Elijah Berlow pulled into Nashville hungry. But like the Band’s Levon Helm, it was as much for musical sustenance as it was food.

Early into his winter 2024 DIY tour, the Vineyard-born songwriter had booked a 14-date run to soak up as much inspiration across the South and Midwest as he could find.

“A friend got me backstage at the Grand Ole Opry,” he said. “And you see all these different kinds of country music in one place, you realize how many streams make a river. It was crazy, because it was Carrie Underwood, but it was also Riders in the Sky . . . and it made me realize that chasing Townes Van Zandt, Tom Waits and the blues makes a lot more sense than it might on paper.”

A seeker, Mr. Berlow, 28, grew up on the Vineyard, studying and honing his musical craft on the Island.

“I studied with Will Luckey as a little kid,” Mr. Berlow said. “I’d go to his house, and more than technique, because I’d already started writing songs, it was more how do we build this out. My music lessons on William street were so creative, I wouldn’t know how to approach writing or playing or recording any other way.”

When he came of age he headed to Chicago, a place known through the decades as a hub of folk, country and blues music. Inspired by John Prine, Muddy Waters or Wilco, Mr. Berlow wanted to take his writing and performing back to its working class roots.

He released his first album Put Out Fires in 2022 after Covid’s grip began to loosen. The album reflects eclecticism as well as roots. Elegant in places, pained in others, joyous even more, it was recorded largely on “the Land,” a studio cobbled together on land his family owns outside Madison, Wis. The ability to improvise gave him a special kind of freedom.

He cites more Vineyard influences, Willy Mason and especially Jemima James, who actively mentored him as a teenager, as musicians who both forged their own path and maintained a deep connection to the musical traditions that informed their songwriting. That aesthetic ripples through Surrounded, a yearning song of perseverance, while the atmospheric Coming To Terms, which closes the album, creates a hopeful reckoning that offers comfort in the drifting and the living.

“These songs were written over a period of time,” he said. “They reflect where my life — and a lot of people’s lives — was and is in this world we’re living in. No one could have imagined so much of what’s happened but we must continue: heartache, loss, love and still trying to create something you can be proud of.”

Humility tempers his words. The accomplished acoustic guitarist who would ask Lyle Lovett about the metal fingerpicks he was using at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, doesn’t volunteer that he’s been to Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch, studied with Americana Lifetime Achievement Songwriter Jim Lauderdale, or attended songwriting intensive camp with Grammy-winning outlaw icon Steve Earle.

“That would be showing off,” he protested. “I am trying to create records that reflect my life, that blend all this music I’ve been exposed to. I’ve been able to study with some incredible people — and they’ve all been generous. The one thing they have all stressed is that you need to find your own voice — not someone else’s — and to keep growing as a musician and writer.”

“Steve and Jim have always pushed themselves forward, tried to be more,” he continued. “I may never be that, but it’s a good standard to try to live by.”

He’s driving himself these days, couch surfing in most cities, but he’s going to places where music is a currency that binds people together. House shows in Lousiville, Richmond, Boston and Nashville mix with dates at New Orleans’ Saturn Bar, Austin’s Quackenbush, Cincinnati’s the Comet, Milwaukee’s Cactus Club, Philadelphia’s Abyssinia, Providence’s Red Ink Library and Brooklyn’s the Owl.

When not writing songs, he’s part of a burgeoning alt-folk community in Chicago, where indie rock, punk and electronica have thrown off a more organic scene. Between curating his own performance space in a gallery, open mic nights and playing local bars, the former meatcutter/sometime barista is forging a life of music.

Listening to the fiddle-strewn So Romantic and vintage reel Put Out Fires, with duet harmonies from Hannah Frances, with its invocation of “bus stops and gas stations, fast food and constellations,” his first album reflects both sadness and wonder. He is already at work on his next project, fueled by a nomadic lifestyle that remains grounded at the same time.

“I’m writing for the next album,” he said over breakfast in a downtown Cleveland coffee shop, passing through on his way back to Chicago. “I think that first record was squaring up all the things I’ve been learning and exploring. Over the last few years, between touring and living on my own, I’ve taken in a lot more of the world and the people in it.

“Even being around places like the Old Town School of Folk Music, where John Prine started, or all the places Jeff Tweedy has been,” he continued. “It reminds you how much more there is to write about. Once I get home, I have so much to work with.”