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Interview: Charlie Worsham on his UK tour, Nashville residency and new music

We talk to the singer-songwriter ahead of his UK tour next month.

Charlie Worsham
Credit: Warner Music

Charlie Worsham has become one of the most popular live country acts in the UK, with loyal and passionate fans regularly turning him out to see him perform here.

That loyalty has been rewarded with Worsham visiting at least once a year, most recently when he supported Lucie Silvas on her UK tour last November. Now, after his second album Beginning Of Things featured on year-end best-of lists from Rolling Stone Country, CMT and Variety, he’s back over here next month to play a string of solo shows, support the legendary Lee Ann Womack and perform at The Long Road Festival.

I recently caught up with Charlie to talk about the tour, his Every Damn Monday residency in Nashville, the song he wished he’d written and his plans for new music.

Hi Charlie! The last time we spoke to you was almost a year ago – what have you been up to since then?

Oh my goodness! Well, I’ve been up to a lot of things. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get back to y’all sooner than now, but better late than never. But other than that – I’m getting married, I’ve been writing a lot of songs this year, a little bit of touring in the States. But really focusing on writing, I’m focusing on the residency I do in Nashville every summer and the work we do with Follow Your Heart. But I guess the big one is getting hitched. I mean it’s hard to top that.

You’re coming over to tour the UK next week. What can we expect from those shows?

Y’know, it’s become tradition now – I think I try out everything first in the UK, and this trip will be no exception. I remember bringing bootleg copies of my last record with me on one tour and giving everybody Beginning Of Things before it was out in the world. And before that I remember trying the songs that became that record on my first trip to the UK at the CMA Songwriter Round – Lawn Chair Don’t Care I sang for the first time at The O2 in London. So I’ll be doing that again. I’ve probably written about 70 songs since I’ve started working on what will be the next record. I love the fans in the UK so much I wanna test everything out and see what they think first [laughs].

Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to visiting on this tour?

I’m always really excited to discover a new place, so seeing Leeds and Newcastle on the itinerary has me very excited. But all the other folks, all the other places I’m going to see, I mean… gosh I’ve got friends I look forward to catching up with in London, and I have a day off in Glasgow this time so I’m excited to explore that city more than I’ve had a chance to in the past. Really I can’t pick any one place, I just love the whole country [laughs].

 

Will UK audiences get to hear some of the new music as well?

Oh, absolutely. I mean I’ll play whatever folks wanna hear in the shows for sure, but my goal is to give y’all a heavy dose of the new material and see what y’all think. So as long as everybody’s cool with that. Or maybe there’s some songs that have been posted on YouTube. And so if there’s one that anybody wants to hear in particular I encourage everyone to Instagram me and tweet at me and all of that. I’ll be posting soon about the tour and asking for requests.

Are there any new songs you’re particularly looking forward to playing live?

There’s a song I wrote for my mom, and we’re actually gonna dance at the wedding to it. It’s called The Other Side Of The Lens. I’m really proud of that one. It’s really personal but I think it’s relatable. It’s just about how she’s always made sure to capture our family memories as they were happening, and I think there’s someone in every family that does that, and for me it’s my mom. So I’m excited about that one. There are others that I’m excited about but I’m not sure yet how everyone’s gonna like ’em. Obviously I’m exploring all my feelings – falling in love, frustration with business, all of it. It’s all coming out.

You posted on Instagram recently that it was five years since your debut album Rubberband came out. Do you feel your music has evolved a lot since then?

Yeah. I think my music has evolved, and I think that’s important. All my favourite artists that I look up to, they don’t make the same record twice. And that’s something that I strive to do. I do think that certain things about Rubberband still hold true today as far as my music and my style. Certain things are never gonna change, y’know? I mean there’s certain ways I sing and stuff that are kind of built in. But yeah, the way that I play and the way that I think, just in terms of… y’know, I’ve spent countless hours on stage and countless hours in the writing room since Rubberband, and I’ve learned a lot. So hopefully I can always say that whatever record I made five years prior that I’ve learned a lot since then.

You’re playing The Long Road Festival as part of this tour. Do you find festival crowds are different from other shows?

Well I’ve yet to play a festival in the UK. I definitely think that a festival crowd, it’s a different atmosphere for sure. For one, if you’re playing a show with your name and maybe one other name on the ticket, there’s no doubt everybody came there that show, that night to see you. And of course at a festival you’ve got folks who are there to see you but they’re there to see a lot of their favourites. And the bonus of that is that people are really excited. If they’re there to see one show, you’re getting unplugged from reality for maybe a couple of hours. But at a festival I know a lot of people are gonna camp out, and so it’s kind of a high-energy type thing and I love that. I’m fortunate as well that when I was on tour with Lucie Silvas last year she introduced me to some incredible musicians that live in the UK, and I’ll have a band which will be really fun thanks to the folks she introduced me to. So I’m excited to experience that energy of a festival with a band behind me.

You’ve mentioned your Every Damn Monday residency in Nashville – have you got any favourite memories from that?

Ohhoho! Freebird, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

I saw the video of that, it was incredible…

Oh, thank you. Man, the cool thing about that residency – y’know of course we’re raising money for music education, which I think is so important, and it’s in my home town too, the programme that we support which is really dear to me. But what we get out of it – what myself and the musicians and the guests get out of it – is I pick the themes based on stuff that if we said to our 12-year-old self, ‘hey, you’re gonna get to do this in front of a big crowd’ that we’d geek out over. And Lynyrd Skynyrd is a part of my DNA, how I learned to play guitar, what I wanted to look like when I saw the video footage of them performing. And the same is true of everybody that was in that band. Y’know, John Osborne and Sadler Vaden, they had the same growing up as far as Lynyrd Skynyrd goes. So to get to really honour those songs and to learn them correctly, I think Lynyrd Skynyrd especially is one of those bands that get poorly covered a lot, y’know? [laughs] So to cover them and do them justice meant a lot. And to do that with my friends, that’s really the benefit of those things for us that we sort of get to be 10, 11, 12 years old again, y’know?

Is the residency something you’d ever consider doing in the UK?

Big time. I’d actually hoped to do an Every Damn Monday residency in the UK this year and stay longer and do some writing, and that’s still a hope that I have for the future. And even if I’m unable to do it that same that I do in the States where it takes a month, it would be really fun to do. There’s something cool about a residency and UK fans are tailor-made for residencies because they’re so dedicated. You build up this camaraderie – I mean I think this year I saw people in the fifth week that had been there every week, and they’re collecting posters. There’s this sort of sense of excitement. You don’t know who’s gonna get surprise announced and I would love nothing more than to bring that to the UK.

You’ve mentioned Follow Your Heart a couple of times. The Foundation has raised almost $50,000 in its first year – what does the future look like?

Well I think the long-term goal for Follow Your Heart… My home town has about 20,000 people in the county, and the way that I grew up it was sort of luck of the draw that I, number one was born into a family that could afford instruments and lessons and the time that it took to drive me to lessons because nobody in town had lessons. And number two, that they were willing. A lot of families, they may be able to afford it but they may not have the time, the way their job works. If their kid doesn’t play football forget it, because you can’t do it at school. And so I just believe music education made me who I am and saved my life in so many ways, and I would love to see what happens to a small town in Mississippi 10 years down the road if every single kid who expresses interest in music gets the opportunity to explore that.

So I think what it looks like is we continue to raise funds, we continue to provide a scholarship for students who are headed off into the world if they wanna study music or any kind of arts endeavour that we can support them fully. But that any kid at any age can get a guitar and learn, and hopefully have a permanent home. That’s the real crown jewel, if you will, that we’re hoping to acquire at some point a brick and mortar space that’s dedicated to Follow Your Heart. Y’know, there’s a guitar classroom and a keyboard classroom and a drums classroom. Maybe in the basement they’re learning how to dance and in the attic they’re learning how to cook or something, who knows? But just to see what happens to a community if the arts are made available.

What’s the one song you wish you’d written?

Ohho! Oh man! Oh… You know what’s interesting, I’ve been going back and listening to The Beatles a lot lately, and I don’t want anyone to read this and roll their eyes but the thing about it is that was really important music to me, and it holds up over 50 years later. So I’d probably pick something from the Beatles’ catalogue, or Dolly Parton. And if it was Dolly Parton I’d do I Will Always Love You. If it were the Beatles… I think that we need something along the lines of All You Need Is Love right now, especially here in the States, y’know? That’s such a message for our time. But that’s such a hard question to answer because I think the answer can change by the season, y’know? But right now I’d pull from the Lennon and McCartney catalogue.

What do the next few months look like for you?

Yeah, we’ll get hitched and I’ll come back to play some European dates in October, and dedicate myself to writing through the year. And the goal is to have the songs I need by the end of the year to go into 2019 ready to start chipping away at a record. That’s the ideal situation and I think of course it’s not entirely in my control. I can’t just pick when that magic song is gonna float down from the sky and land in my hands. But I think as soon as I get that song, and I’m confident I can get it by the end of the year, I can put that magic song, the lead song, the first single with everything else I’ve been writing and start to put it on the tape.

See Charlie Worsham on tour in the UK this September:

September 1 – Bristol, Thekla (solo headline)
September 2 – Leeds, Brudenell Social Club (solo headline)
September 3 – Newcastle, The Cluny (solo headline)
September 4 – Glasgow, St Luke’s (with Lee Ann Womack)
September 6 – Manchester, RNCM Concert Hall (with Lee Ann Womack)
September 7 – London, Union Chapel (with Lee Ann Womack)
September 9 – The Long Road Festival, Stanford Hall, Leicestershire

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