San Diego Music Awards: Top winners Sara Petite, Jonny Tarr each score two victories – The San Diego Union-Tribune

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Americana troubadour Sara Petite and pop singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jonny Tarr were the two biggest winners of the night Tuesday at the 33nd annual San Diego Music Awards at Humphreys Concerts by the Bay. The neo-soul band Thee Sacred Souls took home Artist of the Year honors.

Washington native and longtime San Diegan Petite — a three-time winner at the 2022 edition of the annual awards fete — this year was voted Best Country or Americana Artist. In addition, her most recent release, “The Empress,” won in the Best Country or Americana Album category.

“This ain’t about me,” Petite said as she and her band accepted the Best Country or Americana Artist award. She then thanked Joey Harris of the Beat Farmers for encouraging fellow San Diego roots-rock great Mojo Nixon — who died in February — to play her 2010 song, “Bootlegers,” on his “Outlaw Country” SiriusXM radio show.

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“That started my career,” Petite said. “Because he believed in me, he played my songs and other radio DJs (followed)… I want to dedicate this award to Mojo and (his wife) Adaire McMillan, who I love so much, and the Beat Farmers.”

Tarr, a native of Cardiff, Wales, has been a San Diego resident since 2011 and was the Best Pop Artist winner at last year’s awards. On Tuesday, he notched victories for Album of the Year and Best Pop Album, both for “The Rules.”

“I’m pretty blown away,” Tarr told the audience. “I produced and mixed this album all by myself. So, if anybody needs a producer, that’s what I want to do for you.”

Tarr’s album was released by Pacific Records. The label’s founder, Brian Witkin, and his father — 1969 Woodstock festival performer Joe Witkin — are members of the Hawaiian music-inspired Slack Key Ohana. Their group won the Best World Music Song for “Nahenahe Ka Leo O Ka Wahine Uʻi,” (which translates as: “the young and beautiful woman whose voice is soft, gentle and sweet and relaxes the mind and soothes the soul”).

The 2024 Country Dick Montana Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Oceanside-born guitarist Stevie Salas. His many collaborators have included Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, George Clinton, Adam Lambert, Sass Jordan and a young drummer named Taylor Hawkins, who — after being mentored by Salas — went on to perform in the band Foo Fighters from 1997 until his death in 2022.

“There’s one reason I could do all that — because I’m from San Diego,” said Salas, who was presented with his award by former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum, a longtime friend.

Salas then gave shout-outs to some of the San Diego bands that inspired him as a teenage guitarist in the 1980s, including The Penetrators, Four Eyes, The Bratz, the Beat Farmers, The Monroes, DFX2, Fluke, and more.

Salas then offered some tips for young musicians, including: “You just need one person to believe in you, and that one person is you. That’s all you need. Believe in yourself and stand your ground. Dream big and don’t give up that dream — you may have to pivot — because the day you give up may be the day that dream comes true.”

He concluded by saying: “I’ve lived and had houses all over the planet. But I’ve only had one home, and that’s San Diego.”

Salas not only talked the talk, he walked the walk. During his subsequent three-song performance, which featured Sorum on cowbell, he was accompanied by six backing vocalists. They included Jack Butler and Paul Shaffer of The Bratz, Jerry Raney of the Beat Farmers, and Paul Martinez, who was the bassist in This Kids, Salas’ first San Diego band of note.

Other memorable performances were delivered Tuesday by Ash Easton, Boostive, San Diego hip-hop godfather Mitchy Slick, Joshua Taylor, We The Commas and Kimmi Bitter, who was in tears when she later accepted her Song of the Year Award for “Aquamarine”

Awards were presented in more than two-dozen categories at the sold-out event, which featured multiple performances and drew more than 1,000 people to Humphreys on Shelter Island.

This year’s edition raised $53,945 — up from $50,045 in last year — for the nonprofit San Diego Music Foundation’s Taylor Guitars for the Schools. Over the past 32 years, the awards show has raised $850,785 to provide free instruments and lessons to students in 123 schools across San Diego County.

“Thanks for making this the largest San Diego Music Awards ever,” foundation honcho Kevin Hellman told the audience of 1,300. “We sold out a couple of days in advance. We’ve never done that before.”

The tireless, labor-of-love dedication of Hellman and his volunteer staff has been imperative to this invaluable event’s success. Perhaps next year a new category can be added for Loudest Audience Ever at An Annual Awards Show.

If so, the trophy can be shared by the hundreds of well-oiled attendees who gathered — as in previous years — by the bar at the rear of Humphreys and did an admirable job of nearly drowning out each of the night’s introduction and acceptance speeches. We salute you.

An edited version of the 2024 San Diego Music Awards will air as a two-hour program at 8 p.m. June 15 on Fox TV and at 8 p.m. June 22 on KUSI TV.

2024 San Diego Music Awards: Official Winners List

Country Dick Montana Lifetime Achievement Award: Stevie Salas

Artist of the Year: Thee Sacred Souls

Album of the Year: Jonny Tarr, “The Rules”

Song of the Year: Kimmi Bitter, “Aquamarine”

Best New Artist: The Suede Grenades

Best Video: Berkley Hart, “Faded Tattoo”

Best Pop Song: The Microblades, “Cowboy”

Best Pop Album: Jonny Tarr, “The Rules”

Best Country or Americana Artist: Sara Petite

Best Country or Americana Song: MohaviSoul, “Hurry Up & Wait”

Best Country or Americana Album: Sara Petite, “The Empress”

Best Folk or Acoustic Song: Alex Bergan, “Unpromised Land”

Best Jazz Artist: Mercedes Moore

Best Jazz or Blues Album: Shane Hall, “Howl & Sway”

Best Blues Artist: Anthony Cullins

Best World Music Song: Slack Key Ohana, “Nahenahe Ka Leo O Ka Wahine Uʻi”

Best Hip Hop/Rap Artist: Brothers Burns

Best Hip Hop/Rap Song: Riston Diggs, “Life of a Dreamer”

Best Indie/Alternative Artist: The Schizophonics

Best Indie/Alternative Album: miniaturized, “miniaturized”

Best Pop Artist: Matthew Phillips

Best Rock Artist: Band of Gringos

Best Rock Album: Cattle Decapitation, “Terrasite”

Best Rock or Indie/Alternative Song: Coastal Wolves, “Sucks to Be You”

Best R&B, Funk or Soul Album: Sure Fire Soul Ensemble, “Live at Panama 66”

Best Local Recording: Nathan Hubbard, “Seeds of Rivers”

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