Grasping audience's attention with his unique sound and relatable lyrics is what has made John McCutcheon one of the most renowned folk singers today. 

He will be performing at 4 p.m. Jan. 29 in Emens Auditorium. 

McCutcheon was first drawn into folk music after being inspired by the music of singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie and American folk singer Pete Seeger, who was also a friend and mentor to him. 

“They taught me that the writer’s job is simply to pay attention and tell the truth. And to never forget where you come from or who you’re writing for,” McCutcheon said. 

Taking what he learned from those who inspired him, he is now able to tell stories through his music with the help of over a dozen instruments such as the fiddle, a 12-string guitar and a 5-string banjo. 

Though he's been nominated for six Grammy Awards, the reaction McCutcheon gets from fans means even more. 

Once he was playing in Cordova, a fishing town in Alaska. He said he remembered the reaction a little girl had to one of his songs that was better than any Grammy.

"I’m singing one of the songs I’ve written about fishing around there and this little girl in the front row turns to her mother and in a stage whisper says, 'Mom, he’s singing about us!'" McCutcheon said.

His focus on the audience and not just his success is what has kept McCutcheon's fans entertained and attentive for the past four and a half decades.

"I love the stories that show people responding in surprising ways to extraordinary circumstances," McCutcheon said. "There’s often a moment of conversion for those people. It’s that moment that inspires me and that I try to capture and disseminate." 

After 45 years of writing and performing, McCutcheon has 38 albums under his belt, in addition to the Grammy nominations. Now, even with his massive success, he is still able to continue to write songs about his experiences and has transformed those moments by giving them meaning.