The definition of a troubadour, Nebraska-born musician Orion Walsh makes it a point to visit California at least once a year. With roots in both Sacramento and Orange County, Walsh's iconic pulled-back folk draws an array of listeners young and old. And this Thursday he'll be doing just that – performing in the fourth installment of the OC Parks Summer Concert Series at Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley.
Though Midwestern at heart, Walsh has a special place for Orange County in the fabric of his musicianship. At 17, he traveled to California for school and while attending Orange Coast College started the indie/emo group Slow Coming Day with some friends.
"Orange County is definitely a part of my history," said Walsh. "When I think of OC back then, the main staple is Chain Reaction in Anaheim."
With their very first show at the Cove in Costa Mesa, the quintessential early-2000s SoCal band played countless OC venues, and from 2002 to 2007 Walsh laid his California roots. Signed with Tooth and Nail Records, Walsh continued to play with Slow Coming Day as an Orange County band and in 2003 did his first U.S. tour. After the recession hit in 2008, Walsh decided to pick up and move back home to Nebraska – but his love of the road didn't fade away. Walsh did however, make a dramatic change in genre.
For a while, even while playing more indie rock and emo music, Walsh had been soaking in music from singer-songwriter folk greats including Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie, Willie Nelson and Neil Young.
"Folk style just feels more like who I am," said Walsh. "It's not that I turned away or stopped liking the more indie rock style. [Folk] just felt more like who I was. And still feel that way today."
This style would be the vehicle Walsh used throughout his prolific and widespread solo career.
"After moving back to home, I had a goal to go on tour once a year, and put out and album once a year," said Walsh. "And for the most part, I stuck to it."
His tour path has criss-crosses the U.S. countless times, filling his 7-part discography with a true, earthy taste of Americana. Several years ago, Walsh also began doing house shows throughout Germany with a friend, where he continued to develop his genuine, down-to-earth attitude toward performing.
"One of the goals when I play is to get rid of the barrier between the performer and the audience," said Walsh.
During his shows, Walsh likes to get the audience involved, sometimes through having them play kazoos or other instruments – he says it helps continue to break down that barrier between the music and the listeners.
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"I have a that troubadour/wanderlust spirit, and I can't deny that." said Walsh. "Basically my goal is to spread joy around through music."
This year, Walsh put out his seventh studio album, entitled "7" which includes a colorful collection of story-focused songwriting and artful musicality. The album features songs tinged with influence from his time spent around the world and gives taste of Walsh's spiritual perspective on his craft.
"Every time I come to Orange County, my friend Jason plays harmonica with me," said Walsh. "It's kinda religious when we play together."
Walsh hopes that tomorrow's show is an opportunity for the community to hang out, relax, and come together to enjoy great music – and he hopes to play his part in spreading some joy to everyone who comes. Orion Walsh will be playing with The Fenians tomorrow, August 3 at Mile Square Regional Park, 16801 Euclid Street in Fountain Valley. Tomorrow's concert features free admission and free parking as part of the 2017 OC Parks Summer Concert Series.