'Blues' for deep blue sea

Gulf Coast oil spill gave inspiration for documentary 'Blues Planet: Sounds' by Laguna Beach artist-musician Wyland. It will screen Friday at Forum Theatre.

January 24, 2013|Rhea Mahbubani
  • Willie K from Hawaii joins the Wyland Blues Planet Band onstage during recent Doheny Blues Festival, which was filmed for "Blues Planet: Sounds" documentary.
Willie K from Hawaii joins the Wyland Blues Planet Band… (Courtesy Faye Chapman )

As a young boy, when Wyland saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time, he felt something shift within him.

Moments later, two gray whales peeked out from the surface of the water.

A lifelong connection was formed.

"I saw two gray whales spouting right in front of me," said Wyland, 56, of his earliest memory of Laguna Beach in 1971. "I saw their barnacle-encrusted backs and their beautiful tails. After that, the whale tail has became the symbol of my art. What happens to you when you're a kid can really be profound."

Keeping his inspiration close at hand, Wyland is now an artist, documentary filmmaker and musician. At the heart of all his creativity lies the environment.

"That experience has stayed with me even to this day," said Wyland, who goes only by his family name. "I decided to dedicate myself to marine life and use my art to bring attention to the great whales and oceans."


When the self-ascribed "Lagunatic" visited the Gulf Coast five days after BP's 2010 oil spill, he was "pushed over the edge" upon witnessing the beleaguered ocean and marine life. After being tugged back to shore due to the copious amounts of oil in the water, he was fueled to write 60 environmentally themed blues songs and three documentaries. "Blues Planet: Sounds," the first part of the trilogy, will be screened by the Laguna Beach Film Society from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Forum Theatre at the Festival of Arts grounds.

Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, with several songs recorded at Piety Street Recording on the first anniversary of the oil spill, the hour-long documentary was unveiled at last year's Newport Beach Film Festival. The handiwork of nearly 40 blues artists, including Taj Mahal, Rod Piazza and Steve Turre, "Blues Planet: Sounds" was narrated by oceanographer Sylvia Earle of National Geographic fame. Creative director Gino Beltran and editor George Bryan also spent hours on the project.

When Wyland approached Nicholas Hernandez, a.k.a. Nick-I, a 27-year member of Orange County reggae band Common Sense, he immediately said, "I can do that. I want to do that."

Hernandez, 48, a surfing, diving and fishing aficionado who lives in Laguna Beach, calls the ocean his "second home." When presented with the opportunity to co-write and sing socially conscious blues music, he jumped on board.

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