Long before he was “Born to Run” with his E Street Band, rock superstar Bruce Springsteen was just another guitar and harmonica player and singer in a small band in his New Jersey hometown looking for that music deal break.
The five-member band was named The Castiles, and a local middle-aged couple managed it.
When a die-hard Springsteen fan, arts enthusiast and Andover native read about Springsteen’s early days in his autobiography about two years ago, something just clicked.
“That was when I knew I wanted to write this musical,” said Tim Caron, 28, who grew up in town and graduated from Lawrence Academy in Groton, before studying political science and law at George Washington University.
“I was a poli-sci major, and one class away from minoring in theater,” Caron said.
He wrote the book, lyrics and music for his rock musical, “The Knights of Salisbury,” which is debuting from July 13-21 at the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, D.C.
Caron said that the story is essentially about “a time in transition, that sense of limbo and uncertainty about being on the way to a hoped-for sense of being on my path.”
Caron, who attended Sanborn and West Middle schools in Andover, was exposed to a wide range of popular music by his father and mother.
“My parents helped me get what I feel like is good taste,” he said.
His first theatrical experience consisted of trying out for “Little Shop of Horrors” at West and feeling that he did a good job with the audition.
When he was in prep school, Caron prepared a small musical for children during a week in winter when students were encouraged to experiment with new subjects. Then, during his junior year, he wrote a one-act play for a class in theater.
“I had read, that same year in class, Conrad’s ‘Typhoon,’” Caron said, referring to a novella by the Nobel Prize-winning English author. “The idea popped into my head — why don’t I do that? I converted it into dialogue and cast friends in the show.”
He started playing music in college, where he joined several bands, and learned his way around the guitar, drums and keyboard, as well as “a slight bit of oud,” a 12-stringed, Middle Eastern instrument that is “like a bigger mandolin in ways.”
“I tell people my goal is to be competent on each one,” Caron said.
Now an attorney and actor living in McLean, Virginia, Caron has taken part in numerous college and community theater productions since moving to the Washington, D.C., area in 2009.
He most recently played the title role in “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and he also performs with a band he co-leads, the Heartless Romantics.
Caron felt connected to Springsteen’s early days through his own happy memories of playing in bands during college and law school, and these are recalled in the original songs he wrote for “The Knights of Salisbury.”
Friendships, families and coming-of-age nostalgia, which are familiar material in Springsteen’s music, also dominate Caron’s songs. In addition, the show features popular songs from the 1960s by Top 40 bands like The Monkees.
“I couldn’t just copy Springsteen’s story, so I structured my show around it,” Caron said. “From that rough structure, I populated the show based on childhood memories from Massachusetts.”
Caron’s memories include family trips to Salisbury Beach, while Springsteen famously writes about the Jersey Shore. Ex-girlfriends and best friends also get lots of lyrics, just as they do in Springsteen’s songs.
“The Knights of Salisbury” focuses on four teenagers — three guys and one girl — in the 1960s who form a rock band in their Massachusetts hometown, as well as the middle-aged couple who agree to manage their act.
Caron’s co-director and co-producer, Ilyana Rose-Davila, said that the musical “is teeming with moments of intimacy, friendship and coming-of-age nostalgia.”
“Like the members of the Knights, many of us dreamed of forming a band as teenagers,” she said. “But as we grew, adults often discouraged us from entering the art world, warning us that we would never find success.
“However, a small number of adults and friends encouraged us to follow our dreams even though there are risks,” Rose-Davila said. “And it is these positive relationships that we wanted to celebrate.”
After naming the band in his show the Knights, Caron wanted them to perform in a beach town, so Salisbury fit just right, he said.
A proud Canadian/Lebanese-American, he said that he is grateful to his family, friends and fellow artists for helping bring “The Knights of Salisbury” to life.