JD Souther. Photo: Michael Withoite
JD Souther. Photo: Michael Withoite

By Rachael Mattice

Country rock songwriter and pioneer JD Souther prefers to perform in intimate venues like the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano where he can capture an audience’s undivided attention free of typical distractions and transport the concert goer to a time when his music was personal to them.

“As a performer, you have to make it a magical evening thinking of the guest who is coming in from dealing with technological buzz, traffic and the problems of the world to a quiet space with someone who is fully committing themselves to those two and a half hours of performance and lets the audience into their stories,” Souther said.

An architect in the early 1970s “Southern California Rock” movement alongside the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt and Glenn Frey, Souther composed music for almost all of former musicians and dozens more. Most notably is his compositions for Eagles’ famous hits “Victim of Love,” “Heartache Tonight” and “New Kid in Town,” but his solo efforts fuse more jazz, country, pop and folk. Fans of Souther’s songwriting efforts as well as his personal discography, including his latest album “Tenderness,” will be able to witness his “cinematic” audio stories on Sunday, Aug. 6.

“{Tenderness} is basically an entire soundtrack to a movie I would want to make,” Souther said. “The last song is a bit of an epilogue actually written in 1972 and serves as a descriptor and attribution to Linda (Ronstadt) and the people who believed in me early on and saw something in me that I was struggling to be.”

A Detroit-born, Amarillo-raised, multi-instrumentalist trained in classical music, big band and opera, Souther hadn’t discovered country music and songwriting until he had relocated to the Hollywood Hills area and met his tightly woven friend group, Rondstadt included.

“I think I’ve finally embraced what has been called as the “Southern California sound” because it’s what we were all playing,” Souther said. “It was a half dozen of us all playing acoustic guitars with a fresh attitude toward making songs that had some country roots, but were more sophisticated harmonically and lyrically. All of us were transplants from somewhere else, but the {Laurel Canyon area} happened to be the collection point for us in 69’ through 72’. A particular type of music came out of that. I loved learning about country music; it was a thrilling experience. It was like being a kid again learning about jazz.”

Kid or seasoned adult, producing the same content—whether it be music, poetry or some other form of creative medium—can be taxing on a musician, and one sometimes has to “jab yourself in the foot if you haven’t felt inspiration in a while to produce something new.”

“If I live to be 100, I’ll still be a student,” Souther said. “I just know sometimes that the writing is better than other times. As my dear friend Jim Harrison said, ‘a writer writes. Before you write you must first find a pen that says what you want it to say.’ I think a lot of our early learning years in music is about finding the tool that best expresses what you feel. It goes on forever.”

Doors open at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 6 and the show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $32.50. To learn more about JD Souther, buy “Tenderness” or any of his other albums in his discography, visit his website at www.jdsouther.net. For tickets or more information, visit www.thecoachhouse.com.

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