MILBRIDGE — For some performers, like Ty Openshaw, there is no choice about what path they will take.
It’s music. Or, it’s music.
“Music is a way of releasing emotion,” said the 17-year-old singer, songwriter and guitar player. “I enjoy the way it makes me feel when I listen and play.”
Openshaw, who lives in Milbridge with his parents, Karen and James, and is a senior at Narraguagus High School, began performing at 10 with his first band.
Ty’s parents say that as soon as their son could talk, he was articulating an interest in music. They have done everything they can to help him along his path.
“It’s hard where we live,” said Karen. “Resources are limited. But we were lucky enough to find great people to help Ty do what he loves.”
Those people have included musician Steve Peer of Ellsworth, with whom Ty studied drums; vocal lessons with performer Bobbi Lane, and then guitar and piano lessons.
Currently Ty is studying with the Scharff Brothers at their studio in Kittery.
Peer recently hosted Ty at his 430 Bayside nightclub in Ellsworth as Ty released his first extended play CD of alternative rock/pop. His music style is often compared to Rixton, Imagine Dragons and Maroon 5.
“Ty is a brave young guy,” Peer said. “Besides being young, he is alone. He and his guitar travel to gigs. There is no band, no one to share in the good times or when everything goes wrong. And at the end of the night, he’s back in the car driving as long as he can to the next show.”
Peer said Ty was a dedicated student, always on time, polite. And although he later abandoned the drums for other instruments, Peer said Ty plays like a skilled percussionist.
“He has a solid sense of time. He knows the value of dynamics and can play with both authority and sensitivity,” Peer said. “Ty is not afraid to beat on the guitar to make a sonic statement.”
Bobbi Lane met Ty when he was 13 and remembers that he knew what he wanted but didn’t know how to get there.
“So my job became pretty easy: expose him to everything,” she said.
Ty focused on guitar, piano and vocals and he also mastered music theory.
“We had a few scary years while we waited for his voice to settle,” Lane said. “Unfortunately, it was a running joke at his expense. He took it very well.”
Today, she said, he has total control over his voice.
“That’s a big deal in the vocal world,” she said.
Lane said Ty now knows what he needs to do and does it. He shows up, plays his best, learns the lesson and moves on.
“That’s the music business,” she said. “He’ll be just fine.”
The young performer also knows how to seize an opportunity.
While modeling in Boston —Ty is very photogenic — he gained contacts that enabled him to perform at the Bitter End in New York City, as well as Celebration of Voices in Orlando and the World Live Café in Philadelphia.
It was a valuable lesson in networking.
“You never know if you know someone who may know someone. Then they hear you and if you’re lucky you get a break to play somewhere cool,” Ty said. “They were all great experiences.”
He believes in giving back and has performed for several charity events, among them the Sandy Hook Memorial Benefit, Wreaths Across America and fundraisers for cystic fibrosis research.
Those who have watched him develop over the years also say he’s a nice guy.
Peer said Ty is genuine, not frantic for fame, and takes time with people.
“Ty knows even at his young age that he wants the fans he meets now, at the beginning of his career, to be around decades from now,” Peer said. “He understands that to be a player, with a body of work, takes time and a loyal and attentive fan base.”
Karen and James Openshaw say they want what every other parent wants for their children.
“He’s young, but has done so much and it is thrilling to see him get better and better,” they said in an email. “All we hope is that he will be happy and doing what he loves to do.”
And what Ty has his heart set on now is Austin, Texas, after he graduates from high school.
“Austin is the No. 1 city in the U.S. for live music and I also have my sister down there,” he said.