NORTH EAST — Growing up on an alpaca farm in Martinsburg, W.Va., Trae Sheehan had a lot of time on his hands.
Since he was homeschooled, Sheehan said he finished his school work hours before his public school counterparts, allowing him to sit and read, write or listen to music. It was through the latter activity that he transitioned into making his own music.
“Being homeschooled is probably the reason that I’m a songwriter and performer,” Sheehan said. “I was a very shy kid, so if I had gone to public school I know I would not have found my own confidence to do what I do now.”
Sheehan will be performing Saturday, Sept. 21, at the North Elk Coffee House at St. Mary Anne’s Episcopal Church, located at 315 S. Main St. in North East. Doors will open at 6:45 p.m. and the show will begin at 7:30 p.m.
There is a suggested donation at the door of $10 for adults or $6 for audience members under 18 years old. Beverages, desserts and snacks will be available for a suggested donation of $1 each. As is the case with all other NECH performances, proceeds from Saturday’s event will benefit Meeting Ground, a nonprofit organization that serves people experiencing homelessness in Cecil County.
For Sheehan’s family, music was a constant presence in their household, the musician said.
“There was music around the house all the time,” he said.
Sheehan’s mother favored Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and other “country, classic rock stuff,” whereas his dad introduced him to “weirder stuff” like Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and the Steve Miller Band.
Despite his parents’ different musical tastes, there was one band they could all agree was a family favorite: the Eagles.
“My parents had very different musical tastes, so that was one of the few artists that everyone could agree was really good and would enjoy listening to,” Sheehan said.
According to Sheehan, the Eagles inspired him to start writing his own songs and continue to influence his music to this day.
“They are the reason I started music,” he said. “I had all the influences I had. I listened to so many different artists growing up, but they’re the artist I go back to if I’m really stuck on a song. I’ll go back and listen to their entire catalogue.”
In addition to the Eagles, Sheehan said artists like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Bob Seger helped shape him into a self-identified “Americana folk rock” musician.
“I think it’s kind of because Americana is a mixing pot of different genres based around roots music,” Sheehan said, adding that Americana music’s “honest storytelling” and the opportunities it offers to play live instruments in a living room or other small setting are part of what draws him to the genre.
Sheehan said he writes songs about “absolutely everything,” but that most of his music tends to take on a more serious tone.
“I’ll try to write a happy song here and there and it ends up coming out a little sadder than I mean it to,” he said.
For example, Sheehan recently recorded a song called “To Be Alone.”
“It was supposed to be a thoughtful song about not wanting your significant other to be alone,” he said. “It is that, but it came out to everybody else who’s heard so far as very sad and everyone thinks it’s a very depressing tune whereas I thought it was a sweet, happy tune.”
Of all the songs he has written, Sheehan said one of his favorites is a tune called “Glass.”
“In short, it’s about remembering past relationships, whether they’re someone still in your life or not, and enjoying the fact that they were a part of your life and helped you become who you are,” he said.
Sheehan said that song not only means a lot to him, but it also seems to hold meaning for the audiences he has played it for.
“I’m very proud of that song and it means a lot to me when I perform it,” he said. “People seem to react really well to it, which also adds to the magic of it.”
Whether he’s by himself in a room — or more often now, alone on the road — Sheehan said that solitude has contributed to the introspective nature of his music.
“It’s usually me alone with an acoustic guitar and that tends to show itself through the lyrics,” he said.
In addition to performing songs from his first album, “Storyteller,” and his album “Arizona,” which was released in August, Sheehan said he also plans to play some new songs that he is still developing.
Although he primarily writes music on his own, Sheehan said he enjoys sharing his songs and getting feedback on the works in progress.
“The people in the audience are the same people listening to the records, whether they’re buying the CDs or the vinyl or streaming it online … So to hear their reactions in person really helps me gauge what speaks to them,” he said.
During his shows, Sheehan said he tries to involve people, whether it’s through audience participation during the performance itself or just making conversation between songs.
“When I do shows, I love doing shows at places like the North Elk Coffee House because it’s an intimate atmosphere … It’s meant to be a special moment. The whole point in what I try to focus on in my shows is when we’re all in the room together, we’re all in that moment together.”