• CounterSuit lead singer says solo work gives him another avenue to create

• Album recorded in Roanoke Rapids, Gaston

• Waugh uses personal experiences to create album

Sporting a baseball cap, blue jeans and T-shirt, Bill Waugh looked like an ordinary Joe on an early May afternoon as he walked along Roanoke Avenue.

But that changed when he pulled out Avelyn, his Yamaha Silent Guitar he affectionately named after his favorite song by rock band Trapt. Any place with a guitar and a microphone is where Waugh will tell you he feels most comfortable.

“I’ve always had the music in me, but I didn’t know what to do with it,” Waugh said. “I’ve learned a lot more going about doing this.”

Tia Bedwell | The Daily Herald

Waugh is best known throughout the area as the frontman of Roanoke Rapids-based rock band CounterSuit, which found success through the release of its debut album, “The First Appeal,” and touring the region with its signature “Carolina rock” sound.

But Waugh has ventured out again on his own by recently releasing his third proper solo album, “This Is Me.”

Taking cues from more well-known artists like Johnny Cash, Aaron Lewis, Rob Thomas and Corey Taylor, Waugh tapped into his love for acoustic-driven rock that has hints of country and blues for the project.

“More of it goes back to being a songwriter. The reason I did the band was I wanted to have a different avenue for people to hear my songs,” Waugh said. “There are places I can play that the band can’t and places that accept the rock band that wouldn’t accept the acoustic-rock thing. So I feel blessed I have two ways of getting the music out there. I get a bigger demographic that way.”

Waugh used the eight-song LP to explore a variety of topics, including a divorce and the heartbreak that followed, outside judgement, doubters, new love and fatherhood.

“It’s very personal. I guess it’s all the emotions I have,” said Waugh, who has a deep-singing voice. “I’m a very emotional person … It has to be personal. I don’t want it be too commercial. Everybody can say get up and dance, but to explain what’s deep down in your heart, that’s hard to do.”

Humble beginning

One could surmise music truly is in Waugh’s DNA. He said he’s been listening to all kinds of music since he was a young kid, adding he was about 13 when he began fiddling with his dad’s old guitars. But it was an iconic movie scene that got him thinking about making music a profession.

“Ever since I watched ‘Back To The Future’ and saw Marty McFly play ‘Johnny B. Goode’ on the stage — I thought it would be really cool to do that,” Waugh recalled. “I had an ear for it.”

A native of Boise, Idaho, Waugh relocated to Roanoke Rapids with his first wife. The couple, however, divorced soon after, and Waugh elected then to finally pursue music and relocate back west.

“I started feeling something and writing things down,” he said. “I ended up writing my first song.”

About a decade ago, and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to make a name for himself with his music, Waugh moved back to Roanoke Rapids. He said his intention was to stick around for only a short bit to make some money and move to Nashville, Tenn.

Then, life happened — in a good way.

“I met a girl, I had a kid,” Waugh said, with a smile.

His wife, Melissa, co-produced “This Is Me” with Waugh and contributed vocals while running her local artist booking company, MusicBreak Promotions.

Making the record

For the last year, Waugh has been recording his latest solo project while performing live regionally by himself and with CounterSuit. Album production took place at his home studio in Roanoke Rapids, as well as Tequila Sunrise Music in Gaston. The latter is where the entire album was mastered and the title track was recorded.

“I wrote that song after I went back to Boise,” Waugh said of ‘This Is Me.’ “I was kind of in a dark space, I guess. I felt a lot of judgment from people.”

That song, which he had in his back pocket for quite some time, ended up being the foundation for the whole album. He said he stressed the word ‘Is’ because the song is a true reflection of him.

Bill Waugh holds his guitar ‘Avelyn,’ named after his favorite rock band Trapt.Tia Bedwell | The Daily Herald

“I tried to choose the songs that fit that theme — every song I’m trying to explain myself to the public,” Waugh said. “I’m hoping they’ll hear these songs and say, ‘it’’s OK to expose how I feel and how I am.’”

Standout tracks in addition to the title song include the unapologetic “My Collar,” in which Waugh expresses pride for his roots. There’s also the anthem “Here I Am” and an ode to his 8-month-old child.

“‘Lexi Lee’ is one of my favorites because it’s about my daughter,” Waugh said. “And probably ‘This Is Me’ because it has stuck with me.”

Although it’s a solo record, Waugh’s set of usual suspects pop up.

In addition to his wife’s vocals on several tracks, all three of his CounterSuit bandmates contribute individually to songs.

Countersuit bassist Brian Waugh, who is also Bill’s brother, said he was proud of Bill for many reasons.

“I know I can be a firsthand witness that he has been playing guitar for over 20 years and at least 15 years of working on song lyrics. I also know that he is very dedicated to his family … ,” Brian Waugh said. “He is smart because he does his research about the music industry. I also know the lyrics don’t come from thin air. They are really a part of his life experiences, and it’s his way of telling people about them.”

Bill Waugh said he was appreciative of his supportive bandmates, noting they often come to his solo concerts. Still, he assured he remains committed to “going the distance” with CounterSuit despite his solo endeavors. Ultimately, he said his music is his music whether he’s playing individually or fronting the band.

“I try to give ’em the same energy. If they know the lyrics for CounterSuit, they should have the same feel. It’s a stripped down version of me,” Waugh said.

“This Is Me” is available on iTunes and on his website, www.reverbnation.com/bill waughmusic. Those who want a physical copy can buy them at his shows, including his 6:30 p.m. concert on Saturday at WatersView Restaurant in Littleton.

“It’s a little scary. I kind of feel like it’s the equivalent of running out in public taking my shirt and pants off — I really do,” Waugh said of the album’s release. “I feel like I’m exposing myself, which is very ironic for me because I’m normally very shy. This is my emotional way of doing that, but at the same time it’s very exciting. I’m hoping people will enjoy it when they hear it.

I don’t need to get rich and famous; I just want to make a living with my songs, with my music.”

OK, he admitted, there’s one more thing.

“If I ever get to play with or meet the guys of Trapt,” he said, then briefly paused. “I’m telling them I named my guitar after one of their songs. That would be cool.”