Technology has changed the way people get access to music, but many musicians believe it hasn't changed human nature.
"The Internet puts the music out there on a broader scale," said Santa Rosa songwriter and singer John Courage. "I have people who listen to my music that I would never reach otherwise."
But Courage and other singer-songwriters still find that Sonoma County audiences love the intimacy and honesty of hearing a song performed live by the person who wrote it.
"People really enjoy having an interaction with the artist. They like to go up after the show and talk with the performers," said Jeff Martin, owner of Studio E outside Sebastopol.
Studio E and other venues all over Sonoma County feature local singer-songwriters on a regular basis, and will offer at least half a dozen live shows this month. Aubergine Cafe and the French Garden Restaurant in Sebastopol and the A'Roma Roasters coffeehouse in Santa Rosa's Railroad Square are among the many local spots that feature songwriters performing their own material.
Martin's recording studio, Studio E, doubles as the site for a series of live concerts, many of them featuring local talent.
Studio E recently has featured such popular Sonoma County singer-songwriters as Kate Price and Teresa Tudury, two examples of an increasingly active local music community, Martin said.
"It's a listening room for singer-songwriters," Martin added. "We record everything, so a lot of times, these live performances become albums."
The local audience is growing, said Courage, who started his musical career in Santa Rosa, moved to Sante Fe, N.M., for a year and a half, and then moved back.
"Upon returning to Santa Rosa last year, I got a new perspective. The singer-songwriter scene here has really exploded," Courage said.
Like Courage, Martin attributes the increased popularity of local singer-songwriters to the human need for direct communication.
"More and more, we're all so inundated with all this information technology, and there's a reaction to that," Martin said. "People want to watch the reaction between the artist and audience. There's something about people sitting in a room, watching an artist convey something live."
East Bay singer-songwriter Steve Seskin, who has performed in the North Bay often over the past several decades, said the audience appeal of his craft is perennial.
"When you write a song for yourself to sing, there's a deeper connection with the material," Seskin said. "The singer-songwriter is less about entertainment, and making you forget about your life, and more about making think about your life."
At 27, Courage is one of the younger practitioners of the singer-songwriter tradition, but he agrees there is something timeless about its impact.
"Music is almost a disposable commodity now. For a singer-songwriter, it's a much more personal thing," Courage said. "When you can write a song and someone in the audience says, 'He wrote that for me,' that's the ultimate goal."