Growing up the son of two folk singers who regularly performed in the Boston area, Sean McConnell seemed destined to follow in his parents’ footsteps.
“I would go to their gigs and they would have band rehearsal at the house or friends who came over to jam,” McConnell says. “I started playing guitar and writing songs by age 10, and playing gigs in middle and high school.”
McConnell released his first album in 2000 when he was just 15 years old. Over the past 21 years, he’s added nine recordings, including “A Horrible Beautiful Dream,” his newest album released earlier this year.
“Once I stared, I just never turned back,” McConnell says. “It’s what keeps me alive and gives me purpose.”
On October 1, McConnell will kick off Wolf Trap’s season at the Barns, introducing fans to many songs from “A Horrible Beautiful Dream.”
“I’m very introspective, as most songwriters are, but the time definitely brought out a darkness of questioning in the song lyrics,” he says. “To me, it’s about the grey instead of the black and white. It’s a home for people who feel disillusioned and reconstructing things they used to believe in that don’t work anymore. That’s the thread of the record.”
During the unexpected time off during the pandemic, he wrote a lot of songs and recorded his new record.
“I told my family it was time to create music,” he says. “I really enjoyed that part of quarantine.”
McConnell is almost always working on his next song or record. His studio is his home away from home — or farm, in this case, which he shares with his wife and daughter Abella, outside of Franklin, Tennessee.
He has also found success writing songs for other artists, including Christina Aguilera, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts and Meat Loaf. He produced five records for artists during the pandemic.
“When I am writing a song, I know early on if it’s something for my next record or if it’s for someone else,” he says. “A lot of the time, an artist shows up in the studio and I’ll sit with them and write a song for their record. It’s the reason I’m there.”
Once in a while, McConnell will play a song he wrote for another artist at his own concerts — but mostly sticks to his own songs fans are familiar with.
“At Wolf Trap, it’s just going to be me and my acoustic guitar in a stripped-down show,” he says. “I like a good singer-songwriter type show, so I tend to tell the stories behind the songs and create more of an intimate evening.”
During the pandemic, McConnell did a handful of live streams but felt disconnected by the process. Having not performed live in more than 18 months, he is thrilled to be back on stage in front of a crowd. He started performing again in late August.
By the time he gets to Wolf Trap, he feels his sea legs will be all warmed up.
“I really appreciate being back on the road and doing what I love again,” he says. “I’ll be touring with a full-court press until around the holidays. I want to do this for the rest of my life and continue to build an audience who wants to hear original music.”
Sean McConnell plays the Barns at Wolf Trap on Friday, October 1 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27. For more information, visit wolftrap.org. To learn more about McConnell, visit seanmcconnell.com or follow him on Instagram @sean_mcconnell.