Interview: Charlie Worsham talks The Beginning Of Things, UK fans, having a guitar shaped cake and more

Charlie Worsham has become quite a regular visitor to the UK so much so, we think he should just move here (and Peggy Sue too of course) – building quite the solid fan base in the UK, fans are always eager to see his live shows over and over again.

Charlie was last in the UK supporting the lovely Lucie Silvas as well as doing a couple of pop up record store shows. With his latest album The Beginning of Things, Charlie has more than proven his undeniably brilliant talent as a songwriter as well as a first class singer.

We caught up with Charlie during his time in the UK and had a wonderful chat about his music, his fans and why he loves the UK so much. I hope you enjoy our chat.

Hi Charlie, how are you?

I’m well – the UK has become like a second home, and it is fun to be in one place.

Welcome back to the UK – you came over about a month ago too, for a promo show – how was that?

Oh, it was fun. It was a little bit torturous as I didn’t want to leave so soon. I am so grateful to be back now.

So you are touring with the lovely Lucie Silvas – how did that tour pairing come to be?

Oh man, Lucie is one of my favourite people. Obviously, she is incredibly talented; I have known her since she moved to Nashville, so she is an old friend, and I just got a text from her one day about it and I was immediately into the idea.

You are becoming quite a regular visitor to the UK now -in fact you are pretty much the heart that bridges the gap between UK and Nashville; you are an honorary Brit!

Oh man, thank you haha, gosh!

What keeps bringing you back?

The culture, the history and the food – but it really comes down to the people. I have met so many people who have supported me and taken me under their wings. When I play shows, the way that people are present when they come to a show and the way that they engage in music is so refreshing. It’s also quite a scary time in the States right now – how serious are you about that honorary British invite? Kidding!

Haha! Yes, move here!

In all honesty, it is a crazy time all over the world and I think there is something about being away from home and having the experience and perspective of being on foreign soil, because that’s been a real special part of this that I didn’t see coming.

It has been a scary time, as you say – and music certainly brings us all together. You did a little showcase the other day and someone made you a guitar cake, which really shows the love music can bring.

Yeah, Claire twitter sweetclairebakes, she has been coming to shows and has been a really devoted fan and was kind enough to share her talent with me with her cake. I mean, my goodness, it was impressive visually but it was also very delicious – and it was fun too, because I couldn’t eat it by myself, so we were cutting slices up for everybody after the show. You know that stuff doesn’t always happen, it was great.

Tell us about Beginning Of Things – it has been a record four years in the making, right – since Rubberband was released?

Yeah, it took a minute.

How do you think you have changed since Rubberband?

Well, it’s interesting and I think that they are both really accurate sonic photographs of me. The only difference is that Rubberband was a picture of me in my mid twenties and Beginning of Things is a picture of me at thirty and I think it came more into focus.

With Rubberband there were a lot of things that I was doing for the first time and the way that we made that record was kind of scattered. We would record three songs, I would go back and write some more, and then we would record another three songs with a slightly different band and different studio. With the Beginning Of Things album, the doors to the studio stayed locked until I had all the songs – we recorded the heart of the album in about six days, me and three other musicians.

I am hearing it from the inside so I feel the evolution a little more but I had got really burned out between the two and what Beginning of Things stands for was me falling back in love with music and kind of claiming where I’m from musically, claiming my musical geography a little bit, like being from Mississippi and not being afraid to make whatever music my heart was telling me to make. Not that I didn’t on Rubberband, it’s just that I had never been with a record label before and it’s my tendency to please everyone. So I was thinking, well Warner have invested in me so I’d better make sure that I give them something they can run with, so with Beginning of Things it was sort of “Here you go” but that’s what they wanted me to do. So many labels, when the album doesn’t sell so great, they say, “Hey, you need to get with this hip producer and these hit songwriters”. Instead, Warner said “Go make ‘Charlie’ music – we got your back”.

Granted the lack of airplay on the radio shows just how different it is, but I think that knowing what I know, these records might have to last four years before I make another! I feel like I make records that can have a long shelf life which is maybe more important than having the hit songs. Don’t get me wrong, I would kill to have a hit right now, but not at the expense of having the records that aren’t true to me.

Last time you were here for your headline tour you gave out an early edition of BOT. Thanks for choosing us as an audience – what prompted it, and why the UK?

Well, haha – when I started writing for this record, I was in between tours and I was burned out. The tours I’d been on were great opportunities, and I appreciate the folks that had me on, but I was often at times playing in front of audiences with no way in the world to win them over. They were there to see someone else; they had not heard my songs on the radio – and in America, if they don’t recognise you from the radio, often at times they don’t trust that it’s any good – which again, speaks volumes of you guys because y’all choose for yourselves.

It’s not to say that those kinds of fans don’t exist in the States, because they do. I saw Jason Isbell at The Ryman, who is a guy that doesn’t really get played on the radio at all, but people were singing along to every word. But in mainstream country world, there is a sense of, ‘it’s the cool kids table in the lunchroom’ – and if Radio hasn’t said “Oh, yeah – they sit here with us”, then there’s not an active life for your music, you are on the sidelines.

When I came to the UK, I had already written most of the songs, I may have even made the record, but the first time I ever played the songs off the record live, was over here. The CMA Songwriters’ at C2C and the songs went over great – like literally over night. The next day people were singing along, so it was the first time in a long time that I had been in front of a crowd who I felt like I had a shot at winning over and it was making sense and it was this great boost of confidence that I needed – and it was inspiring too. So when I came back over here, the record was already done for a year before it was out; at that point, I was impatient. I knew I had this record and I didn’t want to wait any longer. I am always trying to see how I can pull something like that and, to Warner’s credit, they were very cool with letting that happen. I can’t imagine many labels being ok with me saying “Hey, can I just give away copies of the record that isn’t out yet?”. They were like ‘Absolutely; let’s do this’ and it was in the UK because of that C2C first experience and seeing a crowd that gets me; you go where you are wanted.

Well, it was an amazing thing to do and you can have every faith that, even though you gave them away, we will all buy the fully released copy too.

You have already talked about Country radio – and often I ask women in Country about the politics of Country radio and the lack of playing female artists – but there is also a lack of really decent authentic artists such as yourself being played. What is your view on Country radio – and do think there will be a movement anytime soon for more diverse authentic artists?

Well, I would love for it to, but I don’t think it will. I think that at the end of the day there are some people in radio who support me like crazy and I love them and they are friends; they are good people.

I also have a dad who retired from a bank job a couple of years ago and I watched him go from a local bank, where they were part of the community – they helped people, they made their own decisions when I was a kid – to, just before he retired, when it became a very corporate deal and the only way you get a bank loan is if the numbers work. His hands were tied and I see the same thing with radio.

I see people who love music and want to support music but can’t play it because decisions are often made by the same handful of people at a corporate level. Radio is in the business of advertisements and they play a few songs in between. If those songs aren’t the biggest stars of the day then they risk someone turning to the next channel. Then there are people like Bobby Bones who are flying in the face of the system and go ‘Hey! This is good and you should check it out.’ He alone can’t change it, but I am so happy when I see someone like him support an artist, regardless of what the corporate figures say.

Radio isn’t a place for you to build a career as a young new artist unless you fit what radio is playing at the time and, unfortunately, I guess that I don’t. It’s sad because I was on New Faces for CRS, which is a very big honour, and I was very grateful for that – but now I have to go elsewhere to find an audience, at least in the States. That’s what I love about being in the UK, you find it yourselves.

I was going to say that it must feel more special to have a loyal fan base here that have gone out of their way to find your music and to invest in it. You are one of the artists that can come over here and do a tour every year and we will always go to it.

Oh, thank you. Well, that makes me excited to be here.

Tell us the story behind Lawn Chair Don’t Care as that is one interesting title.

Oh, I bought two lawn chairs years ago when I was back in high school and somehow they have stuck with me and are in my house in Nashville. I love writing with my old friends; the co-writers on that song are Ryan Tendell and Brent Cobb, and what I love about those guys – and again it speaks of that radio conversation – it’s nobody’s fault that it works the way it does. Everybody is just trying to keep a job, and I respect that, so when it comes to being a songwriter, you often have to aim every single time for the radio single or else people won’t sell enough records to make a living as a songwriter.

So I had this idea, because I knew the phrase Long Hair Don’t Care, and I thought Lawn Chair Don’t Care would be hilarious. I was in a Roger Miller phase, really digging the way Roger Miller was writing songs, and I had thrown it out in many a writing room – but these writers are all thinking the minute you hear something like that, it’s like “Oh, that will never be a single “. So everybody had passed on the idea and then I was writing with Brent and Ryan and I threw that idea at them and – that’s the beauty of those guys – they went for it. First of all we’re old friends and we trust each other but, secondly they are not scared to write something, just for the sake of writing something, which is a breath of fresh air. It is funny to watch it be a big song here with the fans – you just never know what is going to connect. That is my version of a party song anyway because I am not, ‘Let’s get the girls in the short jeans by the bonfire’ – I just want to sit in my lawn chair, drink a beer and imagine I am Roger Miller for a minute, haha!

Will you be coming back to C2C next year? You had such a successful time the last two times as we have discussed.

C2C is always wonderful, the two stand-out moments for me were Hunter Hayes, who was so cool to share his stage with me and let me play on that main stage; that was a thrill and makes me hungry to go back. The other highlight was watching Marty Stuart perform.

He was amazing!

Wasn’t he fantastic? It was so special watching him perform and knowing what y’all are like as fans and seeing y’all finding it really cool. Then in that moment when his mandolin wouldn’t work and he went “You know what? Of course this would happen.” and then he started telling that story about Johnny Cash and seeing the crowd all of a sudden right there in the palm of his hand. It was emotional for me as a fan, but also really special to watch as a performer, because it’s not every day you get a masterclass in performance like that. How many people would be like ‘Ah shit, my mandolin’s not working’, and go back to playing with the band – but he knew how to turn that into a moment where he actually won C2C; he won C2C.

I agree.

I hope to come back, but I don’t know yet.

Last time we spoke I think you were just doing your first Follow Your Heart program, now you have a book. Tell us about the Follow Your Heart book.

I am so excited; they are getting printed off right now. I have a friend called Peter Cooper who is a gem, a really special part of our community in Nashville. He is sort of a renaissance man; he has written pieces in the Tennessean over the years, he works at the Hall Of Fame, he has this encyclopaedic knowledge of Country music and is a very gifted writer – and writes books, too. He had a book come out and it got my wheels turning, because I got this tattoo from this autograph from Marty Stuart years ago, and I always thought at the back of my head that I want to do something with it and put it into some sort of publication. Then Peter’s book came out and we got to talking and working together on this idea and now this book is a reality. It’s kind of all the stories of what lead to me getting the tattoo and getting into music and all the adventures since – of playing music and seeing the world. Some of my best memories were skipping out on a bar tab, ha – and the real special thing is that all the proceeds will go to the Arts Fund, so it will help raise money for the music education program. Marty Stuart was kind enough to write the Foreword, which is crazy, so I am really excited. I know that shipping to the UK is more expensive than the book, so we are trying to figure that out for you guys.

How were the Abbey Road studios?

It was surreal to be there – I am a huge Beatles fan. My dad was almost fourteen when The Beatles came to America and it shaped his whole life. During my upbringing with my parents, they shared some great music with me, a huge part of that was The Beatles. I got to take my parents just to walk through Abbey Road – one of the trips before, when I was opening for Kenny Rogers – and it was emotional. Then I got to spend a day in the Gatehouse Studio, which is a new studio that they put together there, and I just recorded a bunch of acoustic versions of tunes off my records, and we are going to try to figure something out to put them on Spotify.

Well, thank you so much for talking to me today and I will see you soon – and I hope Peggy Sue is doing ok?

Oh, thanks for asking – she is with the grandparents and she just learnt to shake hands, paws haha!

That is sweet – hope to see you soon Charlie


Purchase Beginning of Things by Charlie here

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