David Olney has worked as a professional musician for more than four decades.
"Early on, I saw that I had a knack for it and that it kind of really grabbed my interest like nothing else did," he says. "Even before I was playing gigs, I was thinking about music a lot.
"That was just playing. When I found I could write songs, it became the main part of my life, the thing I could do the best."
An Evening with Americana Legend David Olney will be presented Aug. 18 at the Tybee Post Theater.
"I'll be doing a bunch of songs from my new CD, 'Don't Try to Fight It,'" Olney says. "I'll try to emphasize some of those songs, and otherwise, I'll do some songs I've written recently and some old songs.
"I know how the set is going to start," he says. "After two or three songs, I'll try to read the audience and intuit what might work to get across to them."
When he was around 19-years-old, Olney decided he wanted to be a folk singer.
"I went and played some places and played a bunch of old folk songs," he says. "When I started writing, I wanted my songs to sound like they had been written 100 years before.
"I would stick them in the middle of the set, and if nobody figured out I had written them, they were a success. It was a nice way to serve an apprenticeship, trying to write songs that would fit in with traditional songs.
"By modeling the songs on already existing folk songs, I learned how songs were put together," Olney says. "Every now and then, I'd get caught and I'd feel kind of bad."
But Olney became a very good songwriter who has no difficulty coming up with ideas.
"In different times in life, it's been different things," he says. "What has worked for me was to sit down and try to get a tune going on the guitar.
"It's almost like hearing it on the radio playing in a room next to yours where you don't really hear the words. I hear the tune, but not the words.
"I start mumbling things until something comes out that fits with the melody," Olney says. "I don't sit down and say I'm going to write a song about a particular subject. There's an element of surprise at the way things turn out."
There is only one rule for Olney.
"I try to start with the melody," he says. "If I start with the words, I try to make the melody fit the words and I get stilted."
A stream-caster and actor as well as a singer/songwriter, Olney has released more than 20 albums over four decades. His music has been prominently featured in ABC-TV's "Nashville."
His songs have been recorded by Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Del McCoury, Tim O'Brien, Front Country, Slaid Cleaves, Steve Young and many more. His energetic live performances are known for their intensity.
Having someone else record his songs is a thrill for Olney.
"If anybody does it, even the garage band down the street, it's the ultimate compliment," he says. "It's proof someone other than yourself likes what you're doing.
"With songwriting and performing, you're supposed to somehow communicate with people. When you introduce words, it gets pretty intimate.
"When words fail, they fail miserably," Olney says. "When words connect, it's really extraordinary."
Olney has just completed a tour of the Northeast. While this is his debut at the Tybee Post Theater, he is not new to the Savannah area.
"I'm looking forward to it," Olney says. "I've played Savannah a number of times and gone out to Tybee to check it out."
Being recognized as a top singer/songwriter is a reality for Olney.
"I think at some point I realized once I'd written a song and recorded it, it became an entity of its own," he says. "If I go to Europe and realize people know me because of this song, it's a miracle. That's always been remarkable to me."
Performing and writing are totally different things, Olney says.
"Writing the song is a more personal endeavor," he says. "You try to get it in some way that it moves you.
"Funny or sad or whatever, you struggle with the right word and the right tune. It's something you struggle with by yourself.
"When you go and play, it's a different deal, where you stand up in front of people and have to be confident enough to say 'This makes sense,'" Olney says. "They'd pay money to hear what I've got to say, and I'm feeling pretty tall at that point. If I'm doing it right, I'm really humbled by the whole experience."
Currently, bass player Daniel Seymour accompanies Olney.
"Just getting up with someone else to play adds a dimension to the sound," Olney says. "We'll probably play a couple of hours.
"If it's just me, that's the sound of my voice with my guitar and I like to think I can hold people's interest, but it becomes hard for people. Most of these are songs they haven't heard before.
"It's a lot to ask of people to listen to that particular sound," he says. "If I add a bass, it makes a more interesting presentation. To share the experience is really good, not to mention sharing the driving."
IF YOU GO
What: An Evening with Americana Legend David Olney
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 18
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave., Tybee Island
Info: 912-472-4790, tybeeposttheater.org