Rebecca Jade, Switchfoot and The Frets win top honors at 2020 San Diego Music Awards

San Diego singer Rebecca Jade was voted Artist of the Year at the 2020 San Diego Music Awards.
San Diego singer Rebecca Jade was voted the 2020 San Diego Music Awards’ Artist of the Year.
(Courtesy photo by Ron Morales

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the event was held online. Bill Walton and Tony Hawk were featured


Rebecca Jade, Switchfoot and The Frets took home the top prizes at the 2020 San Diego Music Awards on Monday night. It was the first edition of the 29-year-old awards fete to be held online, a move prompted by social-distancing restrictions on live events because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The awards show featured performances by Jade, Grammy Award winner Jason Mraz and six other artists who were all filmed and recorded in advance. The live streamed event was originally scheduled as a live show for March 23 at downtown’s House of Blues, then postponed until July 6.

The San Diego Music Foundation — under whose auspices the awards presentations are held — announced on May 26 its decision to make this year’s edition an entirely virtual affair.

Apart from a few minor glitches the live stream was smoothly executed throughout, especially for an event being held online for the first time. An edited, 90-minute version of Monday’s awards show will be televised Saturday at 8 p.m. on Fox 5 KSWB.

Jade, who performed with Elton John in February at the Academy Awards, was named Artist of the Year. It was the versatile singer’s third San Diego Music Awards victory in four years, after winning the Best Live Performer category in 2017 with her band, The Cold Fact, and the Best Jazz Album trophy in 2018 for “Planet Cole Porter,” her joint album with guitarist Peter Sprague.

“Native Tongue” by Switchfoot was voted Album of the Year. On June 7, the Grammy Award-winning band performed a sold-out drive-in concert at Petco Park.

“Man, we rare so honored,” Switchfoot leader Jon Foreman said Monday night, as his four smiling band mates stood alongside him. “This is an album we made to remind us, and whoever else is listening, that love is our native tongue...especially in a year like this.”

The Frets won the Song of the Year award for “Naïve Adolescence.” By doing so, they beat out such better-known fellow nominees as Switchfoot, blink-182, P.O.D. , As I Lay Dying and Hirie.

Nina Francis won the Singer/Songwriter category at the San Diego Music Awards.
(File photo)

Other winners Monday included Nina Francis (Singer/Songwriter), The Schizophonics’ “People In The Sky” (Best Rock Album) and the brassy Sure Fire Soul Ensemble’s “Build Bridges” (Best Local Recording). Versatile drummer and percussionist Nathan Hubbard was a double victor, winning the Best Jazz Album award for “This Stream” by the Nathan Hubbard Trio and — as a member of the group Parker Meridien — sharing Best Hip Hop or Rap Album honors for “The Bully Pulpit.”

“I thought (fellow drummer) Jake Najor was gong to win,” Hubbard said, after the Best Jazz Album category results were announced.

The Country Dick Montana Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Richard Livoni, who has led various iterations of the band The Blitz Brothers since the 1970s and is the founder of Blitz Recording Studios. He was inducted by local music mainstay Bart Mendoza.

“This is a strange experience, but I’m totally honored to be part of this,” Livoni said. I want to thank everybody… I have really been wondering what on earth you guys were thinking of to give this (award) to me, but I’m very honored and very grateful.”

Artist of the Year winner Rebecca Jade, the penultimate winner of the night, was equally effusive.

“Oh my gosh! Thank you all so, so much!” she said. “I am honored, and I am without words. I am so grateful. Thank you to everybody who voted and who has been supporting me for years... Without you supporting us, there is no ‘us,’ there is no artist.”

Jade, like a significant number of the other winners, expressed support for Black Lives Matter. Nearly as many of the night’s honorees also stressed the importance of wearing masks at a time when so many musicians are unable to perform for live audiences.

“Please wear your masks,” said klezmer-music champion Yale Strom, whose band, Hot Pstromi, won the Best World Music award. “When they say ‘essential workers, culture is essential, especially music.”

The awards presenters Monday, all of whom pre-recorded their spots, included Mraz, basketball legend Bill Walton, singer-songwriter Steve Poltz (who was at his home in Nashville) and P.O.D. guitarist Marcos Curiel. The nominees were introduced by an array of local TV, radio and other media figures. The show was ably hosted by Meryl Klemow and Rick Lawrence, the latter of whom announced the winners (all but two of whom accepted live online, most from their homes, via Zoom).

Mraz and fellow San Diego troubadour Gregory Page performed their fetching ballad, “Green Lights and Blue Skies,” accompanied by Raining Jane singer/guitarist singer Chaska Potter. Their performance was filmed last month at Mraz’s home studio in Oceanside.

Sully, Monday’s Best Live Band award-winner and a veteran of the 2018 KAABOO Del Mar festival, filmed their performance last month at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. The six other performances featured in Monday’s live stream were all filmed and recorded on June 6 at Studio West in Rancho Bernardo. Singer-songwriter Jeff Berkley, himself a past San Diego Music Awards-winner served as the chief engineer.

“Most of the artists did their songs in two or three takes at Studio West,” San Diego Music Awards founder Kevin Hellman said in a Monday phone interview with the Union-Tribune.

“Everyone was really professional and came in really prepared. We made sure to follow the CDC rules and kept everyone six feet apart in the studio. And everybody brought in their own microphones. I’m very excited, because — when you watch a music award show on TV, it doesn’t always sound great. We took lot of care to re-mix everything.”

Also on hand for Monday’s live stream awards show, in pre-recorded segments, were skateboard master Tony Hawk and Major League Baseball veteran-turned-troubadour Tim Flannery to Sha Na Na leader John “Jocko” Marcellino and pioneering San Diego concert promoter Tim Mays, the co-owner of the Casbah. Each of them encouraged viewers to donate to the recently launched COVID-19 San Diego Music Awards Nominees Relief Fund.

Since its inception in 1991, the awards show has raised $632,996 for Guitars for Schools in partnership with Taylor Guitars, according to Hellman. That amount had grown by more than $10,000 even before Monday’s awards show got underway, but that money will be directed to the relief fund.

“As of Monday morning, we’ve raised just under $12,000 in donations,” Hellman said (that amount had grown to $14,400 by the conclusion of the live stream).

“The money raised from donations will go 100 percent to the COVID-19 San Diego Music Awards Nominees Relief Fund. Any of our nominees are eligible. They just have to fill out a grant form. We’re expecting to give out between $200 and $500 per grant.”

Donations to the Relief Fund will be accepted through July 15 and can be made at and by texting “sdmusic” to 41411.

29th annual San Diego Music Awards winners

Artist of the Year: Rebecca Jade

Album of the Year: Switchfoot, “Native Tongue”

Song of the Year: The Frets, “Naïve Adolescence”

Country Dick Montana Lifetime Achievement Award: Richard “Blitz” Livoni

Best New Artist: The Shanghais R&B

Best Singer/Songwriter: Nina Francis

Best Jazz: Euphoria Brass Band

Best Jazz Album: Nathan Hubbard Trio, “This Stream”

Best Blues: Taryn Donath

Best Blues Album: Shane Hall, “West River Queen”

Best Country or Americana: The Sleepwalkers

Best Country or Americana Album: Trouble in the Wind, “All the Boys”

Best Hip Hop/Rap: Riston Diggs & Sly Beats

Best Hip Hop or Rap Album: Parker Meridien, “The Bully Pulpit”

Best Indie/Alternative: Aviator Stash

Best Indie/Alternative Album: Ten Bulls, “Physicians Magician”

Best Pop: Johnny Tarr

Best Pop Album: Chloe Lou and The Liddells, “Storybook”


Best Rock Album: The Schizophonics, “People In The Sky”

Best World Music: Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi

Best World Music Album: Marujah, “Gypsy Noise Ritual”

Best Local Recording: Sure Fire Soul Ensemble, “Build Bridges”

Best Live Band: Sully