No twang in paradise

Though he loves our Mexican food, Bastard Son Mark Stuart says it wasn’t enough to keep him here.
  • Though he loves our Mexican food, Bastard Son Mark Stuart says it wasn’t enough to keep him here.

Americana singer/songwriter Mark Stuart has ricocheted between Austin and San Diego. The homegrown founder of Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash first relocated to Texas eight years ago.

“Everything except the music scene is wonderful in San Diego,” Stuart tells the Reader. He was based in town when he formed BSOJC and got a personal stamp of approval from Cash himself. But, Stuart says, it’s hard to twang in paradise.

“You have a limited opportunity to play and grow your career in San Diego,” says Stuart, who moved to Austin, where “there’s more opportunity to advance your career and make money as a musician.”

Then, in 2010, Stuart’s bride-to-be talked him into moving back to San Diego. “She fell in love with the place and wanted to move here. I thought I’d give San Diego one more try.”

But two years ago it was back to Austin. “We had a newborn, and her family was in Austin.” And Austin seems to have a welcome mat for career musicians. “There is a community of people [in Austin] who are serious about the music business. It’s like Nashville but without the goofiness.”

Stuart says that networking has helped him get his original BSOJC tunes placed on soundtracks for HBO’s True Blood and FX’s Justified. And, he says, those Austin connections helped him get booked on major music festivals this year, including Riverhawk (Florida), Zion Canyon (Utah), Woodtick (Michigan), and American River (Sacramento).

“San Diego will always have the best Mexican food of any city, but it wasn’t quite the impetus to stay.”

Stuart tells the Reader that musician support in Austin runs from radio station airplay to live venues. “And they have something called HAMM. You get free health care in Austin if you are a working musician. You can buy a house there for about a third of what it costs in San Diego.”

Past Event

Nancarrow, Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

  • Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 8 p.m.
  • Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
  • 21+ / $10 - $18
Past Event

Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

  • Friday, December 19, 2014, 8 p.m.
  • Cheers, 2475 Main Street, Ramona

Stuart says it “just so happens” that the sixth BSOJC record, New Old Story, was recorded and released by San Diego–based Randm Records. He says he was first drawn to Randm by their offer to record one free demo, but decided to stay with the label “because we really hit it off. They really understand the music.”

Stuart followed Rosie Flores, Dave Gonzalez (Paladins), and Cella Blue (West Coast Pinups) out of San Diego to Austin. “I guess Nancarrow are the country torchbearers now. If the Beat Farmers were still around they probably would have taken it to Austin at some point.”

Stuart’s back in town to play the Belly Up on Wednesday, December 17, and then Cheers in Ramona on Friday, December 19. “We come back once or twice or year. I have my Austin Bastards, and these supporting musicians are my regular San Diego Bastards.”

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