Lyrical titan returns to Ventura for two nights
By Chris Jay 05/10/2012
While the local music scene has been gaining some incredible momentum recently with new artists, multiple venues increasing their live bookings, and a host of events this summer that will have local music, one thing that has been disappointing is that several notable area musicians have relocated elsewhere in the past year.
One of the most-missed artists who left the area to seek greener pastures is Gill Sotu.
Raised in Oxnard, Gill Sotu, formerly, S.O.T.U., an acronym he no longer uses, grew up a fan of all music and by the time he was in his early 20s, began to experiment in the open mic scene with his unique blend of poetry, soul music and hip-hop. Sometimes backed by a single musician, sometimes fronting a band and more often than not just by himself, Sotu’s powerful voice and intense imagery, soon made him one of the most talked about performers in the scene.
Sotu naturally began hosting his own open mic series in Ventura in 2007 and 2008; and despite multiple venue changes, the night was extremely popular since Sotu truly made it open and welcoming to all genres, poets especially as opposed to the usual singer-songwriter only-open mics.
Sotu was also at the forefront of genre blending on local shows. While it now may be common to see a hip-hop artist on the same bill as a rock band at a local show in Ventura County, in 2007 it was rare, to say the least. Sotu even had his first two records produced by local musician, producer, radio host and tireless champion of underground metal, Dan Flores.
Four years ago, though, work opportunities came calling from San Diego and Sotu somewhat reluctantly headed south. While his location may have changed, his passion for the open mic community and fostering new performers has not: and in short, despite being in a completely new city, he established a successful open mic in San Diego as well as recently starting a full band, Gill Sotu and the Electric Company.
“In a bigger city like San Diego, there’s more opportunity to perform because things are spread out. Different venues will have completely different crowds within the same city,” he explains.
“In Ventura, though, there’s more connection between the artists because it is a smaller scene. For instance, if there’s a house party, there’s no question that a guitar is coming out, and anyone is welcome to play or sing along. Down here, that only happens when I’m the one throwing the party! That’s what I miss the most about Ventura, the spontaneous creativity.”
Sotu, thankfully, has not made himself a total stranger to his old stomping grounds. He often returns for shows throughout the year, and this month he’ll be performing twice in Ventura.
“I knew I wasn’t gonna be a stranger to the music scene in Ventura. I’m still a part of it. I want to play up there now more than when I lived there. I love to perform and inspire. It’s my mission to connect with as many people as possible and for me the Ventura music scene is where that mission started.”
Gill Sotu performs in Ventura at Green Art People, 140 N Ventura Ave., # B, on May 16 and Bombay Bar and Grill on May 24. For more information visit www.gillSotu.com.