Santa Rosa songwriter and bandleader John Courage still remembers the Led Zeppelin cassette tapes his uncle gave him in 1992 that launched his love of guitar.
“It was the riffs,” he says while miming the opening guitar part to Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love.”
“It was infectious, and that was it. It was like I got handed down rock ‘n’ roll.”
After forming his first band and naming it after the John Courage beer he stocked at Oliver’s Market (before he was old enough to drink), Courage’s long-running musical project has morphed over the last 15 years from a four-piece band to a solo act, to its current incarnation, a trio with bassist Francesco Catania and drummer Jared Maddox. He’s kept the rock tradition alive through all of it.
Courage’s musical landscape of classic rock grooves, bluesy breakdowns and effortless ebullience can be heard prominently on the band’s new single, “The Valley.” The song premieres this weekend when the John Courage Trio headline the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma on Courage’s 35th birthday,
Sept. 1. Also on the bill are the Coffis Brothers & the Mountain Men and Brothers Comatose frontman Ben Morrison.
“Every day is a new task,” says Courage, who has been reissuing his last three albums,
Gems (2013), Don’t Fail Me Now (2012) and Lovers Without a Care (2010), on CD in preparation for the show.
Courage recorded “The Valley” and several other tracks last summer for an album to be released next year. He says it’s still important to him to take time honing his craft, even after 15 years.
“In the last few years, I’ve learned to stop rushing, because there’s no timetable,” he says. “There’s such a push for content now that you see bands figuring out how to play music right before your eyes, and that can be cool and endearing, but I’m from that last pre-internet time where you work on your craft in secret, and show up fully formed.”
Courage also says the sound of his upcoming new record was crafted to maximize the talents of Catania and Maddox. “My rhythm section is insane,” he says. The frontman’s prodigious guitar chops provide “The Valley” with an infectious rock hook—and a searing guitar solo. Both are trademarks of his time-honored style of rock ‘n’ roll.
“My ultimate goal is if I can come up with a guitar part for a song that you would hear a kid playing in a guitar shop—some catchy little riff that ends up bugging every guitar-store employee.”
John Courage rocks out on Saturday, Sept. 1, at the Mystic Theatre & Music Hall, 23 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 8:30pm. $14. 707.775.6048.