By Will Broaddus
---- — MARBLEHEAD — Stephen King is a big Shawn Mullins fan.
Mullins, the singer and songwriter best known for his 1998 Grammy-nominated, No. 1 hit “Lullaby,” had no idea the author of “Carrie” and “The Shining” even knew who he was until he read it in a magazine.
“I bought a magazine in the airport,” said Mullins, who will appear at Me&Thee Coffeehouse tomorrow. “Right there in Newsweek magazine, it said ‘Stephen King’s top 10 desert island songs,’ and in there is ‘Beautiful Wreck,’ the live version.”
That song, which originally appeared on the album “9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor” in 2006, reached No. 1 on the Americana and adult album alternative charts that year, before being released in a live version in 2008.
In the magazine piece, King even offered an interpretation of the lyrics.
“He tells his take on what that song’s about, which is that it’s someone who’s living with a hopeless alcoholic,” Mullins said.
It should come as no surprise that a best-selling novelist like King — who sometimes plays in a band with other authors — would be drawn to Mullins’ music, which has always had a strong narrative element.
“Lullaby,” for example, is a portrait of a young woman lost to despair, who “grew up with/The children of the stars/In the Hollywood Hills,” but has “seen her share of devils/In this angel town.”
The girl comes to the singer’s shows “in this bar on Fairfax” with a group of friends, but always appears anxious and withdrawn, prompting him to sing her a lullaby in the chorus: “Everything’s going to be all right/Rockabye.”
“It’s a true story,” Mullins said. “But, of course, you always end up in your own stuff, as a writer.”
In other words, “Lullaby” is also about Mullins and his struggles to establish himself as a performer.
“I remember telling myself everything was going to be all right, on the road,” Mullins said. “Nine years, I’d been traveling and doing it independently. That’s who I was really trying to say, ‘It’s going to be OK’ to.”
One thing that inspired him to keep going was encouragement from Kris Kristofferson, another writer of musical stories, including “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” which Mullins covered on the album “Soul’s Core.”
“Kristofferson told me, ‘You’re a great songwriter, don’t you ever quit,’” he said.
Mullins credits Kristofferson’s example — “his lyrics and his way of painting a picture with words” — with helping him develop his own style as a songwriter.
But while he sometimes delivers songs in a speaking voice, which Kristofferson also featured, Mullins sings with a purring, resonant baritone that is all his own.
“Lullaby” originally “bubbled up from local radio in Atlanta” and eventually propelled Mullins onto large stages, where he was paired with unlikely acts such as Backstreet Boys and En Vogue.
He has continued to enjoy success in markets and venues that better suit his eclectic style, which blends country and gospel with R&B and alternative rock.
In addition to the chart-topping “Beautiful Wreck,” “Toes,” a song that was released by the Zac Brown Band in 2009, went to No. 1 on Billboard’s country music charts, earning Mullins his second Grammy nomination.
Along with much of the material on his 2010 album “Light You Up,” “Toes” was written in collaboration with other songwriters, which represents a departure for Mullins.
“My wife at the time had just given birth, and I just didn’t write by myself,” he said. “Everyone was expecting I was going to write a bunch of songs. I was stuck creatively. The initial reason to pick people to write with was to get unstuck.”
One of his writing partners, Nashville veteran Chuck Cannon, helped Mullins create “California,” the first song on “Light You Up,” which Mullins called “one of the best songs I’ve ever written” in a blog.
“I’ve learned a lot about writing from Chuck Cannon, about getting into the depths of songwriting,” he said. “He’s written over a thousand songs, and I’ve written four or five hundred.”
But no matter how many stories Mullins tells in song, he never forgets that he is writing them for an audience that brings meanings of their own to his lyrics and melodies.
“I think it’s beautiful whenever someone comes up at a show and tells me how a song moved them, in a way I wouldn’t have known,” he said.
Opening for Mullins tomorrow will be South Carolina native Carey Murdock, who now lives in Nashville and has recorded an album, “Baby Don’t Look Down,” that was named a staff pick favorite at the music website Bandcamp.
Murdock tours the U.S. and Europe regularly and recently recorded several “digital 45” releases, including the new songs “Shot in the Dark” and “You’re Leaving Me.”
IF YOU GO What:@boxText_Bullet: Shawn Mullins, with Carey Murdock When:@boxText_Bullet: Tomorrow, doors open 7:30 p.m., music starts at 8 Where: @boxText_Bullet:Me&Thee Coffeehouse, 28 Mugford St., Marblehead Tickets:@boxText_Bullet: At the door, $28. In advance, $25, available at www.meandthee.org or in Marblehead at Arnould Gallery, 111 Washington St., and Spirit of '76 Bookstore, 107 Pleasant St., until noon the day of the event. A small service charge may be added to ticket price. More information:@boxText_Bullet: 781-631-8987 or firstname.lastname@example.org