a pair of new albums By Steve DiMatteo
There are three things you should know about local singer-songwriter Tom Evanchuck.
First, you don't find too many young artists caring much about where their music comes from. There are obvious elements of alt-country and traditional twang in Evanchuck's music, but at the core of it he's a folksinger.
The Strongsville native, who now lives in Concord, grew up on the usual Important Influences: Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles. But he's also interested in the artists who influenced them. "I got into the old music from the '20s, '30s, and '40s," he says. "Just the way that they wrote songs and the things that they said, I just eat that up. And that's what has been pouring out lately."
Evanchuck is sort of suspended between eras, an old soul spinning catchy folk tales to modern-day audiences. But he's arrived at a good time, just as young and enthusiastic indie-rock fans are gravitating toward a more rustic style of music (see Iron and Wine, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, and other bearded, cabin-dwelling bards for proof).
The second thing you should know about Tom Evanchuck is that he's always working on music. Like, constantly. He's 22 now, and he's been strumming at coffee shops since high school. He used to work a full-time job, writing and playing his music whenever he had a spare minute. These days, being a musician is his full-time job.
He's paid his dues, playing bar gigs late into the night, getting up mere hours later, and going to the job that paid his bills. He was writing a lot back then — a dozen new songs in a week, eventually whittling the best down for release. Evanchuck still works like that: His recent EP, Nebby Thomas and Zrenner Lewis, features only three songs.
He's built a fan base over the years by traveling across the state to play shows in faraway college towns and maybe sell a few CDs. That nonstop work ethic has made Evanchuck somewhat of a veteran of the local music scene over the past couple of years. He has loyal fans here. He has loyal fans in other parts of Ohio. And he knowss"it's definitely going to take a while to get where I really, really want to be," he says. "I don't want to just pop up with a song and disappear. I want a slow-burn lengthy career."
Evanchuck has picked up tips from other musicians in town, many of whom have been doing the same thing before Evanchuck even reached puberty. They're quick to offer advice. "I'm getting pointers from people who are 10 years into it," he says. "I'm grateful for that."
The third thing you should know about Tom Evanchuck is that he's not afraid to try something new. He'll go out and buy a banjo just to see what kind of music he comes up with on it. He'll spend entire days writing songs that may never see the light of day, just to keep his songwriting sharp.
Evanchuck has two new albums coming out, each with 10 songs. Fadin' Glow, like his past work, features just Evanchuck and his acoustic guitar, riffing on small-town blues and broken hearts. But Tom Evanchuck Is Back as the Evanchucks is a plugged-in electric album with a drummer, bassist, and piano player. "It's still Americana, so it all works," he says. "It all goes together."
At Saturday's CD-release show at the Beachland Tavern, Evanchuck will give fans a taste of both records, playing a solo acoustic set and an electric one as a quartet. And don't worry about musical whiplash; Evanchuck says there'll be a pretty steady flow to the tunes. "Lyrically and structurally, it's all similar," he says. "They show off the same characteristics."
There's actually one more thing you should know about Tom Evanchuck. After spending even a little time with him, you know he's heading in the right direction. When he talks about his music and his future, he never mentions being rich and famous. He talks about music. And where it comes from. And how he wants people to talk about his music the way they talk about his influences. "To be that household name like Neil Young and Bob Dylan, to be that defining ...," he says. "A lot of people want fame and fortune. I want respect."
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