Fond memories of La Jolla keep singer/songwriter Gary Jules coming home

Gary Jules has had a long career recording and touring, with moments of popular success that have propelled him into the mainstream. Another of those moments is on the horizon, as he finishes his first new album in three years with childhood friend Michael Andrews. It’s been a decade since they recorded Jules’ seminal album “Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets,” and the song “Mad World.”

Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” was No. 1 in the UK in 2003, nearly three years after it was recorded for the indie noir film “Donnie Darko,” with friend Andrews.

After years of touring, Jules came home to California. After the birth of his first child, he left record companies behind, downsizing to a more sustainable music life that would better afford him time to be home with his family, who he moved to the mountains of North Carolina in 2006. “Falling Awake,” from his independently released self-titled album, appeared on two Billboard Top 100 charts in January 2007, a week after being featured in an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

In spring 2008, newly recorded Jules’ songs from the album “Bird,” began circulating online. Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis and director Philip Seymour Hoffman used two of the songs, “Goodnight Billie” and “Bird/Little Greenie,” in an Off-Broadway production of Guirgis’ “The Little Flower of East Orange.” A third unreleased Jules track, “The Old Days Are Gone,” found its way onto college radio stations across the country in the months before the 2008 presidential election in connection with candidate Barack Obama.

“Same Old Wind,” produced by Andrews and featuring Robert Walter on keyboards, drummer George Sluppick, and Priscilla Ahn with backing vocals, is due out in early 2012.

What first brought you to La Jolla?

My parents. My mom and dad met at UC Berkeley in the ‘60s. Mom was from Bakersfield, dad from San Diego. I was born in Fresno (long story) and my folks moved us all to Eads Avenue in May 1969, when I was three months old.

What makes this area special to you?

I grew up in La Jolla. Went to Gillespie Cottage, La Jolla Country Day, LJ Elementary, Muirlands, LJHS, and Bishop’s. Learned to surf at the Shores and then moved to WindanSea. Most of my closest friends are still people I met there.

Also, I won’t lie, burritos. It’s a lifelong obsession. Started at Lupita’s on Pearl (where Wahoo’s is now), when 31 Flavors was right next door. Then Salazar’s, Alfonso’s, Jose’s, El Ranchero, La Rancherita, La Posada del Sol, Don Juan, Don Carlos (pre-potato), Cebolla’s, Bahia (need bigger guacamole sides), Los Dos #'s 1 thru whatever, Porkyland, Ortega’s — I love you all.

Most recent, of course, is Rigoberto’s. Jury’s still out, been there twice. Once was killer, once was “eh.” Am going to give them another shot when I get into town next week.

What might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I know everyone loves to talk about how all of the growth has ruined La Jolla. I don’t want to get into all that OR the seals OR the cross, but I will say that I miss surf movies at the Cove Theater, the Scot’s, Ginder’s, Scanlin’s, jumping off the Clam, WindanSea Grocery, (my parents account at) Nautilus Pharmacy, AM/PM, Yogurt Affair, Square Pan Pizza, and the pipe-smoking guy with the huge mustache that worked at the Radio Shack next door to Square Pan. That dude had the same 30 dusty records in there from like 1977 until it closed.

Seriously though, they should let people jump off the Clam — I will gladly “Occupy” upper Bearclaw if anyone’s down for a little sit-in. Also, I don’t have any use for the gigantic fortresses on the water south of Big Rock, or the Victoria’s Secret where the doors are always open, and there’s always underwear that’s fallen off the racks just kinda sitting there crumpled up on the floor. Sigi’s always has their doors open, but they’re classy over there, no crumpled undies.

Who or what inspires you?

Music still inspires me, I get jealous and antsy when I hear something good — and I’m still a huge fan of surfing. Mostly these days though, it’s my kids and my wife.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

My uncle Tony Aguirre, my mom’s parents Russell and Aileen Kennedy, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Robert Kennedy, Robert Frost, and Cleopatra (saw a thing about her on TV last night). Also my combined birth and marriage families, otherwise what’s the point? And probably Jeff Saywitz, he’d be super fretty if Bob was there and I didn’t call him to come over and get all puffy.

What are your favorite movies of all time?

In no particular order, and not necessarily current faves, just BIGGEST faves: “Willy Wonka” (with Gene Wilder), “Silver Streak” (with Gene Wilder), “Breaking Away,” “The Usual Suspects,” and “Bingo Long’s Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings.”

And “The Jerk.” And “Tommy Boy.” And “Old School.” Ooh, “Bad News Bears,” of course. All very high brow, I know.

What is your most-prized possession?

Life, family. Not really possessions, but whatever.

What do you do for fun?

I have two young kids. That’s about all I do beside work. I love surfing, and wish I could surf more.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

For me personally, kids and family aside, I think I’m proudest of having finished a B.A. in English at UCLA. Started in 1987, graduated 2001. Holla!

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

“True wit is nature to advantage dressed,

What oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed.” It’s from Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Gary Jules performed a benefit for the San Diego Museum of Man in Balboa PArk on Oct.21. He was also honored at The Bishop’s School annual fundraiser this month. Hear his music at