Someplace close to home

Although it has often been said there’s no place like home, an acoustic guitarist from a small town in Louisiana believes he may have found something pretty close in the heart of Jackson County.

And even his new-found fame — sparked by four appearances on the popular television show “The Voice” — won’t keep James Dupre from returning to the Vallonia area soon and often.

In fact, this New Year’s Eve, Dupre plans to appear in concert at Pewter Hall on the south side of Brownstown. That’s just a couple of miles north of Vallonia. He also has already signed a contract that will see him replacing Bedford’s Clayton Anderson’s spot on the 2016 Jackson County Fair grandstand schedule.

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“There’s certain places I always love going back to,” said Dupre, who was born in Bayou Chicot. The father of four presently lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

“They’re places where people have treated me right early on in my career, and they’re kind of like going back home,” he said.

The Bluebird Cafe in Vallonia is one of those special places, Dupre said.

“Everybody has been good to me there,” he said.

Dupre was first introduced to The Bluebird in 2012 when he met Adam Nicholson. At the time, Nicholson was hunting for talent for the annual Sertoma Benefit Concert.

Nicholson, a Brownstown resident and police officer with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, started the concert series eight years ago to help raise money to help the Jackson County Sertoma Club purchase gifts for needy children in the area at Christmastime.

Nicholson said he and his wife, Kim, had been searching for musicians for the 2013 concert on YouTube for quite some time.

“We kept coming back to him (Dupre),” Nicholson said. “So I contacted him on Facebook, and his manager got back with me a month later and said he would play.”

Nicholson, his wife and father drove to Indianapolis to pick Dupre up from the airport for the 2013 concert and brought him home. That’s when the concert was conduct on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. It was moved to the summer for the first time this year.

“He stayed overnight and had Thanksgiving with us,” Nicholson said.

The next year, Dupre said Nicholson told him he would find him another place to play when he came to town for the benefit concert because Dupre was playing it basically for free.

That place was The Bluebird Cafe, where Nicholson had a connection with owner Gary Wheeler and his son, Ian Wheeler.

Dupre has performed several times at The Bluebird Cafe since that first performance.

He has become so popular that tickets were sold for his last performance there in November.

Despite the exposure Dupre gained by appearing on “The Voice,” a nationally televised show on NBC in which vocalists compete in five rounds, including a live stage performance, he said he plans to continue to return to The Bluebird Cafe.

“I just love the history of the place,” he said. “It’s one of the oldest bars in Indiana that’s been in continuous operation.”

He said the Wheelers have just been great to him, and he’s formed a friendship with Nicholson that led to Dupre playing at his wedding to Kim.

Dupre also has formed a relationship with Curtis Kaiser and his family, who own Pewter Hall, because the Sertoma Benefit Concert is conducted there.

“Curtis planned this event and asked if I would play,” Dupre said. “I was excited. I just planned on being in Louisiana. I haven’t played a New Year’s Eve show in a while.”

Before Nicholson contacted Dupre, he said he had never been to Indiana.

In fact, he mostly played in the South along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida. He also had spent a lot of time in Canada.

“I’ve kind of done that for years,” Dupre said.

He made four appearances on “The Voice” before losing, but the exposure has opened up a lot of new doors.

“Now, I’ve been able to book bigger shows,” Dupre said.

He also is working on a new yet-to-be named album to be released early next year and planning a tour that will include the Jackson County Fair.

Dupre said he has always enjoyed singing.

“Since I was a little kid,” he said. “I joined a band in college and realized singing was not good enough. I need to learn how to play an instrument.”

Dupre said he decided to learn how to play guitar and became good enough that he started making YouTube videos. That was back in 2007.

He said he basically plays a mix of some of his own songs and country and rock ’n’ roll covers.

“Kind of a wide range from the ’80s and ’90s,” he said.

He said his influences include Vince Gill, Merle Haggard and Keith Whitley.

His decision to appear on “The Voice” came about after his release from his record label at the end of 2014.

“I requested to be released because of differences in creative direction,” he said. “A buddy of mine at the label asked me if I had any interest in ‘The Voice.’ I’d never watched it and never considered it before. I was at a crossroads and didn’t want to pass up any opportunity.”

Dupre said he was happy he made the decision to enter the competition and had a lot of fun competing before he lost in a live playoff.

“It was a great experience,” he said.

He said there are some things he might have done differently if he was to compete on the show again, but that’s not likely to happen.