The journey that led to Michael Tiernan’s music


Singer-songwriter Michael Tiernan grew up in Redlands and is the youngest of five children. After picking up the guitar in high school, he spent a year traveling in a van with a bunch of what he describes as “Catholic hippies.” His interest in theology and philosophy led him to Steubenville, Ohio, where he graduated from Franciscan University.

After college, he enrolled in the Catholic seminary in Denver and was sent to Rome for his theological studies. Tiernan left the seminary a year before making his vows in ordination.

A long period of soul searching led Tiernan back to California, and he landed in Del Mar. After recording his first album, “Still Listening,” he decided it was time to jump into music full time. Michael now has three albums under his belt and has had music placed on national TV shows and radio. He broadcasts a live Internet concert from his Del Mar home on Fridays at noon at and is set to record his fourth album in January.

Tiernan and his wife Tracy had a baby, Elizabeth Grace, last month.

What brought you to Del Mar?

Memories. The space that the ocean gives to figure things out. The promise of the sunset. A fresh start. It’s all these things. Of course, there are the obvious reasons - the weather, the beauty, etc. - but for me, I came here nine years ago a little bit wounded and needed a safe spot to figure out the next step in my journey. I had roots here, in that my grandparents and parents built their lives here, but still, nobody knew me here. I loved visiting this place growing up. And I always knew through all my traveling that wherever I ended up, it would either have to be by the mountains or by the ocean.

What makes Del Mar special to you?

The vibe is totally unique. There is history here, but yet its not stuck - there’s always something fresh happening, people visiting. There is always movement, yet not too much. It’s like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” - “This one is just right!” You can enter into the movement or you can just sit back and enjoy. Oh, and the walk on the cliffs going south from 15th Street is absolute heaven to me.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in Del Mar?

My own reef break with consistent head-high waves.

Who or what inspires you?

Who inspires me are real people with real stories. My 88-year-old next door neighbor inspires me. The teenager in the park telling his friends about his epic wave inspires me. I’m inspired and surprised every time I take the time to shut up and listen to another person. What inspires me also has to do with taking time to listen. The ocean is just the ocean unless you take the time to gaze out at it and let it inspire you.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Wow! Eight people? OK: Jesus, Judas, Buddha, Ghandi, John Lennon, The Emperor Constantine, LaDainian Tomlinson and my grandma (to cook us Hungarian food).

What are you currently reading?

I just finished “The Hidden Messages in Water” by Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto. To keep myself inspired, I’m re-reading Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” book, an amazing treatise on the power that our thoughts have to manifest our intentions and dreams. It was written in the 1930s and, I swear, every modern self-help book is based on his simple principles. And of course, being a new dad, I’m reading a lot of books on raising a baby.

What is your most prized possession?

As far as physical things, it has to be my Martin D-1R guitar. I bought it at the Pickin’ Parlor in Arvada, Colorado. It was my first “good” guitar, and it has gone with me everywhere since 1997. I’ve written my best songs on it and I’ve never broken a string on stage (knock on Rosewood!). I don’t even have a backup. It’s my faithful friend.

What do you do for fun?

Surf with my brother and buddies. Pizza Port or, when I’m good, Stone Brewery. Make a fire in my fire pit. Play Gin Rummy with my wife. Make pasta.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

That’s easy - it just happened. The beautiful daughter that my wife and I created. My path to marriage and now having children is a wild story - one of letting go, learning everything over, allowing myself to fearlessly love and be loved. My daughter is proof that love accomplishes all things. She completely amazes me and is a constant reminder of the miracle of each moment.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Create space and it falls into place.

Michael Tiernan will perform at the Calypso Cafe in Encinitas on Dec. 11 and at the Belly Up Tavern on Jan. 7. For more information, visit