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Yuba City singer dreams of MTV fame
Marysville videographer Sylvester Espinoza shifts his camera bag impatiently waiting for Yuba City musician Cory Lumford to arrive at an empty First Street parking lot outside the Marysville levee.
"One thing I hate about this business is all the waiting and the scheduling," Espinoza says.
The business is music video production. The project Tuesday night is shooting the first reels of a video in Marysville and Yuba City featuring Lumford's original song "Eucalyptus."
Lumford is late.
A married father of three young girls who installs solar panels during the day, Lumford is 32. And, at his age, he is running out of day light in more ways than one.
But at a time in life when many Yuba-Sutter residents have abandoned their artistic ambitions, Lumford is doubling down on his hip-hop dreams.
It's the first music video attempt for Lumford and Espinoza, a 19-year-old Marysville High graduate who is studying filmmaking at the Art Institute in Sacramento.
Espinoza says he is already working on a documentary about homeless groups in Marysville. Espinoza says he was first drawn to Lumford's original lyrics, and Lumford typifies an underrated artistic scene in Yuba-Sutter.
"They don't really get as much publicity or credit as they should," Espinoza says. "I've seen break dancers, musicians, skaters and they're really good."
Lumford, known on local stages as Dayz Rich, arrives 45 minutes late, and is missing two of the three members in his music group — scheduling is always tough, especially when nobody is getting paid.
Espinoza informs the group it's already too late to film everything they'd planned.
"I wanted to get Rich walking along the levee, singing out by the ruins and under the water tower in Yuba City," Espinoza says. "We'll have to come back and get it later."
A touch of booze on his breath aside, Lumford mostly reeks of enthusiasm.
He says he is not at all worried that many may think him too old to break into the mainstream music scene.
"I feel like I've always been the underdog, you know," Lumford says.
He is shy about his childhood and early adult life, but opens up talking about his music. After a series of false starts, he believes he really has something to say.
"I don't live a life that's gangster, but I do come from a place that's low income and poverty," Lumford says.
He doesn't answer questions about any past gang involvement or any criminal history. He does, however, acknowledge being arrested in 2007 on suspicion of grand theft auto, but says he was falsely accused.
"I never got a chance to tell my story. That's how the whole justice system is around here, no lie," he says.
Prosecutors dropped all charges, however, when Lumford signed up for the Army. After a few years in the military that he says included a short noncombant stint in Iraq, Lumford says he is a new man.
"I've made mistakes, gotten into trouble — a lot of trouble," he says, "but that's what's great about America. You really, really can try to do anything you want in America."
Espinoza sets up his camera over the levee at a graffiti-soaked spot full of dead tall grass, discarded fast food wrappers, broken bottles and shattered concrete.
"Do your thing, but, whatever you do, don't look at the camera," Espinoza instructs.
Along with bandmember Mathew Purvine, Lumford begins dancing and singing to his own music in front of the graffitied walls. Espinoza zooms in, capturing the scene.
The worlds of music and film have never been known as easy tickets to success. Yuba-Sutter has never been known as a breeding ground for superstars. However, Espinoza and Lumford are eager to focus on the joy of their own artistic work regardless of any appreciation.
Lumford hopes to see his music played on MTV. He believes he is getting closer, but is also happy enough recording and performing the music he and his friends like to hear.
Espinoza says his own ambitions are even less commercial.
"I don't really plan on ever making it big," he says. "But if I could show other people talent from places they probably haven't heard of or been to and give the talent a voice, I always thought that would be pretty cool."