TJ WEST

TJ WEST: Charlie Faye

TJWEST-charliefaye

TJ WEST: Charlie Faye

By Kim Grant

Singer-Songwriter, Charlie Faye is an artist who has received accolades from the likes of American Songwriter, CMT Edge, the Austin Chronicle and The Bluegrass Situation. She has been on NPR’s venerable Mountain Stage and along with her own career has also toured as a sideman with Dan Zanes and Greg Garing, as well as playing alongside many others, including Natalie Merchant, BettySoo, and Will Sexton. I first met Charlie in her town of Austin, Texas and have now run into her several times in Los Angeles. I sat down to ask her about that for TJ West.

First off, how would you describe your music to those who have not heard you?

In the past my records have fallen clearly under the Americana umbrella, but I’ve also always been influenced by soul music from the 60s and 70s. Lately, that influence has really started to take over my music and force the Americana in me to take a little bit of a backseat. So, for now, I might call what I do “Americana-Soul” — but as I’m writing for this next record, I seem to be fully on my way to a 60s soul pop kind of thing.

How long have you been playing music?

I was a late starter. I wish I’d started playing when I was a kid, but it didn’t happen that way, I was interested in other things. It wasn’t until I graduated from college that music became central to my life. I was very interested in old blues and bluegrass music at the time, so I was playing fingerstyle blues on guitar, and I got a mandolin and I would go to these bluegrass jams every Wednesday night at the Baggot Inn in New York where I was living at the time. This was all when I was 22 — that’s when it really started for me. Then I got a gig backing up Greg Garing, a real country, bluegrass, blues virtuoso, and he taught me a lot, really taught me how to sing. It was only after that, I started writing my own songs and performing them. They always fell under the Americana music genre, though I started out with more of a blues and bluegrass influence before I moved into what most people would refer to as the “singer-songwriter” realm.

Your record, “Travels with Charlie” hit quite a few marks on the US and your experience was 10 bands, 10 cities in 10 months. Were these all-new places for you? How was that recording experience?

Most of the cities were new for me, and even the places I had visited before, I got a much more in-depth experience by living in them for a whole month. When you’re touring normally, you really only get to stay in each place for a number of hours before you’re moving on to the next gig. So, this was totally different. I stayed a full month in each city, found a place to live, put together a band of local musicians, and really got to know the local music communities. I also wrote and recorded a new song in each city, in a local studio, with local musicians. This was back in 2010, so don’t anyone go thinking I copied Dave Grohl. The recording experiences were wonderful. It’s a different thing, going into the studio to record just one song at a time — you can be much more focused. But the really cool thing was getting to work with all these different producers, engineers, and musicians — just seeing how different people work and getting to be in it with all of them. I learned a lot!

You are based in Austin, Texas. Is that where you are originally from?

I am based in Austin, yes. I grew up in NYC, and moved to Austin about eight years ago.

You have decided to spend more time in Los Angeles recently, what do you think of the music scene here?

I love being in L.A. At first I was a little hesitant to like it. Can I say that? I wasn’t sure it was going to be my kind of town, and it IS hard to find your friends here, since it’s so big and everyone hates to leave their neighborhood and brave the traffic. But, now I feel like I’m finding my groove here. I have found wonderful musicians who I love to play with, and wonderful people to spend my time with. The music scene here is definitely different from the scene in Austin. What I like about L.A. is that everyone is really going for it here, people are working their butts off to make things happen, and there’s a sense of motivation that’s kind of contagious. Someone has a cool idea, and next thing you know, they’re executing it. Also, the musicians I work with here are just super pro — everyone shows up with a good vibe and a solid grasp of the material, and that makes my job way easier and more fun.

What are your plans now that you are spending a little more time in L.A.?

Well, I’m writing for my next record, which I plan to make this spring/summer, possibly here in L.A. And, to be honest, I’m looking around for the right people to help me get it out there. I’ve had a few cool, interesting meetings, and I’d like to have more of those. I definitely plan on continuing to spend a lot of time here. It’s nice. My work is flexible enough that I can split my time between Austin and L.A., so why not? It’s kind of an ideal setup.

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It’s Gonzo Journalism meets Outlaw Country as TJ Music Magazine – Turnstyled, Junkpiled shakes things up in the Sin City and beyond. “Waiting for the day when they stop calling it Americana and start calling it Country again.”
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