LEWISTON, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s bluesy. No, wait, it’s folk. Or is it rock? Anyone who tries to pigeonhole Sawyer Fredericks‘ music will have a hard time pinning it down to just one genre.
In the 24-year-old singer-songwriter’s own words, it’s “contemporary folk rock.” At just 16, the Connecticut-born upstate New Yorker became one of the youngest-ever winners of NBC’s “The Voice,” taking the top spot in the show’s eighth season.
Fredericks grew up in Fonda, a tiny village within an hour of Albany where his family moved when he was eight years old. Next month, he’ll be traveling to the opposite end of New York State to co-headline the inaugural Lewiston Opera Hall Folk Festival.
A Sawyer Fredericks concert could mean just himself on stage or a whole band. His upcoming performance in Lewiston will be the former, but even as just one man, Fredericks brings a presence to his performances. One of his favorite parts of playing live is a surprising, welcoming embrace of something familiar to anyone who’s ever stood in front of an audience.
“That kind of nervous feeling I get that kind of brings me more into my music,” he says. “It opens up a more emotional connection to my songs.”
Armed with a guitar, an acoustic bass and a foot tambourine, Fredericks has new music to share with the local audience. He’ll be playing selections from his most recent EP, The Golden Tree, as well as songs from prior releases that explore his varied, changing sounds over the last decade.
Fredericks’ 2018 album, Hide Your Ghost, gave the singer a chance to step into his more rootsy, somber side, choosing to take a route with less pop-oriented production than its predecessor, 2016’s A Good Storm. Flowers For You followed in 2020, another testament to Fredericks’ Americana blend.
“Country, way back, was more folk,” he laughs and shrugs. “Am I a country artist? No, but I also am inspired by older country artists. They just sound more folky than the traditional country now.”
The nationally recognized singer-songwriter has traveled far since his teen years, with many voices to help guide him along the way — “The Voice” coach Pharrell Williams and music producer Mikal Blue being some of those mentors.
At the Lewiston show, listeners might even get to hear some unreleased tunes. Without always having a specifically planned setlist, Fredericks wants the audience to know he does take requests.
The Lewiston Opera Hall is a perfect room for Fredericks to showcase his blend of styles. The Center Street mixed-use building has a lot of history, and there’s hope for a bright future ahead.
Ray Barry, one of the co-coordinators of the festival, hopes to continue having concerts and events there as the years go on, especially with the impressive renovations and changes taking place.
“The room has been completely changed,” Barry says.
Compared to where it was last year, even a quick glance will prove that. But it’s not only the visual aesthetics; the Opera Hall is getting outfitted with a new sound system, and Barry hopes to have a small food menu there in the future.
Co-headlining the upcoming festival is a woman with a familiar last name — Lilly Winwood. She’s the daughter of Clapton collaborator and Traffic singer/multi-instrumentalist Steve Winwood. Local talent will also be featured, with Tonemah, Dave Thurman, Jason Mirek and Zack Joseph all listed on the bill.
General admission tickets for the Lewiston Opera Hall Folk Festival, which starts at 4 p.m. on Oct. 14, are $25 and can be purchased here.