Singer-songwriter Sean Cox’s mother, Mary Cox, who like her entire family is Catholic, gave him a guardian angel pendant 10 years ago, and he has been wearing it ever since. “My mother gave me a guardian angel so it would watch over me,” he says. “I included a song about it in the album I released (‘Return To Me’). She’s a mother. She worries. I’m a son, and a musician, and I do stupid things, and so I keep that guardian angel with me wherever I go, and it’s a reminder to and for my mom.”
The guitarist will be performing at a special edition of KatManDu’s weekly acoustic showcase on Wednesday, August 26, featuring artists represented by Kathy Falcey of the Hamilton-based tunes2ya (tunes2ya.com). Other performers include Princeton’s Christopher Morse, Jon Lall, and Sarah Donner; Flemington’s Mike Cuntala and Christine Martucci, Joe Whyte of Linden, and Mike Montrey of Spotswood, among others. The showcase is hosted by Lance Reichert, music production supervisor at KatManDu and owner of Quakerbridge Digital Audio, a music production and artist development company (qbdigital.com).
Cox is also currently competing on worldsings.com for the chance to perform in Las Vegas for a $500,000 prize. Those who go to the site can view videos and vote for their favorite artists. Cox’s video, “Coming Home,” is currently ranked fourth, and the top 20 artists as of December 31 will travel to Las Vegas to compete.
Family is important to Cox, 28, who was born and raised in Millstone (“I come from a normal, middle-class family,” he says) and attended Notre Dame High School. His father, Harold “Jim” Cox, is a former electrician who now drives a school bus, and his mother is a beautician who also drives a bus. Cox is the youngest of three brothers. His oldest brother, James, is a carpenter for the New Jersey Turnpike and will soon earn his degree in architecture from Drexel University. His other brother, Jeff, is a teacher and writer.
“We come from a very creative family,” Cox said. “My parents let us all find our own way, and I think that’s a very good thing.”
Cox says he started playing piano around age three or four. “I played for about three years, and then sports came up and got in the way,” he says. “It’s been like a battle between sports and music my whole life. Sports kept getting in the way. In eighth grade I picked up the guitar, and played for a year, and then sports got in the way again. In high school, I really wanted to play guitar and do music, but I was so into sports, so busy. In my senior year, finally, I decided that I was going to do music and sports at the same time. So I picked up the guitar, really started teaching myself how to play, and started writing these songs.”
One of the first songs Cox wrote that year was done for a great reason — he had a crush on a girl and wanted to impress her. “It was about a month or two into my self-learning guitar phase,” he saus. “I brought the guitar to school one day and ended up seeing the girl coming out of a classroom, and I told her that I wanted to play a song for her. I played the song, and she cried. That’s when I knew that music was the path for me.”
So it worked out for Cox? They dated, and she fell in love with him, and they lived happily ever after? “No,” says Cox. “I actually didn’t end up dating her. She was one of the popular girls in school, and she was dating the star football player. You know, the whole thing you see in the movies. So I hit a chord with her emotions, and it was what it was..So I got a whole new direction with music. It was like, ‘Wow. Chicks cry when you sing to them.’ It was great.”
Later, while attending the College of New Jersey (where he earned a bachelor’s in corporate health and fitness in 1997 and bachelor’s in eduction in 1999), Cox became part of several bands as a guitarist and vocalist, but he really did not flourish until he decided to go solo as a singer-songwriter. “It’s definitely a more intimate kind of thing, and you can get a personal sense of the artist. There is nothing behind me to drive anything. It’s just me up on stage, just basically talking to the audience.”
Cox says his songs come from his experiences. He says the creative process goes relatively smoothly for him, and that much of his inspiration comes from his family. “I take the family circle thing and I use that to write a lot of my music. The guardian angel thing…I also have a song called ‘Electricity’ that I wrote for my brother’s wedding. I wrote a song called ‘Innocence’ for my little nephew. So there’s a lot of family stuff going on.”
Outside of his family, Cox says his musical influences “range from U2 to Coldplay to Collective Soul to Led Zeppelin. I’ve written lots and lots of songs, and take bits and pieces of all of the music I know and apply it to my own stuff.”
He is now working on his second CD, which he hopes will help him eventually meet his goal of earning a Grammy Award nomination and the actual statue. Currently, Cox has been doing radio promotion for his single, “Coming Home.” The song, he says, was written in honor of all military personnel and veterans. Cox’s father was in the Navy and the Army National Guard, and his brothers, both combat veterans, and other members of his family are veterans as well.
“Growing up, I always had respect for our military,” he says about the song, which is available on Myspace and YouTube. “It’s a positive song about a soldier who is coming home to his family. It just shows that this group of people who fight for their country does have families, does have lives, does have love.”
Presently, Cox, who lives in New Brunswick, is a physical education teacher and coach at the Cranbury School. “I teach pre-k through eighth grade,” A celebrated athlete at Notre Dame, he played soccer for Mercer County College and TCNJ.
Cox has had to stop playing soccer competitively. “I’m so busy with teaching, coaching, and doing the music, I really don’t have time to do it anymore,” he says. “Besides, what happens if I fall down and break my arm? Then I can’t play my guitar.”
With Cox is in the worldsings.com competition, he might seem like a natural candidate for “American Idol.” But he says he is not interested. “I thought about it, but I just kind of stuck with my own local thing and my own music. It wasn’t for me.”
Acoustic Showcase, Special Edition, KatManDu, Waterfront Park, Route 29, Trenton. Wednesday, August 26, 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Special edition of the weekly acoustic showcase featuring artists represented by Kathy Falcey of the Hamilton-based tunes2ya (tunes2ya.com), and hosted by Lance Reichert of the Hamilton-based Quakerbridge Digital Audio (qbdigital.com), a music production and artist development company. Performers include Sean Cox of New Brunswick; Mike Montrey of Spotswood; Christopher Morse, Jon Lall, and Sarah Donner, all of Princeton; Joe Whyte of Linden, Kelly Carvin of Yardville; and more. 609-393-7300 or www.katmandutrenton.com.