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Christian Lopez, son of a music teacher, began songwriting in his early teenage years and signed his first record deal with Blaster Records in 2014. Robby Klien/courtesy

The first time Christian Lopez stepped onstage, he was playing the Artful Dodger in “Oliver Twist.”

At the ripe age of 8, the Martinsburg, West Virginia native had never sung in front of a crowd - his family didn’t count - so the play was his big debut. Something about stepping up to that microphone just felt right, and he never looked back.

Lopez was in his school talent show for the next 13 years in a row, and he started performing at open mics as young as 12. Today, he’s a touring singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who puts on solo acoustic shows with a modern folk flair.

His typical touring schedule was halted this past year due to COVID-19, but that didn’t keep him from the stage where he’s always felt at home.

“I played periodically through the pandemic, maybe one or two [times] a month, wherever they would take me,” he said. “I went up to Portland and played on a boat stage for a bunch of boats, I went back to the Appalachian hills and did a lot of outdoor events, so I've managed to make sure that I was out there … it's tough for a guy like me. I live on the road, I can’t be still, so I definitely did all I could to keep going.”

Those shows kept him from losing his sense of identity throughout 2020 and early 2021, but it wasn’t until recently that gigs have started to feel like the old days again. He’s expecting to get that authentic live show experience next week when he makes his Wyoming debut June 26 at The Lincoln.

Lopez loves playing old theaters, so when he heard that The Lincoln is a refurbished historic theater that just opened its doors to musicians this past August, he was ecstatic.

“The Lincoln looks like a beautiful place,” he said. “And any chance I get to play somewhere where I see my friends also on the bill, coming through on the circuit, it just feels good to be part of that route. The Lincoln seems to be the spot for Americana singer-songwriters like me.”

Concertgoers at the Cheyenne show can get a sneak peek of his new album, “The Other Side,” which will be coming out this fall. Lopez is thankful they were able to record it over the course of a week right before the pandemic at Sonic Ranch studio in El Paso, Texas.

It’s his first independent release, and because COVID-19 threw off the release date, he’s excited for fans and new listeners alike to finally hear this new sound.

“It's more heavy-guitar songs, that’s the common thread. Definitely a more hard-rock sort of vibe brought in,” Lopez said. “I'm writing about that time in my life, maybe the time between 22 and 25, when we really break it off and find a new self as an adult. … it’s less romantic, if we were looking back to the other records, which are a little more jubilant and juvenile.”

The style of this new record is reminiscent of his childhood, which included many hours of listening to classic rock radio with his parents. Both his dad and mom had record collections filled with ’70s and ’80s rock albums, and Lopez grew to love the simplicity of bands like AC/DC that laid everything out with their lyrics.

As he got older, folk and jazz artists such as The Avett Brothers and Tom Waits were also big musical influences, and hints of them can be found in “The Other Side” as well.

Looking back on this past year, Lopez said he’s never going to take getting on a bus or airplane for granted again. And he’s also rethinking how to build his work schedule.

“I think it's helping me be more quality over quantity with shows,” he added. “I am a busy guy and I'm still super busy, but I don't want to be as busy as I used to be. I really just want to go and do things that are most satisfying to me out there because … it’s like soul medicine, it's like taking Emergen-C or a vitamin every day and that just stopped for a year and we started to feel a little sick, so it’s great to have it back.”

Niki Kottmann is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s features editor. She can be reached at nkottmann@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3135. Follow her on Twitter at @niki_mariee.

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