By Bob Hemenger | Pagosa Springs High School
The Americana Project class at Pagosa Springs High School will present a very special concert Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. This year’s professional guest artist is singer-songwriter Thom Chacon.
Born in Southern California, but raised in Sacramento, Chacon is the son of a Hispanic father, a newscaster who became a public relations executive, and a Lebanese mother, a kindergarten teacher, with five sisters (he was the second youngest child). He first showed an interest in music at a young age, offering as proof a tape recording of him singing “Rhinestone Cowboy” as a 3-year-old. Thom listened to story-tellers like Glen Campbell, Jim Croce, the Beatles of Rubber Soul and Smokey Robinson on his parents’ record player before picking up a guitar in fourth grade.
He wrote his first song at age 16.
“It wasn’t very good, but in all these years, I’ve never stopped. It’s something I have to do,” he said.
Seeing Kris Kristofferson wear a harp rack inspired him to don one as well.
“If you’re a solo artist, it’s your second band mate,” he said, adding, “for me, it’s less about my voice and guitar-playing than it is the words and melody, which is why I modeled myself after what he was doing.”
Moving to Los Angeles in his early 20s, Thom originally sought fame and fortune in the L.A. music scene, then quickly realized he needed something more authentic. He took a job on a horse ranch in the foothills of Los Angeles, learning how to ride and take care of the horses.
Eventually, Thom decided to move to Durango, Colo., seeking more of life’s outdoor adventures and to concentrate on his songwriting. Thom became a part-time fly-fishing guide and, when not on tour, takes people on horseback into the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico for extended camping and fly-fishing expeditions.
The cinematic nature of Thom’s songs comes not only from spending time as a true outdoorsman, but also from a love of movies and vintage television westerns, with a special affection for the films of John Ford and John Wayne, a favorite of his mom.
Thom’s narrative style is influenced by Kristofferson, Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt, among others. He also draws influence from his colorful family history. His second cousin, Bobby Chacon, was a two-time boxing featherweight champion.
“Bobby taught me no matter how hard it gets, you’ve gotta get up off the mat and keep fighting,” he said.
His grandfather was deputy sheriff in Silver City, N.M., and part of the posse sent to capture Billy the Kid.
Chacon has gone on to tour around the world, opening for artists as diverse as Los Lonely Boys and Jason Mraz, playing shows in Thailand and India, and even one memorable gig on July 4, 2004, at Folsom Prison, shortly after the death of another of his idols, Johnny Cash.
“That was a life-changing experience for me,” he said.
With his current music reflecting a good dose of lifetime experiences, along with the hard-earned wisdom of a man who’s paid his dues both on the land and the water, Chacon is now being touted by the press as “an Americana original” and “one of the most important songwriters of our time.”
“Thom Chacon’s music is simple, but don’t mistake that for a lack of depth. Simple writing is the hardest writing. And always the best. His songs are packed with rich imagery and instantly relatable sensibilities. He is a real writer, and by that I mean he has infected visions. I salute him.” — Mary Gauthier, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter.
The Americana Project students will be opening the show at 7 p.m. with a 45-minute set. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, and for 12 and under are free. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with general seating. Tickets will only available at the door. Cash or check. Donations for the program will also be accepted.