Some blues musicians learn to love the blues because they grew up with it. Others come to it later in life on emotionally scraped knees and with thoroughly wounded hearts.
For Seth Walker, his blues education was more like a correspondence course.
His uncle, Landon Walker, was the host of "After Hours Cafe," a blues show on a radio station in Jacksonville, Fla. While Seth was studying at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., his uncle would send him cassettes from the show, introducing him to a broad swath of the genre, from Texas firebrand Albert Collins to Chicago bluesmen such as Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters.
At the time, he was a recent convert to the guitar after a childhood spent learning to play classical music on the cello. The blues got its hooks in him in a bad way.
Remembering January is a local Southern rock/country quartet consisting of Tyler Southern (guitar/keys), Brandon Singleton (drums), Chris Deal (vocals) and Cody Bunch (bass). For more information and to listen to samples of the band's work, visit www.reverbnation.com/rememberingjanuary.
¦ What: Nightfall concert series featuring Seth Walker.
¦ When: 8 p.m. Friday, June 27; Remembering January opens at 7 p.m.
¦ Where: Miller Plaza, 850 Market St.
¦ Admission: Free.
¦ Phone: 423-265-0771.
¦ Venue website: www.nightfallchattanooga.com.
¦ Artist website: www.sethwalker.com.
"I went to East Carolina University for a short two years. I was so eat up with [the blues], that I couldn't concentrate on anything else, and I didn't want to waste my parents' money."
-- Seth Walker, on why he dropped out of
college to play music
¦ 1998: "When It Rains It Pours"
¦ 2005: "On the Outside"
¦ 2007: "Seth Walker"
¦ 2009: "Leap of Faith"
¦ 2012: "Time Can Change"
¦ 2014: "Sky Still Blue"
"While I was supposed to be going to class, I was in the dorm room playing my Stratocaster," he says, laughing. "I was so eat up with it that I couldn't concentrate on anything else."
At first, Walker says, he was most concerned with emulating the six-string work of electric blues legends Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. Singing, he says, was just a way to keep people's attention.
"When I first started, I didn't even consider myself a singer," he says. "I sang just because that's what I needed to do to get to the guitar solo. "
With the shrink wrap still warm on his eighth album, "Sky Still Blue," however, Walker says he can say, in retrospect, that singing with authenticity and a voice many have likened to T-Bone Walker have become cornerstones of his musical identity.
"I have to believe it, or no one else will, when I'm singing a song," he says. "I try to lean into every note I sing or I play."
Friday, June 27, Walker will take the stage at Miller Plaza as the headliner of this week's Nightfall concert.
After 15 years in Austin, he left the Lone Star state in 2012 to move to Nashville, where he struck up a friendship and creative partnership with famed songwriter/producer Gary Nicholson. Two years later, his restless feet took him to New Orleans, where he has been living since 2012.
Life in the Big Easy, he says, has brought back a rough edge to his music. That shift has helped him to reconnect with the rawness of the blues that he fell in love with half a lifetime ago.
"If you're not careful, music can get calculated, and you lose that organic spirit of why you even started doing it in the first place," he says. "New Orleans kind of brought the gristle back, [and] gristle is always where the flavor is anyway."
Contact Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.