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Darrin Wayne steps to the plate at Rising Stars

Darrin Wayne's earliest memory of songwriting dates back to before he was an elementary-school student.

"I was watching Michael Jackson with The Jackson 5 on 'American Bandstand,' and a song popped into my head," he says. "I had to ask my older sister to write it down for me. I've always got music in my head. The songs are not really my life stories. They just come to me."

Wayne started writing his songs down on paper when he was 17 or 18, he says. A self-taught guitar player, he began playing music for his lyrics as soon as he learned the five basic chords.

Wayne will be one of the contestants at the second semifinal of the 2015 Rising Stars music competition to be held Saturday, March 7, at Redmen Hall, 110 S. Third St., Jacksonville. As a soloist, he'll challenge vaudevillian-style folk group Intuitive Compass and singer Danielle Kelly and her Soul Project — with guitarist Paul Turnipseed, bassist Richard Meyer and drummer Matthew Kriemelman.

Rising Stars semifinals will be held at 5 p.m. Saturdays through March 21, with the final round presented indoors March 28 at the Britt Pavilion, 350 First St. Tickets to the semifinals cost $10 and can be purchased at South Stage Cellars in Jacksonville, Music Coop in Ashland or by calling 541-899-9120. Tickets cost $12 for the final round at Britt and can be purchased at Britt's box office, 216 W. Main St., Medford, at South Stage Cellars, or by calling 541-773-6077 or 541-899-9120.

A panel of judges will select winners of each semifinal, though audience members can purchase $5 votes for their favorite musician or group. Audience members can purchase votes to select Rising Stars' 2015 winner at the final round. 

Proceeds from 2015 Rising Stars will benefit LifeArt, a nonprofit program that offers local teens creative outlets for expression and an alternative to gangs, substance abuse, depression and suicide. An exhibit of the art created by such teens will be displayed at Redmen Hall during the semifinals.

At 51, Wayne says he's forgotten more songs than he's written. 

"I carry a recording device with me," he says. "I have so much material that I could go back to, but I keep getting new ideas. Right now I'm working on songs for a new CD."

Wayne's first two CDs were recorded with engineer Bob Pagano at Mountain View Productions in Grants Pass.

"I went into his studio to record one song," he says. "Pagano put a band of studio musicians behind me, and we recorded my first album, 'Touch Ya,' in 2006."

The lineup of musicians included keyboard player Andy Pinentel, lead and rhythm guitar player Chris Brubick, bassist Dennis Egli and drummer Mark Stever. Pagano also engineered Wayne's 2012 album, "Day Job," with the same lineup, along with fiddler Dan Doshier, steel guitarist Jerry Truppa and backup vocalists Janeen McGinnis and Lenea Patterson.

"Pagano played lead guitar on a couple of the songs from 'Day Job,' " Wayne says.

Wayne plays his music on an "old, beat-up six-string guitar," he says. "My music is like outlaw country. It's not like pop country or old-time country, and I don't really follow the rules of songwriting. I've always tried to write rock 'n' roll, but it always comes out country. Maybe I need to buy myself an electric guitar and get a band."

Not keen on music contests per se, Wayne says his Rising Stars performance is for LifeArt.

"It's a phenomenal program. I discovered it a couple of weeks ago when a friend of my son's chose to end his life," he says. "I'm trying hard to promote the program."

Learn more at www.suicidepreventionjacksoncounty.com/lifeart.

Darrin Wayne, Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell