As a 21-year-old college graduate, David LaMotte felt the call to two entirely different careers.
He chose music, at least initially, and it led to a nearly two-decade career as a singer-songwriter. LaMotte has released 10 CDs and played more than 2,000 concerts on four continents.
In 2008, he suspended his music career. LaMotte had increasingly gotten involved in peace and justice issues, the other pursuit that called to him after college.
He used the time to pursue a Rotary World Peace Fellowship to study international relations, peace and conflict resolution at the University of Queensland in Australia.
He also spent three months in rural Andhra Pradesh, India, working with a Gandhian development organization.
Only in recent months has LaMotte begun to perform again.
On Sunday, the guitarist brings new and old folk tunes and stories of his travels to Covenant Presbyterian Church. The concert in the church sanctuary begins at 7 p.m.
“I have been listening to David’s music continuously for over 20 years. I find it amazing that no matter how many times I listen to his songs, I always hear something new and fresh,” said John McCrosky, the director of Christian education at the church. “I think it has something to do with David letting go and allowing God’s Spirit to play through him, every time a re-creation.”
LaMotte, who now lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., grew up in a Christian home. His father, grandfather and sister are Presbyterian pastors.
Today, LaMotte identifies as Quaker.
“I’m a Christian, but not a Christian songwriter,” he said. “I’m an activist, but not an activist songwriter. I like to have conversations with lots of people.”
Good concerts, he said, are like good conversations.
“I love to tell stories,” LaMotte said. “I like to write songs that are true. When I say true, I don’t mean factual. I mean songs that have truth to them.
“We’ve all had completely different lives and experiences, but we’re all painting from the same palette of emotions. When a song can touch on somebody’s experience, there’s a sense of connection.”
LaMotte said he’s glad to get back to performing, even as he continues to pursue peace work.
“I found myself completely torn between these two callings,” he said. “I finally decided to give music a shot. I gave myself two years to make it work.
“It’s been a great ride, but all that time, I kept being pulled in by peace work. Any opportunity I have to pursue it, I’ve pursued it.”
In 2004, LeMotte and his wife, Deanna, founded PEG Partners, a nonprofit that supports schools and libraries in Guatemala.
He is working on two books. One, titled Worldchanging 101, is modeled after a workshop he has taught around the world for the last decade.
“I really want to re-frame people’s assumptions about how you change the world,” he said.
People tend to believe that heroes change the world, LaMotte explained.
“Historically that’s just not accurate,” he said. “The function of heroes is to inspire a lot of people to do a little bit.”
In all of his travels, LaMotte said, he has come to the conclusion that the vast majority of people are “good people” who want to do something to change the world.
“What I’m really interested in are the small things people do,” LaMotte said. “I’ll always keep performing, because I love it, but this is the most important thing I do, having these conversations about how to change the world.”