Musician makes good showing in contest

COAST CITIES — “L.A. Can Wait,” written and performed by local musician Michael Tiernan, earned an honorable mention in the Adult Album Alternative category in the 2011 International Song Competition, a contest with an all-star panel of judges that included Jeff Beck, Tom Waits, Kelly Clarkson and Ozzy Osbourne. 

The title track from Tiernan’s fourth album, the song was one of 16,000 entries from 115 countries in 22 categories.

Last month, the song “Easy,” from the same album, received a Top 5 Award in the 2011 Great American Song Contest.

Tiernan said with each album he enters a song or songs in different contests to “see what happens.”

“It also helps me become a better songwriter,” he said.

Tiernan recently licensed his third album, “Spaces,” to the Discovery Network, so his music may be heard on any or all channels under the Discovery umbrella, including TLC, Oprah, Discover, Animal Planet, NatGeo and Bio.

“Also, MTV has used some songs from my last album in their programming,” he said.

Raised in Redlands, Calif., Tiernan became a cancer survivor at age 16. After high school he attended Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.

As a member of what he describes as a “Catholic hippie group,” he played at retreats throughout the country for a year or so, all the while contemplating life in the priesthood. He met Pope John Paul II in 1997.

“I’ve always been kind of a spiritual dude,” he said. “That pushed me over the edge to try it.”

He moved to Rome, Italy, and enrolled in a seminary. After studying during the day, he would sneak out at night to perform at local pubs.

“I always thought I had been called to be a priest but I was living the dream of being a rock star,” he said.

About a year away from taking his vows, Tiernan said he began to have doubts. “I questioned how to make that life work for me,” he said. “Catholicism is so formal and I’m so free-spirited.”

On New Year’s Eve at the turn of the millennium he decided he would finish the semester and leave the seminary. A few weeks later he met up with a high school friend who was traveling through Europe with a woman named Tracy, who grew up near Tiernan, although the two didn’t know each other at the time.

That sealed the deal. Tiernan moved to San Diego and three years later he and Tracy were married.

They lived in Del Mar for about 10 years. In 2004 he released his first album, “Still Listening,” and was promptly named Singer/Songwriter of the Year at the Los Angeles Music Awards.

Tiernan has no regrets about the time he spent in the seminary or his decision to leave. In fact, he said his songwriting skills grew while he was in there.

“I could reflect, meditate and process the things that were going on in life,” he said. “When space happens, a song comes.”

With a 2-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, life is busy. “Now it’s hard to make that (space) happen. But being near the ocean helps my songwriting. Big things have always inspired me.”

His writing is also motivated by his life experiences. Tiernan wrote a song after learning his wife was pregnant with their first child. “Strong” is about his brother’s battle with cancer.

“He’s a really big part of my last album,” Tiernan said. “The video incorporates his struggles with cancer. I want to help encourage people who went through that or who lost a loved one (to the disease). Cancer outreach is a big part of what I do.”

Tiernan is currently working on songs for his next album. He also performs at corporate events and weddings and serves as a DJ during receptions. He has several shows scheduled at En Fuego Cantina in Del Mar throughout May and June.

He also has a performance May 19 at Anthology on India Street in San Diego. For tickets or information, visit anthologysd.com. He plans to charter a bus from North County for people who don’t want to make the drive downtown.

Visit TiernanTunes.com for more information about Tiernan, his accolades and his other shows and albums.