In the course of his decades-long career, singer-songwriter Scott Sechman has performed with some luminaries in the music industry, including Tom Rush, Al Wilson, Bill Medley, The Coasters, The Marvelettes and The Grass Roots.

A staple on the L.A. and Orange County music scene for 30 years, Sechman bid farewell to Southern California in October 2015, moved east and planted roots on the Outer Banks, where he wows audiences with his soulful voice and acoustic guitar artistry.

For Baby Boomers, listening to Sechman is like listening to the soundtrack of their life, when consummate musicians like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Muddy Waters and once-in-a-lifetime bands — like The Beatles, The Byrds, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young — ruled supreme.

“I’m influenced by so much, so my originals are an amalgam of genres, from classic country rock, straight rock, power pop, folk, blues and a smidge of reggae,” says Sechman, who lives in Southern Shores. “My live performances are primarily interpretations of songs that were on the radio during my youth. On some songs, I tend to twist things around, slowing one down, speeding one up or changing the time signature.”

Sechman’s take on Buffalo Springfield’s classic “For What It’s Worth” will blow you away: — “There’s battle lines being drawn/Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong/Young people speaking their minds//Getting so much resistance from behind” — as will his version of CSNY’s “Ohio.” The song points to the 1970 National Guard shooting of four students peacefully protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University in Ohio. The incident left another student paralyzed and eight others wounded.

His song list is more than a collection of classic rock; it’s a time capsule of music that, when opened and shared with younger audiences, illustrates through music how little the state of the world has ultimately changed in the last half-century — something Baby Boomers already know.

He says audiences, regardless of age or political leaning, appreciate the artistry of songs from the era.

“It’s kind of amazing that someone that might be 180 degrees out from where I am, politically, culturally, socio-economically, religiously or even racially, can be touched by something I do,” he says. “In an age where it’s hard to even have a conversation about the direction of our nation without nastiness injecting itself, a song can bring us together, even if it’s only for a moment.”

Tamara McAllister, a 23-year-old student from Northern Virginia, heard Sechman perform a set at Hurricane Mo’s. She says she wasn’t familiar with a lot of the songs he played before he performed, but after the first few songs, “I started to really listen to the lyrics; it could have been written by someone today, for sure,” McAllister says. “I mean, it’s crazy out there right now with the controversy about the wall between Mexico and the U.S. being built, the hating on Muslims, anti-gay marriage stuff and all the racial tension.”

But far from being “bummed out” by the comparison between the turbulent ‘60s and 21st century America, McAllister says she’s buoyed by the fact that there are still singer-songwriters who are willing to take the lead and use music as a tool for peace and change.

“GaGa is all about change and acceptance, Kendrick LaMar, Beyonce, John Legend, they all use music to open people’s minds,” she says, adding after listening to Sechman’s set, “I want to listen to some of the old stuff.”

Composing a life

Sechman’s desire to be a musician began in 1967, when he watched his older brother, Bill, perform with his band, Norfolk Aliens, at the Virginia Beach Dome.

When he was 15, Sechman attended the 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair — better known simply as Woodstock — a 3-day music festival in New York that attracted a crowd of more than 400,000 people.

“I was chaperoned by a girl who worked with my mom. She and her boyfriend left me there,” he says. “I ran into several folks from Norfolk, and I ended up being taken care of — and hitchhiking back with — drummer Russell Scarborough, now the proprietor of Russell’s Music World in Norfolk.”

Woodstock left an indelible mark on the musician in the making.

Two years later, he followed his brother to Salisbury, Maryland. There, he joined his brother’s new band, Fatt City — first as a roadie and later on harmonica and vocals.

On June 16, 1973, Sechman attended a country rock extravaganza at McGonnigle’s Seaside Park in Annapolis, Maryland. The lineup included Clarence White, Sneaky Pete, Chris Etheridge, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Tracy Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons — a former member of the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers. Sechman was gobsmacked when Etheridge introduced him to Parsons backstage.

“I told Parsons that I covered some of his Flying Burrito Brothers tunes. He was amazed to hear that. He gave me his address and wanted me to send him a tape,” Sechman says. “He died before I could.”

A little over three months after the backstage meet, Parsons died of a drug overdose in Room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn, near Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. He was 26.

By the mid-’70s, Sechman had made his way to Tucson, Arizona, which at the time was a hotbed of original country rock music.

He worked with a series of musicians and bands, including Loose Boots. The band — which also included Billy Odom, Brent Owens, Mark Fraze, Steve English and Bobby Odom — took Tucson by storm. 

He worked with a series of musicians and bands, including Loose Boots. The band — which also included Billy Odom, Brent Owens, Mark Fraze, Steve English and Bobby Odom — took Tucson by storm.

The group released a self-titled LP in 1978 and was nearly signed to Epic Records, but the band broke up because of infighting before the deal could be inked.

“From there, I relocated to the Los Angeles metro area. Over the years in Orange County, I was lucky enough to work with amazing musicians," Sechman says. “I toured with the Grass Roots for a short while and worked a little with Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers.”

His years on the road, on stage and in the recording studio helped shape who he is as a musician, and he’s content.

“I play what I like, what speaks to me. Not everyone will like it, but there are a lot of people out there who do, and that’s fine. I have to do what feels right to me.”

The unkind hand of fate

His original work is as raw and truthful as Sechman himself. He has nothing to hide. Any battle scars he has are battle scars he’s earned, whether through choice or fate.

In “The Hardest of Hearts,” he bares his soul about a particularly painful chapter in his life: “It’s a sad situation when it meets the eye/You think you’re headed out to sea/but there’s holes in your sail, and the wind’s a lie/When you’re nowhere, that’s all you’ll ever be.”

“I wasn’t intentionally writing about me, as song writers are wont to do, but it certainly speaks to how I felt about my life choices and where I was at the moment,” he says. “I’m not quite as cynical about it now.”

In the past five years, Sechman lost three brothers to cancer: Bill to prostate cancer; Jim to throat cancer; and Carter to bile duct cancer, a rare form of cancer that affects an estimated 2,500 people in the United States each year.

“My sister, Barbara, who was a nurse at the VA Hospital in Hampton, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently undergoing treatment. They caught it early, and it’s treatable,” Sechman says.

His mother, Agnes Mary Heitz, who worked in the Naval Supply Center in Norfolk, died of cancer, as well. "I hate cancer. A lot,” he says.

Sechman’s father, Walter Sechman, died in 1993 of heart disease.

He has one remaining biological brother, Richard, and a step-brother George. Another of Sechman’s brothers, Dennis, died in 1987 from seizures as a result of injuries he received in a car accident.

Sechman says, given his family’s cancer history, he’s vigilant about getting medical check-ups, something his late-brothers never did.

“I have always had healthcare, so I try to keep up on checkups and testing. My brothers never had healthcare,” he says. “They all found out about their cancers at Stage 4.”

He honored Bill, his musical mentor, by donating profits from a single he released in 2012, “I Can’t Find My Dreams,” to a homeless-suicidal veterans support group.

“Bill would donate guitars to an organization that would put them in the hands of veterans,” Sechman says. “Music is a healer, no matter what the source of your pain.”

Sechman says he was moved to speak out on behalf of veterans after a conversation with his daughter Hayley, now 37, a social worker who at the time worked at the VA Hospital in Santa Monica, California.

“She told me horror stories about the treatment, or lack thereof, of our vets. The fact is, we don’t or can’t help them until they actually hit rock bottom; that’s when the governmental machinery kicks in,” says Sechman, who also has a 30-year-old son, Michael, an academic.

“There’s no mechanism that allows preventative measures to be invoked and applied. They show up at VA facilities when they’re desperate and with no other options.”

According to a 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, an estimated 49,933 homeless U.S. veterans slept on the street on a single night in January 2014. However, the transient nature of homeless populations makes that number an estimate, not an absolute.

“Our military men and women suffer indignities every day, and that includes having to ask for help,” he says. “They shouldn’t have to ask. We should help before they need to ask.”

In “I Can’t Find My Dreams,” Sechman speaks to the eroding American Dream of the men and women who fought to preserve and instill democracy around the globe, only to return one of the forgotten walking wounded:

“Went to war/Fought the fight/Held the lie/Held on with all of my might/I came home/I saw the game/Those that lead/They have no shame/Why don’t they stand up and fight for me?/ Why don’t they stand up and fight for me ?”

Sechman says everyone needs to stand for something, and he’s doing what he can through music.

“I don’t really do what I do for money. If I did, I would’ve quit 40 years ago,” he says. “It’s the connection with an audience, even if it’s an audience of one. That drives me.”

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