Singer-songwriter Uche says he's a 'big melody guy'

Uche defies expectations.

From conversation you wouldn't guess he was born in London to Nigerian parents — until he slips into a dead-on impersonation of his father's regal west African English.

As for appearances, he jokes that most people who see him step up to the microphone for the first time think something like: "All right, we're going to hear some blues."

What they hear instead is a performer who sees himself squarely in the pop-rock tradition that runs from the Beatles to people like Tom Petty and Bryan Adams.

"Pop, rock and roots music," he said. "I'm a big melody guy."

And a big guy with a big voice. It'll be on display Saturday tonight when Uche, who uses only his first name ("Why confuse them?") performs with Scott Allan Knost at the Artichoke.

The show comes a couple of weeks after Uche and Knost released a CD called "Hometown," with five tunes written and sung by Uche. Although Uche has become one of the city's busier musicians, he says any gig at the 'Choke is special because it's where he got his start a decade ago.

Uche moved to the United States with his parents as a child and grew up in Missouri and Kansas. Asked how long he's wanted to play music, he says, "Always."

He first did so in public during one of the Artichoke's singer-songwriter circles, where the only rule is that music must be original. That fit perfectly with Uche's thinking; he'd been scribbling songs in notebooks for years (some of which now, he admits, cause him to cringe).

He plays few covers of songs written and made popular by others.

"I didn't get into music to do that," he said. "I've got stuff in my head to get out."

After playing solo gigs for a few years and releasing a 4-song CD called "Mojo," Uche put together a full band. It's called Uche and the Crash; the latest manifestation has included Justin DeFever on drums, Derrick Tucker on bass and Knost on lead guitar.

Uche and the Crash put out a full-length CD called "Gunshy" with what its leader calls "all the bells and whistles ... and a pretty girl on the cover." But while the Crash plays regularly, Uche admits that it can still be a challenge persuading venues to book groups playing primarily original music.

He's found steadier work as part of his duo with Knost, called "Uche and Scott and Two Guitars."

The new CD, recorded this summer at Mark Scheltgen's Digital Boy studio, is "just songs that we like to do that the crowd responds to."

Uche is serious enough about music to have quit a job he liked for another that allows him more flexibility in scheduling gigs.

"This is really my passion," he said. "I didn't want to turn around 10 years from now and say, 'You know, I wonder what would have happened if...' "

He had a scare about this time a year ago when he lost his voice. He figures it had something to do with the weather and has started treating his vocal cords with more care.

He rebounded to appear with the Crash on one of this season's "Wichita Sessions" episodes airing on KPTS, and is already in the process of recording another CD with the band.

A few years back, he even managed to convince his practical-minded father he was on the right track. "It's good," he quotes his father as saying after listening to one of his CDs. "You should continue."

If you go


What: Pop-rock singer-songwriter, performing with Scott Allan Knost

Where: The Artichoke, 811 N. Broadway

When: 8 p.m. Sat.

How much: $5