“I really like touring,” says Tyson Motsenbocker from his car while driving to a gig in Monterey. “The more you do it, the better it gets.”
Fortunately for Motsenbocker, he’s spent a majority of his past few years on the road in support of his recent EPs, the latest being “Rivers and Roads,” so it stands to reason he’s been enjoying the experience more and more.
Motsenbocker, 27, a native of Washington state who lives in Solana Beach, has been pursuing music for his entire life thanks to a variety of influences.
“I grew up listening to a lot of old rock and roll; groups like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin, or singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan” he explains. “I was just talking to my friend about how much I love Wilco and Dawes too.”
Motsenbocker attended college at Whitworth, a university located in Spokane near the border of Idaho. However, a drive away lies Seattle — a hotbed of indie rock that gave rise to such acts as Death Cab for Cutie, Nirvana, and countless more artists.
“One of my recent albums had a lot of indie rock influences, but what I discovered is that I’m more of a lyricist and storyteller than a rock and roll person,” Motsenbocker notes on the evolution of his sound. “I was trying to figure out how to combine my influences by doing everything I like, but I realized to you have to pick things. You can’t include everything.”
Motsenbocker’s influences shifted even more when he relocated from Washington to Solana Beach almost by happenstance.
“I worked for a couple of summers in Santa Cruz playing music, and I met some guys who were living in Solana Beach. After college, I had a job in Portland, Oregon, that went out of business. I had nowhere to go, and my friend said I should come down to San Diego. So I did.”
Once in the North County, he worked as a barista in the Starbucks at the Solana Beach Towne Center until 2010, when he quit to focus on music and touring full time. He quickly took to Southern California life, including surfing, and spent the last few years perfecting his sound.
In 2012, a filmmaker who was working on a fly-fishing documentary caught wind of Motsenboker’s tracks, and commissioned him to write some songs for its soundtrack.
“It’s about a five-day fishing trip from Seattle to Los Angeles, so I wrote and recorded some songs for it,” Motsenbocker explains. Ironically, the documentary’s story roughly follows his same geographic path.
Those tracks made for the documentary, plus three additional ones, make up "Rivers and Roads," his newest EP available on Spotify and iTunes now. Featuring Motsenbocker’s rich voice, while it’s easy to hear his influences (such as Wilco), he manages to convey a smart uniqueness of someone who is a student of modern American folk music.
These days Motsenbocker is lucky enough to be touring extensively, which is a far cry from his Starbucks barista past. Now instead of making coffee, he’s making music. Said Motsenbocker of his recent successes, “I’ve performed at a bunch of these venues across the country many times, and I’ve found that it’s not until the fourth or fifth time when you’re comfortable and have built a following.”
It appears he’ll have many more performances, and tracks to come.