunities to videotape shows for Channel 9 at Ashland's RVTV studio. Admission to SOSA's Saturday concert is free.