Charlie Worsham in conversation with Think Country’s Caroline
Charlie is about to embark on a UK tour with the lovely Lucie Silvas. I caught up with him recently and it was an absolute pleasure to talk about his music, gigs, heroes and appreciation of his UK fans….
TC: It’s wonderful to speak to you as always, how are you doing?
CW: I’m doing very well, I’ve got a giant mug of hot tea and it’s strong and delicious and warm and I’m as happy as can be!
TC: That sounds perfect! Welcome back to the UK again.
CW: Thank you, it’s good to be back.
TC: I didn’t realise you were back until I heard you were playing the ‘secret’ Warner Music event on the 9th October. As it’s not a secret anymore can you tell me about it?
CW: (Laughs) Yes, well I love Warner Bros. Records and they are taking notice of what’s happening here with country music. I know for me in particular a big part of my music connecting is that it’s connecting over here, and so Warner worldwide is making a big push to increase and up their international game. I knew I was coming and I didn’t want to say much like ‘hey, I’m coming to the UK!’ and then been, ‘by the way, I’m only here for 48 hours!’ when I’m going to be back for a month with Lucie Silvas in just a few weeks. I didn’t know honestly until I landed, that even though it was kinda secret, it was going to be a public show or I would have told more people! We had a blast. There were four of us Warner artists and we got up and did a couple of songs each and a lot of the Warner family was in the room and we had some fans in the room. We were over in one of my favourite parts of London, the Shoreditch neighbourhood, and we ended up going to our ‘Nashville leader’ John Esposito (Chairman & CEO of Warner Music Nashville) or ‘Espo’ as we call him and went to his hotel and we definitely closed down the hotel bar! We sang a whole load of Tom Petty songs in the bar. That’s true Espo style and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
TC: It sounds like it was a fantastic night – I had a couple of friends there who can confirm this!
CW: Oh, I’m so glad they had fun!
TC: Charlie, you are always so busy performing, if you haven’t got regular concerts you are putting on benefits and midnight jams with friends. I saw you were at the Opry Birthday Bash recently playing a tribute to Don Williams?
CW: I did! The thing I love about playing the Opry it really is THE Country club and it’s the place where artists from all generations can come together on one stage and there’s no other place quite like it. The Opry staff band in particular is made up of just legendary musicians and my whole approach at the Opry is there are people that are going to show up there and when they see me walk on stage they will already know me. Then there’s people that won’t know me but either way if I get to play two songs, I want to tip my hat with at least one of the songs and get to play with that magnificent band on songs that honestly a lot of them played on the original record of the song. I picked that Don Williams song and then I picked for the other show a Patti Loveless song, cause they are both songs of the heart and about love in a greater sense that I really have always gone back to and enjoyed personally. After the week we had with Las Vegas and Tom Petty and just so much going on in the world I wanted to pick some classic country tunes that were just about healing and love and hope.
TC: My grandma’s hero was Don Williams – I spent a lot of time growing up listening to him. You mentioned Tom Petty and we’ve also lost Glen Campbell and a lot of heroes recently. Who were your other heroes and who inspired you?
CW: You talked about me at the Opry, well the coolest thing that night was that Vince Gill was there and I call Vince my North Star because he sets the bar musically but also as how to be as a person, he’s just such a gracious person and I owe so much to him. I have some incredible stories about events where he’s been kind to me but my stories are not unique. You ask any other young artist in Nashville and beyond and I bet they have a Vince Gill story. So Vince is definitely one and another one that’s been a constant for me, he was just over here, is Marty Stuart a fellow Mississippian.
TC: So I know you have a Follow Your Heart tattoo, copied from an autograph of Marty’s. Tell me about your scholarship programme.
CW: Yeah, and we have a hometown charity, a scholarship fund and now we have an Arts programme – we’re doing the Follow Your Heart Scholarship and the Follow Your Heart Arts Programme. I just decided this morning, doing this interview, that I’m just going to let the cat out of the bag – I’ve got a book come out based on my tattoo – The Follow Your Heart book – and the proceeds are all going to go the Follow Your Heart Arts Programme that helps put guitars in the hands of the young people in my hometown, Grenada, Mississippi. I worked on the book with a guy named Peter Cooper, who’s a beloved part of our community in Nashville and Marty was kind enough to write the forward to the book. It’s got funny stories and poignant stories from my travels and the story behind me getting this tattoo and why I got it and a lot of photographs from the road and my crazy misadventures around the world. There’s a chapter full of love about being across the pond over here and how I found a place with y’all that I belong, so I’m excited to get that book out into the world a little later this year.
TC: Well I am really excited to read that book and I can imagine there are some interesting stories in there?
CW: Oh god! (laughs very loudly) there’s a particular arrest for a….how do I put this?…I don’t know what the code is or I don’t know if it’s illegal here but there was the throwing of some hotdogs that led to an arrest – a pretty fun story!
TC: Brilliant! I’m sure there are a few stories that didn’t make it into the book as well….?
CW: (Chuckling) Oh yeah, you know it!!
TC: They’ll be in the sequel I hope?
CW: (Still chuckling) That’s right!
TC: So you’re coming back to see us in the 2nd week of November to tour with the lovely Lucie Silvas.
CW: Yes m’am!
TC: What can we expect from this tour?
CW: I’m definitely going to be playing songs from Beginning of Things and the album before it, Rubberband. I am trying to write as much new material as I can always. You never know what songs might get uncovered or cover songs I might play but the big thing for me on this Lucie tour, other than touring with Lucie who has been a dear friend and one of my favourite singers period, but this will be my first opportunity to perform in the UK with a BAND woohoo!!!
TC: That’s so exciting – finally!!
CW: Yes it is! I’m so excited and I’ve loved to play the shows just me and the guitar, there’s been this crazy connection, I was even joking last night where we played that the thing now is for me to go find a new basement in Hoxton Square every time I come over here and play and I love it, but I’m so excited to share the band thing with the fans over here cause it’s a different situation.
TC: You’ve just answered my next question as to when you were going to play in the UK with a full band. As much as I love hearing just you and the guitar, a band ramps it up to another level and will be so new and exciting for your fans.
CW: Oh, absolutely, I can’t tell you, it’s most exciting for me cause I just love getting to make loud noises!
TC: I saw that Bobby Bones (US radio personality & entertainer) had compiled a list recently of the most underrated country music artists of which you were at number 7. When you come over to the UK you are so successful and loved by your fans but in the US do you think the lack of airplay on country music radio (which seems to favour bro & pop country) has meant that Beginning of Things hasn’t sold as many copies as it should?
CW: I appreciate that question so much and I don’t know that anyone knows completely the answer. I think though, part of the answer is a radio element for sure. There are a lot of people in Nashville and in country music that are rooting for me back home in the States and I am grateful to them for that. Part of the thing with the mind-set that I think radio in the States promotes is that same is good, and I think with America in general we’re in a crisis point in the country, in a lot of ways obviously, but I think that there is this lie that somehow gets spread that, you know, the same is good and the same is NOT good. It’s all the things that are different that make a thing or a place, or a type of music or community unique and beautiful. When I come over here, y’all (and I’m only a guest in your country so maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think I am), your differences are forced together in a tighter space to co-exist peacefully and you celebrate your differences. You walk down any street in London and you’re going to see shops that are operated by and are offering things from cultures across the globe and I think that spills over into how you find your music. For me in particular, I don’t 100% fit into radio country, I don’t 100% fit into Americana and I don’t 100% fit into what John Mayer does, but John Mayer doesn’t fit into anything, you know, and I think in America it’s a bit more of a struggle because we don’t have that quality quite like y’all do here, where people go ‘oh this is different, I love it cause its different’. It’s a bit like in America, ‘oh this is different, I don’t know if I trust it’. So I think it just takes a little longer and I’m finding where I fit in but I’m so grateful for the opportunities here, because it gives me great hope and it keeps me going more than you guys know.
TC: We have very eclectic tastes in music in the UK! The tide has changed over here for our C2C (Country to Country festival at the O2 next March 2018) and gone is the bro and rock country line up, instead we have the likes of Emmylou Harris, Kacey Musgraves & Lukas Nelson playing, returning to a more authentic, genuine and grassroots country line up. So the big question is – will you be playing again?
CW: I’m so glad you’ve asked me that and EVERYONE has been asking me and tweeting that! I have left repeated messages for everyone on my team and told everyone every time I’ve run into them on my team, the people who have the contacts to book this kind of thing, that this is what I want the most to be at C2C. I do not know, I have not heard a definite answer, but I am doing everything in my power and I appreciate everyone who tweets about me being at C2C because if I at all can, I will be there. As it goes with the music business, it’s also dependent on the folks that I work with too, so I’m crossing my fingers that they are making it happen and if some reason I’m not, It’s not for lack of me trying!
TC: Charlie, after your performances at the Bluebird and the Indigo, C2C and you now go hand in hand and I know people who actually call it Charlie 2 Charlie, not Country 2 Country haha!!
CW: (laughing) Oh, I LOVE it!! Well I’ve got to tell you, that round at the Bluebird, you know, people talk about when did you get your big break? I’ve always joked that’s there’s no one big break, it’s a series of small breaks, but that really was the closest thing to an overnight sensation that I’ve ever felt – playing that Bluebird night and then literally the next day playing the Town Square stage. I’m singing a song that I’ve only played once before and people were singing it back to me! It was actually very difficult not to cry, it was hard to get through the song but just because that’s the coolest thing in the world. If there’s one thing that I could do somehow – teleport feeling to my friends and fans out in the audience, that is the feeling that I would want them to experience because it’s just the coolest rush.
TC: I’ve got to congratulate you on your BCMA nomination for International Act of the Year; we’re all rooting for you.
CW: Oh, thank you! I was floored to see that happen and that’s just another thing that means more than you know.
TC: Burning question for you now Charlie – who is looking after Peggy Sue while you are over here?
CW: Ah, that’s my mum and dad. They are in full grandparent mode with Peggy Sue, they love having her and they send me pictures all the time and send me good updates. I miss her but I’ll get to see her later in the week.
TC: I’ll finish with a question I ask all my interviewees. What is the one song that you wished you’d have written?
CW: Oh man! I’m thinking…there’s a few. Coat of Many Colours would be one, House That Built Me would be one and there’s a few Don Schlitz songs, obviously The Gambler is a baller of a song haha!
TC: Talking of The Gambler, I can’t finish without asking you about the Kenny Rogers gig you played as support last November. I was there at the Hammersmith Apollo as things got…interesting. How was it for you?!
CW: Oh yeah! That was the one strange crowd I’ve ever played for over here but you know it was different, but you know it was still cool in its own way. I hated it for Kenny’s set more than anything. I think I got it easier than he did earlier in the night cause people weren’t as drunk, but you know that is probably on a par with your American drunk audience and I’ve made a sport out of how to wrangle a crowd like that or if it’s impossible to wrangle, how to not let it affect me personally and let it roll off my back and kinda take it in my stride and laugh it off. You know the only bummer that night for me was honestly, it wasn’t until after that I found out they had shot a scene from a Hard Day’s Night there and I didn’t go out to the fire escape to see it for myself. I was like ‘are you kidding me? I’m one of the biggest Beatles fans in the world!’
TC: Well, you’ll have to come back and play there again and definitely see it. Thank you so much for talking to me this morning Charlie, I predict you’ll have everyone eating out of the palm of your hand on the Lucie Silvas tour – I’ll see you in Birmingham!
CW: Beautiful. Thank you, my pleasure and I’ll see you in Birmingham too!
Beginning of Things is available to buy on various formats now and I highly recommend if you haven’t bought it already then you need to have this album in your collection. Charlie Worsham is touring with Lucie Silvas on the following dates in the UK:
NOV 13 London, United Kingdom
NOV 15 Birmingham, United Kingdom
NOV 16 Manchester, United Kingdom
NOV 17 Glasgow, United Kingdom
NOV 19 Belfast, United Kingdom
NOV 20 Dublin, Ireland