“If people are saying there is a direct line between Bob Dylan and me, I know I must be doing something right,” says American singer-songwriter Mark Erelli, who has been called “the hardest working man in the folk business”.

Erelli plays TwickFolk at the Cabbage Patch Pub in Twickenham on Sunday, a venue right at the heart of London’s vibrant folk scene. As well as Dylan, critics have compared him to Bruce Springsteen and Woody Guthrie, but this is an artist with his feet firmly on the ground.

“Anyone wanting to make a living in this line of work has to hustle,” he says. “The way I work is the most recession-proof – I drive myself into town, meet the people who have bought the CDs, shake them by the hand and make an honest connection.”

Erelli even tried out an innovative new way of financing his latest album, a method he calls “barn-raising”, where fans contributed to the studio budget in advance of the album’s release, in exchange for exclusive gifts and advance copies of the record.

It was a huge success and Erelli recalls meeting one of his barn-raisers the last time he encountered a TwickFolk audience: “It was amazing to have come across the ocean and to meet people who had really been following my career, even a barn-raiser – I was really blown away!”

But it is no surprise that Erelli’s fanbase crosses continents, a talented instrumentalist who plays everything from the mandolin to the mouth organ, he is also a lyricist who never shies away from tackling some of the defining moments of our times, including the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

He adds: “Part of being a songwriter involves being open to the world around you. To not write about events like those becomes disingenuous.”

Back home in the states, Erelli has sometimes struggled with the folk moniker, finding that it was associated with an an uncool brand of quaintness, but here in the UK, it’s a different story.

“People have a greater appreciation of cultural history. People get it here – which is a relief.”

Mark Erelli plays Twickfolk, The Cabbage Patch, Twickenham, 8pm, March 22, myspace.com/twickfolk Georgia Mann