Newport teen releases album on CD, streaming services
A 17-year-old country musician from Newport recently released an album of original music and covers called “Burnin’ Gas.”
Evan Cunningham, who will be a senior at Frontier High School, won studio time at the Festival of Art and Movement in Williamstown. He said after talking to the guys at the studio, they decided to release a full album, which contains two original songs and four cover songs.
“It was released on all streaming services June 22 and CDs came July 2,” he said.
Cunningham plays guitar, mandolin and banjo and is learning to play the piano.
“My grandma bought a guitar at a yard sale probably 10 years ago for the grandkids,” he explained. “I was the one who was interested.”
He started performing with High Schools That Rock in 2014, before starting solo performances in 2019. He will attend Washington State Community College this fall and plans to study music therapy at Marietta College.
“Music therapy puts two of my favorite things together — music and helping others,” he said. “I felt this would be a great career on top of my performing career.”
Mark Doebrich, who directs High Schools That Rock, said it’s great Cunningham has released an album.
“We’ve gone from Evan, who played guitar before he found me in seventh grade … so shy he wouldn’t sing, to this,” Doebrich said. “His mom would constantly say he could sing, but he was very polite and very quiet.”
He said it boiled down to the kids in the band convincing him to sing. They were having a good time at Kreamy Kreations, and while Doebrich was talking with parents, the kids talked Cunningham into singing.
“He did a nice job and it was a song he was comfortable with,” he said. “That was two years ago and we just used him more and more.”
Doebrich said as the kids get older, they find time to get involved in other things, such as part-time jobs.
“In Evan’s case, he’s playing professionally,” he said. “He’s opened for Jake Binegar at the Adelphia. How cool is it that your understudy is now going off on his own?”
Doebrich said Cunningham is the first of his students who published a CD.
“There were some that have written or recorded a song. Evan is the first one that has felt confident and written enough to put out a CD,” he said.
He said he’s seen an evolution in Cunningham, from a kid with a beater guitar to a man with a Taylor guitar who plays professionally.
“He’s evolved as a singer and songwriter. I think it’s pretty darned cool,” Doebrich said.
Cunningham said he has many inspirations, including Frontier High graduate Anthony Mossburg, the country a cappella group Home Free, local artist Jake Binegar, and Luke Combs.
“I’ve always thought songwriters and songwriting was very cool,” he added. “I wanted to write songs I feel people could relate to.”