You’ll soon be hearing more from Goh Nakamura, but it won’t necessarily be here. Not in the music section, anyway. After building a sizable cult following for his Beatles-inflected brand of folk pop and racking up over a million YouTube hits for his “Embarcadero Blues” video, the Bay Area–based singer-guitarist is looking at a new career: movie star. The next time he turns up in the Straight, he’s probably going to be a few pages over.
The film biz is not entirely new terrain for the Japanese-born, American-raised musician, whose songs have been featured in two Ridley Scott films, A Good Year and American Gangster. What’s different about Surrogate Valentine, the new feature from indie filmmaker Dave Boyle, is that Nakamura’s acting in it.
The two met at a film festival in 2008, where Boyle was screening his previous effort, White on Rice. They hit it off so well that Boyle asked Nakamura to write a song to help promote his movie, although the man behind the camera may have had an ulterior motive.
“I wrote something really quickly, and then he filmed a video in black and white in San Francisco when he happened to be in town,” Nakamura explains. “I didn’t know it at the time, but he wanted to make his next movie about a musician, and so that ended up kind of like the audition for it.”
Apparently he passed: six months later, Boyle invited him to star in Surrogate Valentine, a somewhat fictional portrait of a happy-go-lucky singer-songwriter who just happens to be named Goh Nakamura.
“It was rough at first,” the neophyte actor admits. “But luckily Dave surrounded me with professionals, and before we even met he had me in touch with some of them via Skype. We would run lines and just kind of get to know each other over Skype chat. That helped a lot.”
The collaboration went well enough that the two will soon be shooting the second part of a planned trilogy. Nakamura’s also writing music for the films, often based on suggestions from Boyle.
“He’ll say, ”˜Oh, I can picture something like a George Harrison tune here,’ and then I’ll try to write something with that kind of feel. That’s been really fun, actually.
“The Beatles are deeply imbedded in my DNA,” adds Nakamura, whose keen melodic sense and raspy-sweet voice have often won him comparisons to John Lennon. “I remember watching the movie Help! on TV, and just being fascinated by songs like ”˜You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’, stuff like that. That really made me want to pick up the guitar and basically be John Lennon or Paul McCartney. Or George. Or even Ringo!”
So there’s a precedent for the music-to-movies transition Nakamura’s recently embarked upon—and as that old Fab Four song says, all he has to do is act naturally.
Goh Nakamura plays Chapel Arts on Friday (July 29) and the Powell Street Festival mainstage on Sunday (July 31).