As a kid in Germany, Thomm Jutz studied classical piano and flute, and reached competition level.
He was 12 when lightning struck.
“I grew up very close to the two largest Canadian air bases in Germany,” Jutz explains. “I started listening to Canadian Armed Forces Radio and American Armed Forces Radio, and I fell in love with country music.
“Although I didn’t understand any of the words – I loved the way it sounded. It just spoke to me. And I started playing the guitar the day after I saw Bobby Bare on a TV show.”
He continued his classical studies, but augmented the “serious” music by playing guitar in a weekend rock ‘n’ roll band at the military base.
When lightning struck again, Jutz knew he had to pay attention.
“Around the time I was 18 or 19 I discovered Townes Van Zandt,” he says, “and it opened up a whole new realm of songwriting to me. It came to me around the time a friend of mine had committed suicide, and his music was just so sad it helped me through that time.
“Through his music I was introduced to so many other songwriters, mainly Texas songwriters, and literary singer/songwriters.”
Jutz, who moved to Nashville with his wife 10 years ago, now runs a successful recording studio, where he produces a steady stream of Americana artists. In 2004 he hooked up with Nanci Griffith, one of the country’s best “literary singer/songwriters,” and joined her touring band, the Blue Moon Orchestra.
Griffith’s most recent album, The Loving Kind, includes five songs written or co–written by Jutz. He also co-produced the record.
He is not only a top–notch guitarist and record producer, but a fine singer and writer with the eye, ear and sensitivity of one who’s loved the music all his life.
Jutz is the December guest at the Savannah Songwriters Showcase, Sunday at Cha Bella Restaurant.
Jefferson Ross, a co–founder of the freshly–minted series (it began in November), recently moved to Savannah after many years as a successful songwriter in Nashville.
Which is where he became acquainted with Thomm Jutz.
“We really would like to help foster a vibe in Savannah that celebrates the singer/songwriter,” Ross says of the in–the–round acoustic shows he and fellow player Stan Ray have cooked up.
“Savannah is so strong in the visual arts, in drama, and the culinary arts – it’s a foodie mecca – I think it would be wonderful to have a mecca for original music.
“Like, say, an Asheville. It’s a great college town. You have a wealth of talent, not just the college students but with local singer/songwriters that I think are really good. It’d be nice to have a showcase for those people to play.”
Ross and Ray, both of whom will perform alongside Jutz, want a combination of local and national performers as the series moves into 2011.
“You gotta think about guys like Randy Wood out there in Bloomingdale,” says Ross. “He’s packing ‘em in. People like Jon Jorgenson and Tommy Emmanuel are selling out shows there. They’re not exactly household names.
“Now, it’s not singer/songwriters, necessarily, but it’s not cover music! It’s not Jimmy Buffett’s ‘Margaritaville’ being played all the time. And it’s not mainstream whatever.”
Ross, who’s a Georgia native, left Nashville after tiring of the “professional songwriters’ grist mill” atmosphere. The competitive nature of Music City business, he says, was a factor in his abandoning that life.
Thomm Jutz, on the other hand, finds it exhilarating.
“The goal, to me, is being able to do what I want to do without always having to question whether I still get to do it next week,” he explains. “I’ve achieved that at this point, so I’m real happy with that. And now I just want to keep going – make a living and keep growing as a writer, as an artist, a guitar player and a person.
“If I have a big ol’ hit, that’s fine. But if not, if it’s a modest, middle–class living, that’s fine with me too.”
Jutz loves the collaborative process.
“Even though I’ve been here for a lot of years,” he says, “I still see a lot of things that might not inspire somebody who’s lived here all his life to write a song. But they trigger something in me that you might not have seen if you lived here all your life.”
Savannah Songwriters Showcase
Thomm Jutz, Jefferson Ross, Stan Ray
Where: Cha–Bella, 102 E. Broad St.
When: At 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12
Admission: Free, although donations will be gratefully accepted for Toys For Tots