TJ WEST

The California Roots Union

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The California Roots Union

Two California musicians are trying to bring the state back to its’ roots

By Kim Grant

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David Serby

David Serby and Grant Langston have been longstanding fixtures on the Los Angeles roots music scene. As singers, songwriters and players they both have been known to move between honky-tonk and Americana music with a few things in between. Langston plays with his band The Supermodels and has taken his Bakersfield sound all over the US and Europe. Serby has had many band incarnations (his current is David Serby and the Latest Scam) yet has collaborated with well-known session guitarist Ed Tree, for every project. The two recently teamed up with long-time roots music-booker Robin Young to create The California Roots Union. The California Roots Union Mission Statement reads that they are “Dedicated to preserving and promoting the California roots music scene, upholding its long legacy and fostering new talent.” TJ West got the story from David Serby.

TJW: What made you want to begin a union for this purpose and how did it actually happen?

DS: First, the word “union.” We’re not talking about a union in the strict labor organizing sense of the word. It’s really about creating a sense of unity among musicians, promoters, bookers, publicists, club owners, and fans around the idea of west coast country and roots music.

California has such a rich tradition of country and roots music – Rose Maddox and the Maddox Brothers; Gene Autry; Spade Cooley; the Bakersfield giants, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Wynn Stewart; The Byrds; Gram Parsons; Linda Ronstadt, Rank and File; The Blasters; Dave Alvin; X; The Knitters; Lone Justice, Los Lobos – (we could go on) – yet when people think about country music we think they think about Nashville, TN and Austin, TX.

We believe Los Angeles is equal to those towns and that it should be a place to which independent and adventurous country and roots musicians move, not a place they leave. We have a lot of friends working very hard on trying to stop that from happening and we wanted to do our part by starting The California Roots Union.

The idea came out of some conversations we were having late last year about our individual plans for 2014. I went to Santa Fe, NM over Christmas. I was at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum watching a documentary on O’Keefe’s life and I was really inspired by her love for New Mexico and how making it her home informed her art. I was so moved I started to tear up, no joke, because that’s exactly how I feel about California.

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Grant Langston

I shot Grant a text from Santa Fe and basically said, “We need to talk when I get back.” Grant’s immediate response was, “If you tell me you’re moving to Austin I’m going to punch you in the face.”

That says something.

We started meeting once or twice a week on it, then pulled in Robin Young, someone we love who used to book the Press in Claremont (and House of Blues Anaheim) and together we came up with the concept for The California Roots Union.

TJW: Are there dues? How does someone become in involved?

DS: There are no dues, but three of the musicians who we’ve talked to about The California Roots Union offered to start paying them immediately.

The only dues is the cover charge fans pay for the bands at shows we produce; the California Roots Union merch fans buy to show that they support the mission and are part of building a sustainable roots music community in California; and all the great music they buy from the artists making records around town. We think people should get something for their money, time, and talent.

We also want people to become involved by following us on social media and telling their friends about us.

TJW: Do you think it will be hard to balance musicianship and taking an active role in the music community?

DS: We expect it to be a big challenge. For years, we’ve watched our friends work their tails off producing and promoting shows in this town, so we know it’s not easy. Luckily, Robin Young has that skill set, as well as the drive, determination and passion it takes to start up something like The California Roots Union.

TJW: What are the steps you will take to get the word out there for The California Roots Union?

DS: We started by creating a Mission Statement and a Logo that concisely defines our goals. We’ve put up a Facebook page, a Tumblr Page and a Twitter feed (Please friend/follow us!), and we plan to add a YouTube Channel, an Instagram feed and ultimately a website.

We’re going to use them all to promote California Country and Roots music and shows, whether it/they were produced by us or not. We hope that everyone else will do the same.

We’re also starting up a show, the third Saturday of every month at T. Boyle’s Tavern in Pasadena. The first show is on March 22 and the line-up is I See Hawks in L.A., Rick Shea and They Losin’ End as well as David Serby and The Latest Scam. We think that’s a great line-up and we’re giving it away free as a gift to everybody who comes out to support the acts and the California Roots Union. Subsequent shows will have a cover charge. The April show is Brian Whelan and Jimmer Podrasky from The Rave-Ups.

We’ll have California Roots Union t-shirts at the show, we’re making up a series of collectable California Roots Union Presents show prints and we’re going to have some great giveaways at every show. We’ve got some surprises planned, that’s for sure.

TJW: Will this include all of California, or are you sticking to So-Cal?

DS: We want to include all of California. We’ve already reached out to some folks in Northern California and down in San Diego. We put So-Cal on the logo because we would love it if eventually there were “chapters’ in the Bay Area and down in San Diego. It’s one of our goals to unite the state and get everybody moving up and down the coast more often, playing with and for each other.

TJW: How do you plan to foster new talent?

DS: This is a big goal. We want to make sure new talent sees California as a place not only to start a career but also to grow a career.

It’s no good if people like Rod Melancon or The Far West (who we all love) feel like they have to move to Texas or Austin if they want to keep making music.

We think that means creating new places for them to play (something we’re trying to do at T. Boyle’s and that we hope to do in other parts of Southern California as well); promoting their music and shows to people who don’t normally come out to shows because they don’t know about them or because they love mainstream country music but have never heard of the independent roots scene in Los Angeles; helping to connect new talent with artists, bookers, and clubs in other parts of the state.

We’ve got a lot of ideas that we’ll be working on in the next year.

Support The California Roots Union online at Facebook, tumblr and Twitter.

 

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Kim Grant is a music publicist and Americana music enthusiast who created the Los Angeles live show, The Grand Ole Echo. You can find her at www.kgmusicpress.com

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TJ Admin

Turnstyled, Junpiled named after the Townes Vazandt - shakes up the the roots commuinty with Texas pride, and gonzo journalism meets outlaw country approach. We are also a proud Ameripolitan Supporter.
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