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Transatlantic Groove

Welsh-born Jonny Tarr calls San Diego home

By Jeff Terich

Jonny Tarr - Saxophone - Photo credit_ Alex Matthews.jpg

Jonny Tarr – Saxophone – Photo credit_ Alex Matthews.jpg

Long before he could legally enter a pub, Jonny Tarr made it a personal goal to end up in California one day. The singer-songwriter, who hails from Wales, lived in London for seven years after studying at Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute, even playing the main stage at Glastonbury Festival. But his heart’s always belonged in San Diego.

“I was a massive skateboarder in my teens, and every magazine you picked up talked about San Diego,” he says. “I convinced my mom to take me there on holiday, and I just fell in love with it.”

Since relocating to San Diego over a decade ago, Tarr’s been an active fixture in the local music scene, branching out from his early studies as a saxophonist to front The Jonny Tarr Quintet. The group’s latest album, The Rules, was released on March 24. It finds the singer-songwriter and his band exploring a vast, colorful spectrum of pop with more than a little ’80s influence, including elements of funk, soul, new wave, and, yes, even some of Tarr’s signature sax.

“There’s a soul influence, a jazz and folk influence. And I like to let the musicians open up and get a solo,” he says. Tarr briefly returned to the UK in 2020, taking a job helping out with Covid sanitization, but he crossed the Atlantic again before too long. Not just because it’s home (and the place where he ended up meeting his wife), but because, he says, moving to San Diego’s been a fortuitous career move.

“It’s much, much easier to make a living in San Diego as a musician than in London,” he says. “I hope that people in California know how lucky they are.”

Jonny Tarr plays at The Holding Company on April 7

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