Steve Nelson has been around. He’s lived and worked in Los Angeles and Nashville, scored Emmy nominated TV series, and seen his songs recorded by Barbra Streisand and Guy Clark. Last year he moved to Massachusetts and found he loved New England. He has never been to Maine, though; that will change Friday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. when performs at the Unity College Centre for the Performing Arts.

Nelson’s music is better known than he is outside of songwriting circles, where he has an enviable rep. He has been writing and performing his own songs since the fourth grade, according to his sister’s testimony, so his return to that practice was only a matter of time. His third solo album will be released this summer; “Stoneway Close” takes its title from the street he lived on in Nashville.

That street led to Nelson’s working with legendary country songwriter Guy Clark, who lived a couple of doors down. The two men met over a shipment of guitar strings that had been mistakenly delivered to Nelson.

“I’d been a big fan of his since ‘Old #1’ came out,” said Nelson, referring to Clark’s critically applauded 1975 album of original songs. “We became fast friends and co-writers. He’s had a tremendous influence on what I do.”

He said Clark is not only a great songwriter but also a great guitar builder. After hearing Nelson complain one too many times about his own guitar, “we built one for me together,” Nelson said. “It’s not my main guitar at gigs, but I’ll probably bring it along [to Unity].”

Before his years in Nashville, Nelson lived in Los Angeles, working for a time as staff songwriter for music publishing companies. He said writing for someone else is very different than writing for one’s self.

“It’s a separate craft, not of any less value or importance, and it was a great education,” he said.

Among those who recorded his songs was Streisand, who had a Top 40 hit with Nelson’s “Songbird” in 1978. Dusty Springfield and Paul Anka also recorded Nelson songs … and then there was the “Sesame Street” connection.

“I kind of segued into writing for TV writing songs and doing underscoring for sitcoms and animated series. ‘Sesame Street’ was fun, because it wasn’t around for me to watch when I was a kid,” he said.

Another children’s series Nelson wrote for was the “New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” In addition to underscoring work with Tom Sharp, he wrote all the show’s songs including the “Pooh Bear” theme song.

“That was my favorite experience in TV,” he said.

Nelson grew up in a musically eclectic environment, which may contribute to his flexibility as a songwriter. He said he has always loved music.

“My dad was really into classical and my mom was into everything else,” said Nelson. “I listened to Rogers and Hammerstein, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash … it shows up in everything I do.”

In the late 1960s and the 1970s, Nelson was living on Long Island, N.Y., and was performing his own songs. He could not make a living of it, though, and decided he’d better write songs for other people, a decision that turned out to be a smart one. But he still wrote his own songs on the side. When it came time to record his first album, he included both aspects of his songwriting career. The album includes “Songbird” and tunes from his “Winnie the Pooh” stint.

“I’m proud of that work, but it doesn’t represent me as an artist as well,” he said.

While in Nashville, when he wasn’t doing things like contributing to the Grammy nominated Guy Clark album “Workbench Songs,” Nelson presented his own songs at the Bluebird Café. He described this body of work as a melding of folk, pop, Americana and children’s music.

“Some deal with social issues, which are dear to my heart – I’m a ‘son’ of Woody Guthrie, I guess … It’s a pretty eclectic swath. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it’s what I’ve got,” he said jokingly.

What he’s got was good enough to attract the attention of producer Don Henry at the Bluebird. Henry asked Nelson why he did not have a CD for sale.

“He said, I love what you do and want to produce you,” said Nelson, calling Henry “quite brilliant” at what he does.

The result was “Distance Over Time” in 2003 and “Listen What the Katmandu” in 2005. Nelson has these CDs on hand when he plays the small club gigs he has been doing since he moved to Massachusetts at places like The Yellow Sofa in Northampton, The Montague Bookmill and Mocha Maya’s in Shelburne Falls. He also is working on a songwriting course for autistic children, an extension of volunteer work for special needs children he did in Nashville.

Nelson still co-writes with people in Music City, but these days, his motivation is different than when he was writing songs for the stars.

“You don’t make a lot of money playing out, but it’s so enjoyable,” he said. “It’s what I want to be doing.”

Tickets for Nelson’s Unity College Centre performance are $15, available in advance by calling 948-7469 or visiting To sample Nelson’s songs, visit

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to