“We were all like real students,” he said. “We weren't ever actually in school, but we were always researching like old pre-World War II, Depression-era musicians and that kind of old folk/blues and even pre-bluegrass stuff and jug bands.”
He got another kind of education when he joined a West Coast Celtic punk band called the Scotch Greens.
“I really learned a lot, almost even more about performance working with those guys; they were really kind of opening me up to a whole other style and great new music that I'd never paid attention to growing up in Nashville,” he said.
Along with his musical influences, Welch said authors such as Graham Greene, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy and Joseph Campbell have helped shape his songs.
“Growing in up in Nashville, there were so many really brilliant songwriters that I was exposed to, a lot of guys that were totally under the radar that weren't necessarily writing for top 40 country — Mark Germino or David Olney or Kieran Kane, those kind of guys. ... I think I was more influenced by writers like that and then like the stuff that I read. I try and take a lot of that kind of style and put it into song form, like short stories or novels or film even,” he said.
One aspect of the Nashville school of songsmithing Welch has embraced: working with co-writers, including rising Oklahoma star John Fullbright. They co-wrote “Gawd Above,” the opening track of Fullbright's 2012 Grammy-nominated debut “From the Ground Up.”
“I've been doing it in some of my sets, but I don't do it nearly the justice he does,” Welch said, noting that Fullbright rocked the house with the fiery anthem at the Grammys pre-televised ceremony in Los Angeles. “He's been one of my favorite co-writers and ... it's been really cool seeing his success.”