Caleb McGinn was far away from his home in Sedgwick, stuck in London without a flight, when he started writing songs.
Almost four years later, he’s about to embark on his first national tour, in January. Before he leaves, you can hear him sing the National Anthem at the Wichita State women’s and men’s basketball games Sunday, at 1 and 5 p.m., respectively.
McGinn, 28, was studying in England when he first started writing music.
After he missed his flight and had to wait for another one that he could afford, “I realized I wouldn’t be able to get home for a few weeks, so I bought a guitar and started playing at various London venues,” McGinn said. “I would just play little shows here and there.”
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McGinn had been playing guitar since he was 19 and had performed at his alma mater, Kansas State University, many times. But he graduated with a degree in business, never envisioning a career in music.
“It’s pretty crazy,” McGinn said. “It’s something I didn’t see myself doing in high school, even in college.”
Now McGinn is fresh off winning the 2012 International Acoustic Music Award for best song (“Spring”) in the Acoustic Open Genre category. He was also a top-10 finalist in a national Guitar Center singer/songwriter competition, out of 17,000 entries.
He said his acoustic singer/songwriter sound is similar to that of John Mayer, Joshua Radin and Matt Nathanson.
In 2011, he released an EP, “Bigger Picture.” Some of the songs have earned him international success, he said. For his song “Girl of My Dreams,” he started a contest where fans sent him pictures of themselves holding up their favorite lyric.
After receiving submissions from countries around the world, such as Spain, Brazil, Taiwan, Russia, Colombia and the Philippines, he decided to assemble a video of the fans, which can be seen on his YouTube channel and on his website, calebmcginn.com. Some of the fans who submitted photos received prizes such as free T-shirts and access to a private online concert.
“It turned into my most popular song,” McGinn said. “I’ve got fans from all over the world.”
That includes here in Wichita, where he has played shows in the old America’s Pub space and at the Riverside Perk, Botanica and Innovo Christian Fellowship.
“When I was little, I grew up and loved Garth Brooks,” McGinn said. “I don’t really consider my music country, but he’s an entertainer. He goes through a lot to put on a good show, and I’ve tried to take after that.”
In May, he played at a fundraising auction for the WSU basketball team, which led to his gig at the games Sunday.
“It’ll be the biggest live audience I’ve ever played in front of,” McGinn said.
Most importantly, McGinn said he hopes people who listen to his music can pick up on the self-empowerment message he conveys.
“I want people to see that they can do what they love,” McGinn said. “They just have to take the appropriate steps to get there.”
McGinn’s music can be found on his website, calebmcginn.com. His EP is free to download until Tuesday.