Like the ebb and flow of the tide, singer/songwriter Nathan Dennen keeps getting pulled back to Santa Cruz. In what he says feels like a past life, Dennen split his time between his home in Oakdale, and his grandfather’s house in Rio del Mar. Today, he lives in San Francisco, where he’s been inspired by “groovy music, with a lot more soul.” In the city, Dennen has created what he calls, a “little niche of music that I was really inspired to recreate and expand upon—taking old-timey music and giving it a modern flair.” To produce the ragtime saloon sound on his self-titled debut album, he used a piano built in the early 1900s, and even mixed the album on tape. “I would leave the little pops and buzzes in there to keep that raw sound,” he says. Focused on reviving Scott Joplin-esque northern jazz melodies first, and letting lyrics fall into place second, Dennen says he’s always surprised to get feedback from fans about his lyrics. “I’m the only one that’s dealing with this,” he says. “Forming a song that really touches somebody is special.” After one of Dennen’s concerts, a fan told him that he was moved by the chorus of “Express Yourself”: “Someone’s gonna judge you no matter what you do.” “He had a rough day at work, and had been struggling with his boss,” says Dennen, who told the fan, “just go on with your day and keep doing what you’re doing.” Dennen’s been living that mantra in San Francisco, though his heart’s still in our small town. Asked about his upcoming CD release party at Moe’s Alley, he says, “This is a Santa Cruz album. Regardless that I live in San Francisco, my roots are in Santa Cruz, my music is inspired by Santa Cruz.”
INFO: 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 31. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. 479-1854. $9/Adv, $12/Door. Admission includes copy of CD.