Regular site followers will know that I am a huge fan of Charlie Worsham and his music - you can find my last interview with him and a review of his debut album here. I was able to catch up with Charlie earlier this week to talk new music, his Follow Your Heart scholarship and the UK....
Since we last spoke you've had a short European tour and are actually set to return within the next few days, how do you feel the response has been from European fans?
Well it's overwhelming and it's so immediate. I'll never forget playing the CMA Songwriters series on a Thursday and the next day playing that stage at C2C and I had sung several songs for the first time on that Thursday and then I sang them again on Friday and people were singing the words and that has never happened to me before. It just meant the world because when you write songs and you sing them you just hope...your biggest hope and your biggest fear is that people will like what you do [laughs] and to be embraced so immediately and so overwhelmingly just made me kind of emotional but in the best way. I'm excited about the next chapter of that, coming back, knowing that I've already sold tickets on my own shows. It's so different in the States, it's like when a train leaves the station - the old trains - they move kind of slow at first, it takes a while and everyone has just been so wonderful in the UK and made it feel like the train was rolling right along, right out the station. Like a bullet train, or whatever they call those things! [laughs]
How would you compare a European audience to a US audience?
Oh gosh, how do I answer this without getting myself in trouble! [laughs] I just watched that 'Eight Days A Week' documentary on The Beatles and they have the John Lennon quote in there about Jesus and everything so I'm trying to be super aware of things I say! The thing about the UK and Europe, for whatever reason and I don't know if it's that your history goes back further or the place music has in your culture or the options you have on a given night for entertainment but I feel like as a singer I get so much more benefit of the doubt being maybe not known yet. You get a chance to do whatever it is you do and you can trust that it's going to be you that gets the attention, at least for folks to make up their mind if they like you or not and not, you know, iPhones or the bar or whatever. It's not knocking the States, it's just I feel like I get more of a shot to just do what I do and leave it at that and not feel like I need to do the Garth Brooks thing and swing from the rafters and sing a current pop hit to let everybody know it's okay, I'll sing what they want. So I feel like I get more freedom and there's a respect there. At the end of the day if you sum it up in one word it's just respect and it's the coolest thing.
You recently introduced your Follow Your Heart scholarship, how was that born?
Oh man...well it all started when I got this tattoo on my arm that says follow your heart and that's actually the logo for the organisation and that's it own story. But what really sparked this was last year my hometown gave me a key to the city and I kind of felt bad that I got the key to the city so early in my career because there's so much more I want to achieve and I guess I didn't realise that however far it is I've come to this point was enough for them, they were just proud of me. It made me start thinking about all the people in my hometown who had given me an opportunity growing up to follow my own heart and my own dreams and so I started just daydreaming about ways to provide those same opportunities to kids in Grenada that I had when I was a kid in Grenada. Next thing I know we've started this whole thing, this committee and we're going to do an annual scholarship and we also have some other stuff in the works to teach guitar lessons to even younger students. The scholarship is the main thing and it's for college bound youth in Grenada who wish to pursue a career in any field of the arts but in addition to that we want to provide after school music education. It's astonishing how infectious this has become, the whole city's gotten behind it and people are coming out of the wood-works to support it. We've already raised $7,000 and received sponsorship for our flagship event in December and I think we're going to raise a great deal more money and award our first scholarship in the spring. I couldn't be more proud of my hometown and to be honest too, I love what I get to do for a living but the work we've done on Follow Your Heart, even just little bits so far, is this amazing reminder of why I do music for a living. It's easy sometimes if you have a rough touring schedule for a little while or your song doesn't do great on the charts, it's easy to sort of get caught up in that and forget that at the end of the day the reason that I do this, the reason that anyone that I know does this, is because we love it and because it's an inspiring thing and it brings people together. It's a great reminder for me of what my heart wants me to do anyway [laughs].You also recently revealed the title of your new album, is there anything else you can tell us about the upcoming release?
Oh gosh, well I guess I wasn't supposed to reveal that! [laughs] I'm so anxious for this toWas it easy to decide which songs to include on the new release?
get out into the world I was just hey we're going to call it this! I would have tweeted the album cover before now if someone hadn't have said hey man, hang on. I'll just no comment on whether or not that's the album title! [laughs]. I've been so excited for so long now to bring new music to everyone and really my trip over in the UK was one of the first opportunities I had to play some of these new songs and they were really well received. There's nothing I can speak to for this tour coming up in regards to the new album, obviously I'll be playing the new songs at the shows. I do have a surprise in mind for folks who get to the shows, I'll say that. If everything checks out I've got an exclusive surprise in mind for my friends at the shows but I'll leave it at that. I'll keep you in suspense! [laughs]
You know, by the time we got in the studio it really was. We recorded more songs than what ended up on the record and I have to credit Frank Liddell the producer with this. He didn't really unlock the studio doors for me until he knew - and I guess I kind of knew as well - that we had all the songs we needed for the record and then some and so we went in with more ammunition for battle than we needed. The beauty in that was we got to try a lot of different things and in doing so the album kind of revealed itself and that was a really cool thing. There are songs that I really love that I wrote or that I heard that other people wrote - some of which we actually recorded too - that would have been great but what ended up on the record I know in my heart fits the record, I know that's what that record was supposed to be, it's just a portrait of who I am at this point in my life. There isn't anything missing and I've said everything with it that I really wanted to say but it leaves stuff to be said in the future, I can write about being over in the UK a few times and all that on this next one.You mentioned you've been playing some of the new tracks live, how have they been received?
Really well! There's a sense of humour and a...I call it a don't give a shit factor [laughs] to these songs where it's sort of like man, I'm just going to be up here having fun and I sure hope that you want to have fun with me but if you don't, you're not going to mess with my fun zone by golly! [laughs] I think that that is a thing where when you go to see someone in a show you kind of want that, you want that person to say hey I'm going somewhere, we're going to go somewhere you can't go just any old time, I'm going to take you on a trip. I think people tend to respond well to that and so far that's been my experience with these songs.Can I tie you down to a possible release date?
Well...I can't tell you. I can tell you that we have a date circled on the calendar, it will be in the first half of 2017. Believe me, I am so ready! The great thing at this point, I'm just getting excited, we're starting to look at artwork and talk about the launch plan, it's just exciting stuff. I'm excited to see what people think, it's going to be a lot of fun.It's been three years since Rubberband was released, how do you feel you've developed as an artist in that time?
I think I've developed a lot, not just as an artist but as a person. This might sound crazy but the season of my life that was the last album, promoting that last album and it's sort of cycle really did a number on me, on my psychology. So I've actually done some work, some personal work, some therapy and everything. I'm very proud of "Rubberband" and it actually did really well, it was very critically acclaimed and everything. It was not the runaway smash success that made me a star or sold a bunch of copies or anything that I think you always hope a record will do but I honestly think that the fact that it wasn't a huge hit was a lifesaver for me because it gave me an opportunity to examine what was making me happy, what my expectations were and it really gave me a chance to evaluate that and to change some things so that I could draw my self esteem from a healthier place and my happiness from a healthier place. I don't even know if that's the question you asked [laughs] but that part of it has informed the music as well as me as a person. To me that's more of a shift than any change in sound. It does sound different and it's got some evolution to it for sure but I think the overwhelming thing that people will pick up on once they've become familiar with this new record is that I just kind of grew up a little bit and I stopped giving a shit about some things [laughs] and I think that's usually a good thing for a person in any field.I've often seen you compared to a young Vince Gill, how does that comparison feel?
Oh man, Vince is my north star and kind of like with that last question, obviously as a musician and as a singer and a song-writer he's my hero but the privilege of being around him and having a chance to learn from him first hand, it's something I never in my wildest imagination thought would happen, it's very humbling. I've come to realise that not just as a musician, not just as a song-writer, not just as a singer, he's a great person and that has been just as much of a part of this season of my life. What's made an impact is just the way that he treats people, the way he is with folks on the bus, folks in the band, his loyalty, his kindness, his humility, we could talk all day long about how great he is in music but I think that the craziest thing about it is the lessons I've been able to learn from him just on how to be as a person. It's still a pinch me kind of a thing, it will never feel normal to hang out with Vince Gill! Even though it's become sort of a normal thing... [laughs]If you could pick any instrument to play what would it be and why?
Steel guitar, it's the most lonesome sounding country music instrument and it's really a difficult instrument, I don't know how anyone plays it. I have this sort of pipe dream that in my retirement years I'll take up the steel guitar but the truth of the matter is I'll probably at that point try it and then go oh shit, never mind! [laughs]What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
There are a couple...my dad, 'be kind to everyone, treat everyone the same', my mum, 'never stop learning', from Vince but passed on from someone who gave him the same advice, 'never be the best musician in the band, always surround yourself with musicians who push you and challenge you' and that's definitely proved true for me. I would say with Frank Liddell - I know this is a lot of advice but advice is hard to narrow down to one - Frank's advice was 'don't worry about being commercial, it's going to be commercial' just in regards to writing songs [laughs]. 'We're hard-wired to make music that people are going to want to hear because we want to make music that we want to hear. It's a rare person that wants to make music just for the sake of making something nobody else is going to like, it kind of defeats the purpose. So don't worry about being commercial!' [laughs] Especially when you're here in Nashville and a couple of hundred people wake up everyday and go out there and try to write a song that'll beat all the other songs and make the cut. It's pretty easy to talk yourself into hey I've got to write something that is going to be on the radio but the truth is, a lot of those songs that are on the radio, they came from I was in a really bad place and I needed to get that out from my heart and a lot of times the songs where people are like ohh we're going to write the perfect song and make money, you can hear that in the song. Never underestimate the intelligent of the audience. You can take your pick, that's like it's own interview there! [laughs]Equally, what advice would you give to anyone wanting to be part of country music?
I would definitely tell folks never underestimate the intelligence of the audience. Follow your heart, when you're faced with a decision and you're not sure what choice to make get to a place where you can push all the noise away and listen to what's in your heart because your heart will never steer you wrong. It may be the choice that means you didn't win first place in some sense of the word but you'll never feel bad about it.Thank you to Charlie for his time! I'd definitely recommend seeing him live if possible (you can find his tour dates on his website here) and make sure you keep an eye out for his upcoming new music!