Photo by Ruta Smith

Do you ever feel like you’re putting off pursuing your dream? Well, Charleston’s own Marty Appel recently played his first-ever concert to showcase songs from his debut album, Behind The Shades — except he’s 70 years old, and it was at Charleston Music Hall.

Appel was backed by veteran players, including bassist Brian Stanley, who played with Garland Jeffreys and Bryan Adams, and drummer Anthony “Thunder” Smith, who played with Lou Reed.

So don’t give up on your dreams just yet.

Appel spent more than four decades as an optometrist while nursing a secret passion for songwriting. He was firmly entrenched in the music of his youth.

“My high school years were filled with quality music coming out of Laurel Canyon, California,” Appel said. “The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane — the mood of that, back in 1968, that was a wild time to be in school. And that’s the music that stayed with me. And it’s been validated by the kind of musicians who were willing to play my songs at the Charleston Music Hall.”

While there are certainly elements of The Byrds’ melodic folk-rock on Behind The Shades, Appel’s music is also a lot like the late J.J. Cale’s. The laid back groove is paramount, and Appel delivers his lyrics about low-down mistreaters and true love with a low-key confidence.

Perhaps some of that confidence comes because Appel has nothing to lose — he’s making music for the fun of it.

“I’ve always enjoyed writing songs and thought I could do it,” he said. “I was an optometrist for 42 years in a family business, and after I retired, I said, ‘I’m going to do music. What am I waiting on?’ I’m not doing it for material gain or for a career — I’m doing it for enjoyment. But I’ve been encouraged by some really good musicians that I’ve got some good songs.”

One of those good musicians who encouraged Appel is Joe Taylor, a producer, engineer and multi-instrumentalist who owns Salt Creek Recording studio in Bennett’s Point, in the ACE Basin. Appel found Taylor through a mutual friend, and they had an immediate chemistry.

“After recording with Joe, I was ready to have a sound that wasn’t forced,” Appel said, “that wasn’t mimicking someone, that wasn’t trying to be something I’m not.”

There’s one more person who deserves some credit in Marty Appel’s story — his son, Michael. Without his son’s enthusiasm, Appel might never have recorded his songs at all.

“Michael was really pushing,” Appel said. “He said, ‘Dad you write songs, and no one ever hears them.’ He would take me to the recording studio, he supported me, and a lot of my songs are better because of his contributions.”