Natasha James’ happy return to music 

Sonoma-based twang-smith Natasha James still chuckles about how when she handed a local producer her first screenplay, “Beach Baby Blues” — a hardscrabble tale of a teenage girl living by her wits while traveling the world alone — she was told her plot was totally unbelievable since young women did not lead such trashy lives.

Little did the impresario know, says the now-50-ish James, that the play was fairly autobiographical. She left home at 14, never looked back and wound up having more cosmopolitan adventures than Phileas Fogg.

Today, James is a seasoned roots-rock musician who will be playing in Sausalito on Saturday backing her recent CD, “Tequila Time,” which won her a 2010 Producer’s Choice Los Angeles Music Award for country songwriter of the year.

Also, she will preview songs from her upcoming set, “My Country Has the Blues.”

James has lived an exotic life that started in her childhood when her writer mom pushed her into studying acting with Lee Strasberg himself. Soon, she was appearing in movies, even modeling, just to please the folks.

“It was one of those arguments you have with your parents,” says James, who has a photo of herself, age 8, with Walt Disney. “I wanted to do music, but my mother wanted me to be an actress. She would always say, ‘Music is seedy, sordid and squalid, young lady!’ And I’d say, ‘Oh yeah? Well, listen to this song I just wrote!’”

In her preteens, she trotted the globe as a research assistant to her mother, whose series of nervous breakdowns forced James out of the house.

The vagabond landed in London, squatting and busking for change, then backup-singing in a residency at Ronnie Scott’s famed nightclub  — “All part of my rebellion, I suppose,” she says.

Later in New York, James would pay the bills with voice-over work. Happily, she slips into the seductive murmur of her most signature ad: “White Linen. A crisp new fragrance from Estee Lauder!”

But when kids came along, James — a single mom — left showbiz. “I wanted them to have their own childhood,” she says.

So James took a high-paying job, sent her brood to solid schools, but asked for a sign that she could return to music once they were grown up.

“Then, boom! Everything started taking place right after that,” she says. Almost immediately, James signed to a friend’s label, was offered a free recording session and was flooded with offers from backing musicians.

“I’m lucky,” she says. “As I move forward, I’ve had nothing but good, talented folks around me, so I’m feeling this new sense of camaraderie now.”


Natasha James

Presidio Yacht Club, Travis Marina, Fort Baker, Sommerville Road, Sausalito

8:30 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $10


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Tom Lanham

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