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Jim Townsend: musician

John HartJim Townsend plays keyboards and sings Wednesday at the weekly open-mike night at Kirby's Creekside.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Jim Townsend works 60-hour weeks as production manager at Sierra Group Exhibits in Grass Valley.

Every day, he looks forward to his lunch hour, when he can unpack his sandwich along with a guitar and amplifier.

He quickly eats his meal, then spends the rest of the time playing his guitar with Jerome Little, another Sierra Group Exhibit employee and the bass player in Townsend’s jazz-pop group, Big Fish Small Pond.



Townsend doesn’t understand why other musicians complain about not having enough time for their craft. Making time every day for music has been his longtime priority.

“I’ve been writing songs since I was 8, since I first started taking piano lessons,” Townsend, 47, said Wednesday as he prepared to try out new material, which he performs every week at Kirby’s Creekside Restaurant and Bar’s open-mike night on Wednesdays.




“I’m one of those people who can’t stop writing songs. I’m writing all the time, early in the morning, late at night,” Townsend explained.

He shares those writing skills by teaching piano and guitar with an emphasis on songwriting and improvisation to five students. Townsend also facilitates a monthly songwriting group in Grass Valley.

“If you write long enough, you find your earlier songs coming back in style,” he said with a laugh.

He left the University of California at Berkeley right before his senior year (Townsend was a premed student studying math) to play rock ‘n’ roll with Magpie for four years. Since then, Townsend has performed everything from country to classic rock. His love today is what he calls “jazz pop with thoughtful lyrics.”

“I’ve breathed and lived music my whole life,” Townsend said. His mother was a pianist, and his 70-year-old father plays clarinet for a community orchestra in Oroville.

If Townsend could go back in time and follow the path to med school, he wouldn’t take it.

“I wouldn’t change a thing in my life,” said Townsend, who can’t imagine a life without creating songs.

He’s received the ultimate compliment for a songwriter – other performers have recorded a handful of his tunes – but Townsend says, “They’re mostly bands you’ve never heard of.”

His dream is to become a major songwriter, a career he knows depends on both talent and luck.

Townsend also hopes Big Fish Small Pond, which has performed his originals for 16 months, breaks into the regional-touring circuit. The band includes Gracie MacKenzie on vocals, Little on bass and Michael Powers on violin. Townsend is on guitar, keyboards and lead vocals.

“Screaming Jimmy” has been his alter ego for 15 years.

“That stands for my high voice; I’m very boisterous,” he said with a smile.

To find out more about Townsend’s performances, reach him at Big Fish Small Pond will play from 8 to 11 p.m. Thursday at Kirby’s Creekside Restaurant and Bar in Nevada City. There’s no cover. Call 265-3445 for more information. His CD, “If My Heart Had Wings,” is at Record Connection, Herb Shop Records and at the Holbrooke Hotel’s Gift Exchange.

Every day, he looks forward to his lunch hour, when he can unpack his sandwich along with a guitar and amplifier.

He quickly eats his meal, then spends the rest of the time playing his guitar with Jerome Little, another Sierra Group Exhibit employee and the bass player in Townsend’s jazz-pop group, Big Fish Small Pond.

Townsend doesn’t understand why other musicians complain about not having enough time for their craft. Making time every day for music has been his longtime priority.

“I’ve been writing songs since I was 8, since I first started taking piano lessons,” Townsend, 47, said Wednesday as he prepared to try out new material, which he performs every week at Kirby’s Creekside Restaurant and Bar’s open-mike night on Wednesdays.

“I’m one of those people who can’t stop writing songs. I’m writing all the time, early in the morning, late at night,” Townsend explained.

He shares those writing skills by teaching piano and guitar with an emphasis on songwriting and improvisation to five students. Townsend also facilitates a monthly songwriting group in Grass Valley.

“If you write long enough, you find your earlier songs coming back in style,” he said with a laugh.

He left the University of California at Berkeley right before his senior year (Townsend was a premed student studying math) to play rock ‘n’ roll with Magpie for four years. Since then, Townsend has performed everything from country to classic rock. His love today is what he calls “jazz pop with thoughtful lyrics.”

“I’ve breathed and lived music my whole life,” Townsend said. His mother was a pianist, and his 70-year-old father plays clarinet for a community orchestra in Oroville.

If Townsend could go back in time and follow the path to med school, he wouldn’t take it.

“I wouldn’t change a thing in my life,” said Townsend, who can’t imagine a life without creating songs.

He’s received the ultimate compliment for a songwriter – other performers have recorded a handful of his tunes – but Townsend says, “They’re mostly bands you’ve never heard of.”

His dream is to become a major songwriter, a career he knows depends on both talent and luck.

Townsend also hopes Big Fish Small Pond, which has performed his originals for 16 months, breaks into the regional-touring circuit. The band includes Gracie MacKenzie on vocals, Little on bass and Michael Powers on violin. Townsend is on guitar, keyboards and lead vocals.

“Screaming Jimmy” has been his alter ego for 15 years.

“That stands for my high voice; I’m very boisterous,” he said with a smile.

To find out more about Townsend’s performances, reach him at

Big Fish Small Pond will play from 8 to 11 p.m. Thursday at Kirby’s Creekside Restaurant and Bar in Nevada City. There’s no cover. Call 265-3445 for more information. His CD, “If My Heart Had Wings,” is at Record Connection, Herb Shop Records and at the Holbrooke Hotel’s Gift Exchange.


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