Singer-songwriter Cal Everett loves pop and that’s OK.
After a brush with fame in the ’80s as front man for the DC band 4 Out of 5 Doctors, Everett has caught a second wind in mid-life as a solo act, combining catchy pop melodies with thoughtful lyrics.
Everett makes a rare solo appearance at the Barns of Hamilton Station Saturday, Jan. 16, as part of the ongoing Songs, Stories and Gas Money songwriters’ series organized by Stilson Greene and Don Chapman. Everett will unveil lots of new material from the new record he’s wrapping up with his friend and producer Todd Wright.
The solo acoustic show and the album are both departures for Everett, who has always been an unabashed proponent of the pop genre. And the singer-songwriter route has allowed him to tap into material he’s built up over the years, but which didn’t work for the Doctors or subsequent bands.
“They’re incredibly personal, which I never do,” Everett said of the songs on the upcoming record. “They’re very open and candid. They span 30 years of my life, my relationships, my disappointment, my joyfulness. … They’re pretty raw, but they’re all very hummable because that’s what I do.”
That “hummable” quality is a trademark for Everett who combines upbeat pop melodies with thoughtful, even melancholy lyrics.
“It’s like hopeful disappointment or joyful desperation,” he said. “They’re very happy sounding but there’s a little twinge to them. … This album is all of that put together.”
“I’m thinking he’s the best songwriter I know,” said Wright, an internationally known songwriter and producer who opened Half-King studio in downtown Leesburg last year. “I put him on par with Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney. He’s up there to me—and he lives in Sterling!”
Wright, who met Everett during a 2009 Crowded House tribute show at Wolf Trap, was a fan of the Doctors in the ’80s and was blown away to find that one of his idols lived near him in Loudoun County. The two have been friends and collaborators ever since.
Everett spent his early years in Falls Church and Annandale before moving to Potomac, MD, where he cultivated his passion for music, graduated from high school and met his wife of almost 40 years, Wendy Newmyer Everett (who’s now his manager and biggest fan).
In the late ’70s, Everett launched 4 Out of 5 Doctors with collaborators Jeff Severson, George Pittaway and Tom Ballew. The power pop band toured nationally with ’80s icons Hall and Oates and opened for superstars like The Cars, The Clash and Cyndi Lauper. The Doctors released two albums with CBS Records, and their 1983 record “Second Opinion” garnered positive reviews. But the band never made the leap into big sales.
Meanwhile, life was moving forward full speed for Everett and Wendy. The couple have three children (now 34, 28 and 26) and, in the mid-’80s, got involved with running a Silver Spring, MD, restaurant that has been in Wendy’s family since the 1970s. The Everetts moved west from Annandale to Reston and then to Sterling in 1987. Everett was involved with other bands over the years and continued writing music. But he found that on a certain level, music took a backseat to parenthood and the family business.
Fortunately for his fans, Everett’s new chapter as an empty nester coincided with the burgeoning singer-songwriter scene in Loudoun. Everett credits Wright and Greene with encouraging him to play solo in more intimate settings. Everett played a 2014 Songs, Stories and Gas Money show at Shoe’s Cup & Cork in Leesburg and has also been a regular at the town’s annual Acoustic on the Green summer concert series.
“I’m terribly uncomfortable playing alone. I do it because it builds character,” Everett said. “Usually once I get to a place and I play one chord and sing three notes, I’m fine and nothing exists anymore.”
Everett is excited about the new album—tentatively titled “Older Now”—and slated for release in coming months (the title cut is available at Everett’s Reverb Nation site). And he credits Wright with helping him shake things up.
“He’s bringing a sensibility that I couldn’t do on my own because I’d be too directed by what I’ve done,” Everett said of Wright. “It’s kind of refreshing to open it up to somebody. At the same time, it’s scary as hell. … He hasn’t done anything I don’t like yet.”
Devoted fans (both from the Doctors days and more recent performances) will get a taste of the new sound at the Barns show, with just Everett, a digital piano and guitar.
“I’m hoping the show will be enlightening,” he said. “It will certainly be different for me and anybody that’s seen me before, which is kind of what I’m looking for. I’ll play songs that nobody’s ever heard—and hopefully it won’t snow.”
Cal Everett plays the Stories, Songs and Gas Money series at the Barns at Hamilton Station Saturday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. For more information, go to thebarnsathamiltonstation.com. Advance tickets are available in the tasting room or at picatic.com. Check out “Older Now” and other solo material at reverbnation.com/caleverett.