Renowned singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John McCutcheon has a special evening of folk in store for the Schwartz Center for the Arts.

Renowned singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John McCutcheon has a special evening of folk in store for the Schwartz Center for the Arts.

McCutcheon, nominated for eight Grammy Awards, will share classics and new tunes from his 37th album, “Joe Hill’s Last Will,” at the Schwartz Center for the Arts on Friday.

The album, released in May, offers stories about famed Swedish American labor organizer and musician Joe Hill. The record commemorates the 100th anniversary of Hill’s death.

How excited are you to perform at the Schwartz Center for the Arts?

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Dover, so it’s always fun to return to a place again, armed with loads of new stuff. The Schwartz Center is a new stop for me, so it amps up the excitement.

How would you describe your artistry to someone who just discovered your music?

I play an arsenal of stringed instruments, was schooled by many of the greats in traditional American music, especially of the Appalachian South, but I write most of my own music [and am] heavily influenced by that tutelage, everything from historical pieces to kids songs to instrumentals to topical satire. I tell stories in a way most people don’t see musicians yarn, and then there’s the hammer dulcimer.

With so many songs in your catalog, how do you decide which ones you’ll perform in concert?

Well, there’s the handful that people come expecting to hear… and especially after a long absence from Dover, I’d better do those to make sure folks feel they got their money’s worth. Then the rest is all about the moment: what happened in the world that day, what people are bringing into the concert hall with them that night, what is suited to the locale? I have my spies that inform me who’s there and what’s going on in the town.

What’s one of your favorite songs to play and why?

“Christmas in the Trenches” is one, as it prompts lots of stories from audience members after the show. (I do come out to mingle, it’s one of favorite things to do!) But songs that I’ve written about the trajectory of my own life as a father, a grandfather, a citizen, a baseball fan, whatever, seem to touch a nerve with audience members and those moments are one of the reasons live performance is so powerful and important. We go through life inured to so much, just to make it through the day sometimes. Art helps set that part of us free.

What’s contributed to the longevity of your career?

A surprisingly unflagging curiosity, a willingness to work hard, and a real love of performing. Amidst all the things it takes to do what I do – writing, rehearsing, recording, research… holy alliteration, Batman – it’s when I finally stand up in front of a group of people that I feel like I’m truly doing my “job.” Oh, that and fish oil.

What drives you these days in your career?

My roadie, Tommy; and the certainty that the best is yet to come.


WHAT John McCutcheon in concert

WHEN 7:30 p.m., Friday

WHERE Schwartz Center for the Arts, 226 S. State St., Dover

COST $29 to $32

INFO Visit or call 678-3583