Paul Irving is the founder, CEO, Marketing Director, and Director of Distribution of BigBigSLO Music Entertainment of San Luis Obispo, but he was a musician first. Paul Irving lives his passion every day. In fact, he’s built a career working and playing in arenas that best suit his talents — live music promotion and performance.
“I’ve seen live music cut through anything that divides us,” he said. “Music is helping us connect during these divisive times because people are willing to leave politics and religion at the door to enjoy it together.”
After college Irving was well on his way to corporate success, but at 21 he decided it wasn’t the life he wanted. A friend who lured him to the Central Coast discovered he’d played trumpet since age-four and recruited him for the 1980s-90s band, Rock Steady Posse. The group’s local popularity and Irving’s self-taught Guerrilla marketing talents launched them on a western states tour so he quit his day-job with Greg Hind at GH Sports. After five years, touring wasn’t the life he wanted either. He preferred to stay, perform and promote locally.
“All my life I’ve been the one to set up the parties,” he said. “I enjoy getting people together. In ‘93 three drummers and me on trumpet played the Odd Fellows Hall in Morro Bay. People loved the Afro-Funk style. Mosaic was born and hot until 1997 when we broke up.” Band members Dylan Johnson and Jacob Odell went off to study and play their music in New York and Boston while Andrew Wise and Irving stayed home and wrote over 50 pieces knowing someday there would be a time again for their music. Meanwhile, Irving fulfilled another passion — developing the Sailing Center of Morro Bay giving rides and teaching sailing.
A decade later Irving encouraged Johnson to return to San Luis and in 2007 six of the seven members of Mosaic birthed the Zongo All-Stars with a ready-made danceable Afro-Latin sound and a savvy, connected band manager in Irving to find them gigs. Somewhere in the mix Irving married long-time girlfriend, Jessica, and realized he needed a career that would sustain his family. Irving’s Bayside Life has offered clients life insurance and fixed annuities for 18 years.
“Insurance didn’t fulfill my soul,” he said, “but I love both lives.” Mornings he attends to insurance clients at his office overlooking the back bay he loves. “Mostpeople are looking for quality of life. I’ve achieved it. Afternoons it’s time to play.”
When Vina Robles recruited him to lead their “street team” promotions, Irving developed a time-efficient product to promote multiple area-wide live music happenings. The 2018 BigBigSLO Music Sourcebook features 174 live music venues and 210 local bands. BigBigSLO.com also produces a monthly BigBigSLO Live Music Monthly Pocket Planner. Irving is personally out and about to 50 to 60 venues distributing 10,000 pocket-sized planners all cooperatively supported by the musicians and live music venues.
And In his spare time, he produces live music events like Baywood’s JUNEFEST, the Zongo Yachting Cup , and annually in late August, the family-friendly BAYWOOD BAYFEST at the Back Bay Inn featuring the Zongo All-Stars among many local favorites.
Then there is Monday evenings after the Baywood Farmer’s Market when families gather with their lawn chairs at the Blue Heron Restaurant from May through October and go indoors from November through April at La Palapa Restaurant. What began as three friends enjoying a happy hour beer near the Baywood pier has morphed into BEER AT THE PIER CONCERTS. “Ted Emrick, a prominent glass artist in Baywood and Curt Miller, the drummer of the Mother Corn Shuckers and owner of the Morro Bay’s “In the Groove” and I were regulars at the Baywood Café informally enjoying a cold one after work. Jointly we sparked the idea of making it a regular thing with music,” said Irving. Baywood Café agreed to host the informal acoustic jams featuring groups like Tuan Chau’s Cuesta Ridge, Zongo All-Stars, Green2White and more. “When Daylight Savings Time kicked in the first year I thought we’d take a break for the winter months but the community wanted to continue and LaPalapa stepped up to host it.”
Irving continued, “Blue Heron Chef Shaun Behrens remarked, “This has grown into a big thing” and talked his investor group to support his vision with a garden stage, dancing and sitting lawn, fire-pit lounge, multiple patios for take-out or fine dining inside or outside, and two bars all right on the bay. Recently Terry Lawless of U2 who lives in the area played live just because he loves to play. We book a variety of musical styles of local top talent.” BigBigSLO.com contains a full schedule.
“I learned early how to balance what paid the bills with what I’m passionate about – family, music and sailing,” he said. Paul Irving believes he is living the Central Coast dream – and his children Edie, 16, and Cooper, 14, both at Morro Bay High School are continuing a family legacy in music and entertainment. Irving mused, “Working with my insurance clients, every day I’m tuned into mortality. It’s become an urgency not to waste any time while I’m here so I seek quality of life for my familyand strive to benefit my community.”