There were good radio stations in Cleveland. It's just a hard rock sound. It's not the music I listened to growing up. I always grew up on Simon and Garfunkel and Bob Dylan, the Beatles, you know, classic stuff. ... So I loved music that came across as very honest. I've always loved that idea of the troubadour — the guy carrying around a guitar, writing about his life, keeping a journal and basically setting it to music.
I didn't start playing music until I was long gone from Cleveland. Maybe it took moving away to give me confidence and see there was a market and a demand for introspective, singer-songwriter-type music.
It's nice that my parents and my sister and the rest of my family can come see me play [when I come back]. If you do this every night, like I've been doing for years now, you tend to get really comfortable with the job, going up onstage and baring your soul to people and making yourself completely vulnerable. It's a little bit more difficult to do in front of people that have known you since you were a baby.
So I always get a little nervous before the hometown show. If I were ever to go onstage without getting nervous at all — not feel those butterflies — it would probably be an indication that it's time to stop playing shows. That nervous energy means you really care about what you're doing. — as told to Kelly Petryszyn