Column: Nancarrow forecast is sunny, with records in the making
Songwriter son of late TV weatherman Loren Nancarrow turns up the heat with California country music
For more than 30 years, Loren Nancarrow was a familiar face and voice on local TV stations — passionate about news, the environment and San Diego weather.
He blogged about his year-long battle with brain cancer that took his life in late 2013. Today, at Scripps Health a healing garden bears his name.
On Sept. 22, the voice of Loren’s son, Graham Nancarrow, will be in the spotlight as he sings the national anthem with his guitar at the Padres game. He also will share the stage with country music stars at the Wild Horses festival beginning at 4 p.m. Sept. 24 and 25 on the grassy Gallagher Square abutting Petco while the Padres play in Denver.
“As Graham creates his own San Diego moment, singing the national anthem at the Padres game, I imagine Loren will be smiling down on him from heaven, beaming with pride,” says former NBC 7/39 news anchor Susan Taylor, who helped create the healing garden.
It will be a homecoming in more than one way for the 34-year-old singer/songwriter. He grew up on an organic farm in Olivenhain. His mom, Susie, and one of his two sisters, Hannah, still live in North County.
Baseball was Graham Nancarrow’s passion. He fronted a punk rock band while attending La Costa Canyon High School and reported to his school baseball field directly from campus jam sessions — still wearing his punk regalia.
The sport took him far — to Australia, in fact, where, at 15, he competed as a member of Team USA in the land Down Under.
But he traded his catcher’s mitt for a guitar and his punk attire for cowboy shirts.
Nancarrow’s style is California country. It’s edgier, high energy and embodies more of the Buck Owens, Merle Haggard vibe popularized in Bakersfield, dubbed “Nashville West.”
It’s also part of the legacy of his dad, a country music radio DJ during his college days in New Mexico and a western music trivia buff. Loren introduced his son to the music of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Haggard, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, Dwight Yoakam and nurtured an enduring love of Elvis Presley, even naming the family dog, Elvis.
The songwriter, who performs using the single moniker Nancarrow, and his band have released four EPs and albums and are about to drop three singles before year’s end, including one, “Get On Up,” a “hard love, boogy rock song,” later this month.
His first EP, “Valley of the Deer,” came out in 2012, a year before his dad died. Then came “Heart” in 2013, dedicated to his father, who sat in during some recording sessions.
Then, in 2015, came the full-length CD, “Simple Things,” songs that reflect the more serious, soulful side of Nancarrow. It earned San Diego Music Awards’ recognition as Best Country or Americana album.
Nancarrow credits his dad’s passing with focusing him looking deeper into life and its fragility. Songwriting and performing gave his music a purpose.
“I want people to have an authentic, personal experience because it’s personal with me,” he says. “Sharing my heart is a pretty vulnerable thing.”
Next came a CD called “Hot Chicken” in 2017, produced by Nashville sound engineering wizard Vance Powell, a six-time Grammy winner who has worked with Chris Stapleton, Tammy Wynette, Jack White and others.
In fact, after recording it, Nancarrow moved to Nashville.
He and his band, The GD Saints, which includes his longtime close friend and bass player Joe Weisiger, of La Jolla, have been touring and performing around the country, including appearances at KAABOO, Stagecoach and a recent week-long residency at MGM Grand’s Losers Bar in Las Vegas.
It’s a bit far from the surf that he loves, but Nancarrow catches a wave or two when he travels — even if it’s at a wave pool in Austin, Texas.
At the Sept. 24-25 Wild Horses festival, Nancarrow and the GD Saints will share the stage with Cody Jinks, Midland, LeAnn Rimes and a line-up of other singers.
Nancarrow’s mom now is happily re-married to Scott Glenn and lives in Encinitas, as does his sister Hannah, who wed 97.3 FM sports personality Steve Woods. They have two young sons. His sister, Britta, lives in Denver.
“Loren would be thrilled that Graham is following his life-long dream of writing, playing and performing music,” Susie says. “He was always so proud and couldn’t wait to see his son’s name in lights.”
Nancarrow says he sometimes senses his dad’s presence on stage. “I feel him watching — not in the physical realm — and he’s experiencing it with me.”
Shortly after Graham (named after singer Graham Nash) was born on Mother’s Day 1988, his father recorded a CBS 8 reporter’s notebook, now on YouTube, professing at first to being a “crumbling mass of goo not really sure what I was going to do next” despite having read a truckload of baby books.
Instead of carrying a beer cooler and radio to the beach, he found himself toting a diaper bag, an umbrella and “12 pounds of the neatest little guy in the world.”
Graham learned a lot from his dad, whose death helped him put his life in perspective. “I’m happiest when I’m playing music with my friends,” he says. “Grammys would be great but, for me, longevity and enjoying each moment is most important. We all have an expiration date. We don’t get to do this forever.”
As for audience appreciation, the California country singer says the biggest compliment he and his band can get is someone saying, “You know, I hate country music, but I really like what you guys did.”
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