Rock songwriters have long had love-hate relationships with their cities of origin. A browse through the lyrics of Paul Simon (“Nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town”), Bruce Springsteen (“Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores / Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more”) and others amounts to less than a nostalgic jaunt.
However, when Dan Krikorian got tapped to write a song commemorating the 60th anniversary of Costa Mesa, his hometown, he didn’t have any grim tales to pack into the lyrics. In fact, the words “sweet home” emerged early in the songwriting process and ended up providing part of the refrain.
“I kind of jumped at the opportunity to do it,” said the longtime resident, whose “Costa Mesa My Sweet Home” is available free through Aug. 1 by downloading it from the city’s website.
With the city preparing to celebrate six decades, Costa Mesa officials approached Krikorian early this year to provide a theme song. The musician plans to perform the song June 29 as part of the three-day 60th-anniversary street festival, which will take place on Fair Drive between Newport Boulevard and Fairview Avenue.
And after that? Krikorian, whose fourth album is scheduled for release in July, said he may slip it into some set lists as he tours the West Coast over the summer and Europe in the fall.
A Costa Mesa High School alum and the school’s current boys’ basketball coach, Krikorian has performed at the OC Fair and in Fairview Park’s Concerts in the Park summer series. Even with his extensive ties to Costa Mesa, though, he didn’t rely solely on memory to craft his lyrics — he also perused the city website and viewed documentaries about its history.
Some of that research made its way into the lyrics, which touch on past “humble farmlands” and modern “halls of symphonies.” Other descriptions (“bright-eyed streets ... a city in full bloom”) are general enough to suit any time and place, while parts (“My sweet hometown, you’re heavy on my mind / A hundred roads leave me weary as the daylight declines”) sound downright mythic.
City spokesman William Lobdell said officials gave Krikorian no specific guidelines for the song, the recording of which was sponsored by the Costa Mesa Conference and Visitor Bureau.
“He’s a fabulous songwriter,” Lobdell said. “He’s a Costa Mesa native. He was a natural choice to do it.”
Krikorian premiered the song in a solo acoustic version in April at the city’s first Mayor’s Celebration, titled “The Art of Leadership,” at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. For the recording, he worked with studio musicians rather than the rest of the Dan Krikorian Band, creating a heartland rock sound that evokes the classic work of Tom Petty and John Mellencamp.
The songwriter, who counts both men as inspirations, said he was pleased to be asked to pen an anthem of sorts.
“You are trying to capture a feeling for an entire city,” Krikorian said.