Songs from the road

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Most of John Sotter's songs were written far, far away from people, and far, far away from here.

Since graduating from college with a degree in planning, Sotter has worked to keep himself outside any office. He spends summers as an ocean lifeguard in California, saving his money, and winters traveling around the world.

He goes to the countries where his dollars will last. He lives in his tent and uses the time trying to get away from people so he can practice his guitar without having to perform.

He is inspired by what he sees, miles from the road, and incorporates sights from Nepal to Thailand to southern Africa into his music.

One of his favorite songs, called "Goodbye River," was written in New Zealand.

"I was sitting by the river," he said. "The water was flowing into this cracked boulder and then disappeared into the ground. I could hear that it was falling into a cavern.

"I wanted to go swimming, but it was just me and my guitar. Then a guy walked by with a map, and we saw that a mile away, the river popped out."

They had to cross a field full of cows and bulls, he said. "Being from Orange County, I didn't know much about cows. I was kind of scared. So I came up with a happy, bluegrassy number thinking maybe the cows would like it."

As he walked, verses to the song rolled out in front of his feet. By the time he reached the spot where the river resurfaced, the song was finished.

Sotter is an occasional blip on the Steamboat Springs music scene radar. His sister, Kathleen Sotter, lives here, and he visits often. Sotter has played at Mocha Molly's, the Cantina, Mambo Italiano and the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant.

Most of his experience on stage was gained in other countries -- playing in bars for beer and food.

"In those places, you can't be the mellow singer songwriter," he said. "You have to play with energy and be interacting with the audience."

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