San Diego Music Awards 2020 nominees announced, with Switchfoot leading the pack

Local rock band Switchfoot, pictured here performing at the San Diego International Airport, received the most nominations for the 2020 San Diego Music Awards.
Local rock band Switchfoot, pictured here performing at the San Diego International Airport, received the most nominations for the 2020 San Diego Music Awards.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Scheduled for March 23 at House of Blues San Diego, the 29th annual event honors a variety of local music.


Every year, the San Diego Music Awards demonstrates that Southern California’s music talent is not limited to Los Angeles. And the diverse pool of 2020 nominations proves just how much talent there is, with nearly 150 solo artists and bands under consideration.

In 2019, five musicians — including Jason Mraz, P.O.D. and Hot Snakes — received nominations for three different categories, but this year only one group received the same honor: Switchfoot. The Grammy Award-winning rock band, which formed in 1996, is nominated for Song of the Year (“The Strength to Let Go”), Album of the Year (“Native Tongue”) and Artist of the Year.

Thirteen acts, ranging from jazz to reggae, received two nominations apiece. The complete list of nominees in all 23 categories appears below.

Reggae artist Hirie is nominated for Song of the Year ("She Go") and Album of the Year ("Dreamer").
(Jarvis Gray)

None of the San Diego Music Awards genre nominees for Best Rock, Pop, Country or Americana, Jazz, Hip Hop or Rap, and World Music received a second nomination for the best album in their genre. Only Aviator Stash and Robin Henkle secured spots in both their genre and album categories (Indie/Alternative and Blues, respectively).

Sue Palmer was the sole artist to receive nominations in two different genres. Her “Gems Vol. 2” earned her a nomination for Best Blues Album, while her band Sue Palmer & Her Motel Swing Orchestra is nominated for Best Jazz.

blink-182, Hirie, Mattson 2 and David Maldonado are nominated for Album of the Year; and As I Lay Dying, The Frights, The Sleepwalkers, and Rebecca Jade are in the running for Artist of the Year.

blink-182 received San Diego Music Awards 2020 nominations for Song of the Year ("Blame It On My Youth") and Album of the Year ("Nine").
(Courtesy photo)

Other artists to receive double nominations include jazz artist Sean Hicke and rock group The Schizophonics.

A few high-profile acts on the 2020 ballot — who did not receive a second nomination — include Slightly Stoopid (Artist of the Year), Tribal Theory (World Music), Gregory Page (Best Singer/Songwriter) and The Farmers (Best Rock).

Online voting for the San Diego Music Awards is open to the public starting Jan. 27 and runs through Feb 26. Visit to vote for every category except best albums. Best album winners are determined by the San Diego Music Academy, a group of industry professionals.

All winners will be announced at the San Diego Music Awards ceremony, scheduled for March 23 at 7 p.m. at House of Blues San Diego.

In addition to the awards ceremony, the 29th annual event features performances from Switchfoot, Sully the Band, Rebecca Jade & the Cold Fact, Savid Maldonado, Evan Diamond, The Sleepwalkers and Richard Livoni of Blitz Brothers. Livoni will also be honored as the recipient the Country Dick Montana Lifetime Achievement Award.

Guitarist Jared Mattson and drummer Jonathan Mattson of Mattson 2, whose "Paradise" was nominated for Album of the Year and Best Jazz Album.
(Embry Rucker)

San Diego Music Awards has been presented by Taylor Guitars for nearly 30 years, and Green Flash Brewing Company joins as a co-sponsor for 2020. Another local brewer, Ballast Point Brewing Company, partnered with Taylor Guitars for San Diego Music Awards in 2019.

All proceeds from the event will fund the San Diego Music Foundation’s Taylor Guitars for Schools program, which helps keep music programs alive in elementary and middle schools throughout the county. Last year, San Diego Music Awards founder Kevin Hellman said the awards show has raised $615,317 for the program.

Tickets for the annual event are now available to buy online or at the House of Blues box office, ranging from $36 to $75 (excluding service fees).

The 2020 San Diego Music Awards nominees are:

Best Singer/Songwriter

Gregory Page
Joe Rathburn
Lee Coulter
Marie Haddad
Nick Crook
Nina Francis
Ryan Hiller

Best Jazz

Charlie Arbelaez
Danny Green
Ed Kornhauser
Euphoria Brass Band
Gilbert Castellanos
Joshua White
Sue Palmer & Her Motel Swing Orchestra

Best Jazz Album

Jake Najor & the Moment of Truth – “In the Cut”
Kamau Kenyatta – “The Elegent Sadness”
Mattson 2 – “Paradise”
Nathan Hubbard Trio – “This Stream”
Patrick Yandall – “When Its Hip”
Sean Hicke – “Sunflower Sutra”
Shambhu – “Lilac Skies”

Best Blues

Anthony Cullins
Black Market III
Casey Hensley
Mercedes Moore
Robin Henkel
Taryn Donath
Whitney Shay

Best Blues Album

Little Hurricane – “Love Luck”
Robin Henkel – “With Horns”
S. Mathias – “The Memphis and London Sessions”
Shane Hall – “West River Queen”
Chickenbone Slim – “Sleeper”
Sue Palmer – “Gems Vol. 2”
Wayne Riker – “R & B Thunder”

Best Country or Americana

Berkley Hart
Kimmi Bitter
Sara Petite
Stephen El Rey
The Donnis Trio
The Sleepwalkers

Best Country or Americana Album

Blind Mountain Holler – “Dark Daughters”
Calamity – “20 Years Here”
Joel Rafael – “Rose Avenue”
Levi Dean & the Americats – “Free and Untethered”
Morgan Leigh Band – “Stripped Down Live Acoustic”
The Sea Monks – “Gasoline”
Trouble in the Wind – “All the Boys”

Best Hip Hop or Rap

Biggie Babylon
Kwamé Badu
Riston Diggs & Sly Beats
Vokab Kompany

Best Hip Hop or Rap Album

Black Hesher – “Portals”
Bloodstone – “Gameface”
Cali Kev – “1-900-Cali-Kev”
Def Shon – “Throwback Music”
Finn McCool – “Maslows”
Parker Meridien – “The Bully Pulpit”
The Beautiful State – “Visitors”

Best Indie / Alternative

Aviator Stash
Fashion Jackson
Imagery Machine
Nights Like Thieves
Shake Before Us
The Hiroshima Mockingbirds
Wild Wild Wets

Best Indie/Alternative Album

Aviator Stash – “Prescribed”
Pinkeye – “Ipecac Suite”
Ready Set Survive – “Young & Dumb”
Via Satellite – “A Thousand Mountains”
Ten Bulls – “Physicians Magician”
The Frights – “Live at The Observatory”
The Oxen – “S/T”

Best Pop

Birdy Bardot
Dani Bell & The Tarantist
Evan Diamond
Jonny Tarr
The Spiritual Motels
Veronica May

Best Pop Album

Babydoll Warriors – “Love, Bite, Baby”
Chloe Lou and the Liddells – “Storybook”
Hummingbird Hotel – “S/T”
Larry Grano – “Ladies & Gentlemen, Introducing Larry Grano”
Le Chateau – “Picture This”
Lindsay White – “The Funeral”
Savannah Philyaw – “A Whisper in the Wind”

Best Rock

Author & Punisher
Band of Gringos
Beach Goons
Electric Mud
Elektric Voodoo
The Farmers

Best Rock Album

Alvino & the Dwells – “S/T”
Avenue Army – “Holding Steady”
The Paragraphs – “S/T”
The Schizophonics – “People In The Sky”
The Strawberry Moons – “S/T”
The Tourmaliners – “Tourmaline Dream”
Wicked Echoes – “The Fallacy of Finality”

Best World Music

B-Side Players
Cumbia Machin
Quel Bordel
Split Finger
Tribal Theory
Yale Strom & Hot Pastrami

Best World Music Album

Boostive – “Cream Supreme”
Buck O Nine – “FunDayMental”
David Maldonado – “Davicas XX”
Gaby Aparacio – “La Bella Vita”
Marujah – “Gypsy Noise Ritual”
No Kings – “Lost Weekend”
SM Familia – “The Journey So Far…”

Best Local Recording

Daytrip – “Come Alive”
Gary Wilson – “King of Endicott”
Sacri Monti – “Waiting Room for the Magic Hour”
Sure Fire Soul Ensemble – “Build Bridges”
Rafter – “A Sploded Battery”
Sahara Grim – “Abstracted”
SLUKA – “Sophie Webber”

Best Live Band

Baby Bushka
Rebecca Jade & the Cold Fact
Sully the Band
The Creepy Creeps
The Routine
The Schizophonics
The Spice Pistols

Best New Artist

Chunky Hustle Brass Band
Doom Bloom
The Shanghais R & B
Sean Hicke
Thee Sacred Souls

Artist of the Year

As I Lay Dying
Rebecca Jade
Slightly Stoopid
The Frights
The Sleepwalkers

Song of the Year

As I Lay Dying – “Blinded”
blink-182 – “Blame it My Youth”
Hirie – “She Go”
Little Hurricane – “Love Luck”
P.O.D. – “Rockin’ With The Best”
Switchfoot – “The Strength to Let Go”
The Frets – “Naïve Adolescence”

Album of the Year

blink-182 – “Nine”
Cattle Decapitation – “Death Atlas”
David Maldonado – “Davicas XX”
Hirie – “Dreamer”
Karl Denson Tiny Universe – “Knomes & Badgers”
Mattson 2 – “Paradise”
Switchfoot – “Native Tongue”