Songwriter Bret Levick is, at heart, a classic rock kind of guy. He wrote his first song at age 11 after hearing music by the Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Leonard Cohen.
"There were lots of other artists," Levick says. "I grew up in the late '60s with my parents in Paris. I hung out with a bunch of hippies and listened to all kinds of music. I used to joke that I was the only kid who knew all the lyrics to Cohen's songs."
Later, rock musicians David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Elvis Costello turned the young musician's head.
When: 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23
Where: Alex's, 35 N. Main St., Ashland
"I also took guitar lessons, but never practiced," Levick says. "Which is why all the players I work with are better than me."
Levick and his band, LEFT, will perform at 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, at Alex's, 35 N. Main St., Ashland. The cover is $5.
When he was 21, Levick found himself back in the States and living in Los Angeles, where he wrote songs and performed with an alternative rock band called Gifthorse.
"Back then my lyrics were more sardonic, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way," Levick says. "I wrote about subjects like greed, broken hearts and other bones I had to pick. The things I was unhappy about, politics, the world, inspired me to write. But it was only my angst talking."
Gifthorse had a good following, and in 2000 its independent LP, "Excess, Lies and Heather's Arrest," charted on commercial radio stations up and down the West Coast.
"We were one of the first bands that ever charted on commercial radio with an independent album," Levick says.
A single on the album titled "Heather's Arrest," about a heroin addict, is completely fictitious. The song was dubbed after the name of a horse on a racing form.
"That was the inspiration behind that song," Levick says. "But it's a good story. I love the storytelling aspect of songwriting."
These days, Levick doesn't feel like he's fighting discontent any longer, he says.
"I had a kid," he says. "I was in my 30s, we were on the road a lot, the music industry was changing, and I didn't want to do the band thing."
So when Pinch Hit Records gave him an advance to do an album, instead of going into the studio, he bought a Power Mac G4, some preamps and microphones and taught himself to produce music. Through a series of events, he began writing music for television.
"It was time to get serious," Levick says. "And I didn't want my kid going to school in L.A."
Levick moved to the Rogue Valley, bringing his Southern California television clients with him.
"The work I do for them is very portable," he says.
LEFT began to form about four years ago, when Levick, guitarist Jeff Pevar, bassist Greg Frederick and vocal percussionist Cornflower played a show at 4 Daughters Irish Pub in Medford.
"The lineup changed a lot during the first year," Levick says. "Slowly the band grew to include Frederick, slide guitarist Bob Evoniuk and drummer Matt Terriri. LEFT is an acronym for our last names. Don Harriss began playing keys with us about a year ago. By then, people knew the band as LEFT."
Today, Levick's lyrical expressions are more universal, poetic and open to interpretation. "LEFT is a good project for me," he says. "It's an avenue for the big catalog of songs I've got, and the band members like them. Evoniuk gives the band an Americana, bluesy sound. We play some of the Gifthorse songs, only with a less aggressive approach, making the music accessible to a wider range of people.
"We also perform some of the stuff I write for TV shows," Levick says. Such as "So Many Ways Back Down" with Jeff Pevar for FX's "Sons of Anarchy," "Date with Demise" on Fox's "American Idol," and "I'll Believe" with Frankie Hernandez on ABC's "666 Park Avenue."
Levick's work ends up on network shows, television commercials and movie trailers around the globe.
"It's a good living," he says. "I can't retire yet, but I get to work in my pajamas."