Folksinger John McCutcheon, who has 30 albums under his belt, recently began a set of shows that takes him to the Framingham Civic League Saturday night.
Folksinger John McCutcheon prefers to work alone.
While many musicians rely on their bands, McCutcheon says he is at the point where he prefers to perform by himself.
"I can go out and say, 'I have no idea what I'm going to play,' " says McCutcheon, speaking last week from his home in Atlanta. "I think the only person that can do that with a band is Bruce Springsteen."
The songwriter, who has 30 albums under his belt, recently began a set of shows that takes him to the Framingham Civic League Saturday night.
"Starting out on tour for someone like me means I'm going out this weekend," he says.
True to form, the Framingham concert is part of a weekend swing that also includes two New York shows.
For these shows, the multi-instrumentalist says he will typically bring a guitar, a banjo, an autoharp, a hammer dulcimer, a fiddle ("sometimes"), and he will play a piano provided by the venue.
Aside from the array of instruments, concertgoers will also get a mix of musical selections, from love tunes to songs ripped from the day's papers, McCutcheon says.
"It's kind of like a little folk festival rolled up into one night," says McCutcheon, a Grammy nominee several times.
"Playing music is easy. It's creating an evening - that's the fun part. I can't say what I'm going to do."
The last time McCutcheon played in Framingham, it was only after some reshuffling due to snow, says Michael Moran, executive director of the Amazing Things Arts Center.
"It was worth it," says Moran. "Many of the patrons felt it was the best show we did last year."
McCutcheon is touring behind the recent release of "This Fire," his latest album, a "more song-driven than sound-driven" collection, he says.
Since starting out in the business about 30 years ago, the Wisconsin-born McCutcheon says he thinks he has a better sense of story in his writing.
"Hopefully I got a little more skilled," he says. "All your experiences influence what you do. I'm not a 20-year-old kid putting out a first album anymore."
To Moran, McCutcheon is the "personification of folk music," evidenced by his Web site, www.folkmusic.com.
"He's one of the finest songwriters the United States has ever produced," Moran says. "He's just prolific, and his songs are great. And he's a gentleman. He's down to earth, not demanding. In this business, they can be."
McCutcheon says he's looking forward to the Framingham show, presented in conjunction with the arts center.
There are many places to play folk music in New England, he adds.
"The audience tends to be pretty well-educated musically," he says. "It's more informative, participatory, conversational."
That is just the way McCutcheon likes it.
He recalls a recent show in Cordova, Alaska, where he was singing a song about commercial salmon fishing, an occupation for many residents in that area.
"In the middle of the song, a little girl turns to her mother in a whisper loud enough for everyone to hear, and she says, 'Mom, he's singing about us,' " McCutcheon says. "That's better than a Grammy. To have someone recognize themselves, that's something that's really special."
And that selection was not even a kid's song, McCutcheon adds.
One of his recent albums was made for kids, though, and McCutcheon found himself nominated for a Grammy this year for "Christmas in the Trenches."
He eventually lost at the February ceremony to Bill Harley.
"I don't need no stinking Grammy," McCutcheon says with a laugh.
Aside from the recording academy's oversight, he says this year was not his favorite Grammy experience.
In the past, the post-parties were spread out, featuring different musical artists in each ballroom, he says.
"This year it was one huge room," McCutcheon says. "It wasn't quite as intimate. But it's a fun free party if you're nominated."
McCutcheon is now focusing on his latest songwriting - for an album devoted to baseball tunes.
"Sermon on the Mound," scheduled to be released on opening day next year, will showcase his love of the game.
"I go to an embarrassing number of baseball games," says McCutcheon, who watches the Braves play at Turner Field in Atlanta.
Although he notes the Red Sox' recent success, McCutcheon says he has taken to the Colorado Rockies.
"I kind of admire their Cinderella season," he says.
Before moving to Atlanta, McCutcheon lived in Charlottesville, Va. He says he knew a local artist named Dave Matthews before he started his band.
"I've seen the evolution from people playing in small places to traveling with 70 people," McCutcheon Says.
"The times I've toured with my band - god, it's a nightmare," he says, later retreating from those words a bit. "It's fun, it's just a lot of logistical headaches. If I had a band, I would have to go weeks and weeks at a time."
Touring on weekends gives McCutcheon a chance to be at home during the week, where he says he likes being with friends and family.
Some of those friends are "stuck in jobs they hate," McCutcheon says.
"Every now and then I think, 'I can't believe I can still do this. This is great.' "
John McCutcheon performs at the Framingham Civic League, 214 Concord St., Saturday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m., sponsored by Amazing Things Arts Center. The Guy Mendilow Band opens. Tickets are $25, $24 for seniors/students and $22 for members, and are available by calling 508-405-ARTS (2787). For more information, visit www.amazingthings.org.
Paul Crocetti can be reached at 508-634-7583 or firstname.lastname@example.org