CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Growing up in the small town of Dixie, nestled amongst Clay, Fayette and Nicholas counties, Dutch Underwood spent most of his time in his bedroom, listening to music.
Obsessed with The Beatles and Pearl Jam, he sang in a few bands in high school before learning to play guitar in his late teens.
"My friends and I were starting a band, and we had two singers, so I needed something to do when I wasn't singing," Underwood recalled. "So I borrowed [my friend's] guitar, a 12-string that only had six strings on it, and started learning the chords he wrote out for me.
"That's pretty much where I stopped. I still use the same chords to write songs now as I did when I first picked it up."
Later, he ventured out as a solo artist. Earlier this spring, he released his 11-song debut album, "A Greater Fool."
Underwood, whose voice evokes Eddie Vedder, excels at writing catchy melodies and emotionally visceral songs. On his Facebook page, he describes his acoustic-based mix of rock, country and folk as "sad bastard music."
However, thanks to a new instrument, the 33-year old more recently found happiness in music.
"I picked up the ukulele in January of 2012," he said. "I wrote a song on it the second day I had it -- 'I'd Pay Almost Anything,' that appears on 'A Greater Fool.'
"I would write songs or record myself doing other people's songs while playing the uke, and it made me happy. I give the uke credit for stopping what might have been a bout with depression. Instead of thinking about negative things, I'd write or learn a song on the uke."
On "A Greater Fool," Underwood takes stories from his "sad bastard" life and turns them into charming songs. There's still some dark material, though, like the brokenhearted "Dixie, WV" about his deceased father, sister and brother.
"I'll probably mention them in songs as long as I write. It's not something that makes me sad, though."
More importantly for Underwood, he's not the only one who finds catharsis and/or happiness via his songs.
"My family members have heard the songs. I think it helps them deal with the sadness. All I know is it helps me. If it helps someone else, it's a bonus."
The biggest bonus just may come from his biggest fan.