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Steve Poltz talks about scoring Slamdance feature 'Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde'

When San Diego-based troubadour Steve Poltz first visited cowboy poet Dayton O. Hyde in South Dakota, he thought they would eat a steak house.

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Instead, Hyde took him to an all-you-can Chinese buffet that was underwhelming in its offerings, but still it was a memorable. life-altering experience.

"It was the best Chinese buffet I ever had because it was with Dayton," said in a phone interview.

Poltz wrote the music and score for the 92-minute Slamdance documentary "Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde," about Hyde, a former rodeo clown who rose to become an unlikely conservationist when he decided to defend wild horses on his sprawling ranch in South Dakota.

The film will screen at the Treasure Mountain Inn on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 1:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m.

Poltz likes to call the 87-year-old cowboy the "environmentalist John Wayne," and he became the perfect subject for Poltz's first foray into film scoring.

Interestingly enough, Poltz — who is most famous for writing former Utah resident Jewel's huge hit "You Were Meant for Me" as well as being a fixture of the burgeoning San Diego music scene — had been to 49 states on touring adventures. He was able to cross South Dakota off the list when he visited Hyde for the first time.

He was recruited to enter the film-scoring world by director and producer Suzanne Mitchell, who spent about a decade chronicling Hyde's fascinating life. "I was really nervous about it," Poltz said. "I wanted to say, 'Do you have the right guy?' I wasn't sleeping well."

Poltz eventually became more comfortable, especially after spending a few days with Hyde. "I like to have deadlines," Poltz said.

Poltz always keeps his skills sharp by participating in a weekly song-writing exercise among fellow San Diego musicians that include Jason Mraz. Every week, each songwriter is given a phrase, and in a week's time, each songwriter has to come up with a song that includes that particular phrase. This week, the phrase is "the emptiness within." The previous week, the phrase was "the comfort of dry land."

The discomfort of dry land, tended by a cowboy, was enough inspiration for Poltz for this project.

— David Burger



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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