If David Wilcox hadn't put together a successful career as a singer-songwriter, he figures he'd either be working in conflict resolution or living in a communal setting with a bunch of hippies fixing a tractor.

"I love fixing stuff," Wilcox said.

Wilcox performs Thursday at the Barns at Wolf Trap.

That Wilcox would have gone into a fixing profession, either mechanically or emotionally, sounds appropriate to anyone who has enjoyed his music. His work speaks simultaneously to the individual and the world at large.

David Wilcox
Where: The Barns at Wolf Trap, 1635 Trap Road, Vienna
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Info: $25; 877-WOLFTRAP (965-3872); wolftrap.org

"It was the bliss," Wilcox said of why he got into songwriting. "It was the fact there was something about the sound of the acoustic guitar that just transported me to this blissful place. Not only that, the discipline of writing lyrics clarifies my path. It makes me aware of stuff I might miss if it weren't for songwriting. It's sort of musical therapy."

Wilcox grew up in Ohio and lived in Columbia, Md., for a number of years before settling in Asheville, N.C. He's made a living as a singer-songwriter since 1989.

Characters, either in novels he's read or people he's met, inspire Wilcox. He speaks notes on lyrics into his iPhone and is always fiddling with new riffs.

"Then it's just a matter of the lowly wallflower lyrics and the bright flashy guitar riff meet at the dance and sometimes magic happens," he said.

Wilcox has always done things his own way in the music business. He's not a household name but makes a steady living writing and performing, and he's not beholden to anyone.

"It is a bizarre thing," Wilcox said. "I'm very grateful that when I started out, I knew nothing. I knew nothing of how difficult the business was, and that worked to my advantage. If I had known how difficult it was, I probably would never had dreamed it was possible."

With his last album of original material, "Reverie," out in 2010, Wilcox has been busy with some new material. He has two projects cooking: He plans to release a batch of songs through his website and is currently collaborating on another group of tracks with a friend of his in Cincinnati.

Wilcox has one bit of advice for upcoming songwriters looking for success and fulfillment.

"Write songs that you love and write them for one person, and when you sing it for that person, it changes their life."