Saturday, January 23, 2010
When you pass by Jensens Twin Palm Resort and Marina this month and hear the sounds of nimble fingers picking out an old country standard, if you're a local, you'll know that it's that time of year again - the time when a quartet of incredibly talented musicians make their way back to Captiva to reunite, catch up, compose and perform.
But aside from the weather and scenery, what draws these four men to Jensens Marina every January?
These accomplished singer/songwriters - Austin Church, Brent Moyer, Joe Sun and Ottar Johansen - have become a part of the extended Jensen family.
"It's magic. It really is. The Jensen brothers are some beautiful people we've become friends with," Moyer said.
And Moyer's fellow musicians agree.
"I would call the Jensens patrons of the arts and we feel like our gift is our music, so they continually invite us to come back and entertain their guests and them and to promote our music," Church said.
"It's a good creative atmosphere and we're able to come down, get together and do some writing," Moyer said, noting that his song "Flower of the Sea" was written in Cabin One at the resort.
"This place is conducive to writing. It makes me feel like writing when I get here, and I think primarily what we are is songwriters and you get in these beautiful cabins and it's just tranquil. I get that guitar out and just start strumming," Church said, noting that one of his most recent compositions, "The Wheelhouse," was inspired by the Jensens' wheelhouse. "And for me, it's also a chance to get the news from Nashville."
Church, who now resides in Cocoa Beach, Fla., says that the one thing that brought them all together - and introduced them to fellow musician Jimmy Jensen - was the Flora-Bama Songwriters' Festival in Pensacola.
"When I left Nashville in 1997, I got a call from Brent telling me to come on over to Captiva, because they were having a big Super Bowl party and they'd love to hear me pick and grin. They had a whole bunch of acts lined up and I was just delighted to come. The warmth and the exuberance and just downright love for humanity that is the Jensens just permeated the whole atmosphere and I've been hooked ever since," Church said.
"Brent and I first met Jimmy at the Flora-Bama Songwriters' Festival 15 years ago and he invited us down - and these brothers were so warm and welcoming and congenial and we've been coming down by invitation ever since. We've gotten to know so many people here throughout the years, some people come down just for this, and it's gotten to be a kind of family get-together. We just have such a great time here," Sun said.
But one particular member of the Jensen January family flies in from a place a lot farther than Cocoa Beach or Nashville.
"This gentleman is responsible for advancing country music in Norway more than anyone else in the history of the country," Sun said about his friend Johansen.
Johansen says he first heard country music on the radio when he was a young boy in Norway.
"We didn't know that was country music, we just knew it was something we liked. The first country act in Norway was Jim Reeves. In 1964 he filmed a legendary show in black and white. And he was so popular. He sold lots of records because what was playing on the radio at that time was philharmonic stuff - a lot of horns and folk music," Johansen said.
"I think more than anything it shows the popularity of not only American country music but music born in this country - the blues, country and rock'n'roll. All of that was more or less born here but sailors and the American G.I. helped to spread that music around the world," Sun said.
But all four men acknowledge that real American music was born out of immigrant instrumentations and traditions - for example, fiddles from Scandinavia and Ireland, mandolins from Poland and the spirituals sung by slaves.
In fact, Sun and Johansen are exploring this multicultural dynamic by forming their own band called The NorVille Group - a portmanteau of Norway and Nashville. They've already written a song called "Take Me Back."
And while these songwriters can agree that country music is a melting pot of traditions, there is another element that none of them can deny.
"Music is based on magic. That's what the Jensens have going here - magic," Sun said.
"That's why we come here," Moyer added.
"Magic is the word. Because when you ask some of the producers in Nashville, 'Well, what do we gotta do in here?' they'll say 'Get magic on tape! That's what you gotta do!'" Church said.
And every January, Church, Johansen, Moyer and Sun return, and will continue to return, to make more of that magical music - or musical magic!
To hear songs and learn more about them, visit www.AustinChurchMusic.com, www.BrentMoyer.com, www.myspace.com/JoeSunandtheAllStars and www.NewCutMusic.com, or just swing by Jensens Twin Palms Resort and Marina, located at 15107 Captiva Drive - if you're lucky, they might just play you a tune!
By JANE BRICKLEY