Despite being named as the new kid in the block Charlie Worsham has been around long before his second release with Warner Bros Records last year ‘Begining of Things’. A Berklee graduate and a music enthusiast Worsham believes in two things in life, music, and true love! While on tour in the UK couple of weeks back opening up for Lee Ann Womack and headlining the Long Road Festival Charlie sat down with Richmond Free Press discussing touring in the UK, future plans and his educational fund ‘Follow Your Heart’ foundation.
*A huge congratulations from the Free Press team to Charlie and his wife who recently got married in Nashville, Tennessee.
RFP: Hi Charlie, How are you doing this afternoon?
CW: Oh I’m feeling just fantastic! Enjoying my last day in the UK before heading back to the states and I spent the last few days in London for the most part and I love the whole country but I do love London I got a lot of favorites spots I like to try and get favorite meals, favorite sites, and activities in.
RFP: What are your favorite spots to eat here in the UK?
CW: Let me try and narrow it down if I can. I do love this place called the Dishoom, the Indian restaurant I think there is two different locations and I’m such a fan. I’m fine of this hole in the wall BAO they have a couple of locations too but they do Taiwanese and Korean style steamed buns and fried chicken and stuff. I’m actually going to have my last UK meal for a while, I believe it’s in Hackney, this place called SeoulandQ It’s an old-school family spot. everything on Brick Lane like the Cereal Killer Cafe and all the other good stuff there. Then shop Revenge clothes on Brick Lane and Cheshire Street and all the street vendors that are there and Soho. I’m staying in Camden for the first time and I’m enjoying that. Then I’m going for a run through Hyde Park and St James Park and I had to go back to Tate Modern this trip. I can go on all day long with things I like so I’ll leave you with that.
RFP: You’ve had quite a week from solo shows- opening up for Lee Ann Womack to the only this weekend Long Road festival! How was that?
CW: Well, it was a fantastic week, I love to get to tour with Lee Ann Womack it was my first chance to do so on this side of the pond and it was extra special getting to hear her sing for the UK crowd every night. It was during my set to get try new material out and play some new song. It kinda became a tradition for me when I come over playing stuff I’ve never performed live before. So that was a treat and of course, I had experienced Union Chapel for the first time which is such a marvelous venue. The thing about Long Road Festival that was totally different and totally wonderful was getting the chance to play outdoors in the Midlands which were beautiful and at such a well thought out festival. I thought Baylen did a fantastic job envisioning the different stages and putting energy in little details that make the fan experience much better and of course getting to play with a band was a treat for me. Being over here that’s a rare treat. I got to play with fantastic musicians who live here in the UK that was introduced through friends of Lucie Silves’s and so it’s been a whirlwind of the best kind and of course it didn’t even stop there! I got to tape an episode of the Jools Holland radio show yesterday and that was really spectacular his band was so great and I felt the history of the studio there of all the great folks who performed there, getting the chance to be in same room and make music and talk with Jools was a real thrill for me.
FRP: Oh, that sounds exciting! which studio did you record in?
CW: I guess it’s his studio in Greenwich I got out at the North Greenwich underground station and I was like this looks really familiar then I realized this is where I would go for C2C back in the day and so it’s studio he had for a long time it’s a tiny place boy it was fun. Don’t know the proper name of the studio itself but I know how to get there now.
RFP: Did you manage to see anyone at Long Road?
CW: I caught a little bit of Ashley Campbell and a little bit of The Brummies but sadly I was unable to be much of a fan there. I was doing a lot of interviews which I loved having an opportunity to do that and I didn’t even realize until today that Anglea Presley was there that day as well and I was bummed to miss her and to miss my friend Bernt Cobb and Logan Brill and some others as well on the other days.
RFP: What is the best part about playing UK festivals that makes you keep coming back? And as a touring artist, is there something that distinguishes UK and US festivals?
CW: Well, the thing about touring over here and keeps me coming back is the way the audience embraces the music that manifests in many ways. When I’m away from the UK and I post on social media or I play a show or introduce a new song the comments stream in from the UK usually first and they’re invested in the music before they walk through the door and they experience the music with an intensity and a presence that I’ve yet seen anywhere else and that’s really the biggest difference between the UK and the united states. I think in the united states we’re very spoilt right now.. I mean I live in the best cities with live music in the world in Nashville I mean I can go any night of the week and have my pick of a great live music. So it’s easy for me to take it for granted and I think here, fans see the trouble someone goes through to make it over from the united states and maybe its because from a but they have such appreciation for the culture from which the music was born and for me music always about its story and its history and its place in American culture especially country music its so tied to America’s history and I just love how much the folks over here see that and value that and show their appreciation. The applause over here feels like uncomfortable hugs that last for too long..
RFP: Moving on to your recent work ‘Begining of Things’ What was the motive behind this album?
CW: Well every time I put a record out I made the record I always wanted to make I heard other folks talk about the 6th or 7th album out And say all this is the record I always wanted to make and that always makes me a little sad when I hear that because I feel like every chance I have a to make an album it’s a chance of a lifetime. This might be it. the only time I get to do and if I can get to do it again that might the last chance I get to do it. So beginning of things was the album I always wanted at make at 30 years old and features me at 30 years old its the story of someone putting their first record out overextending themselves a got little bit burned out- fell out with music then found a way back into loving music in the way they did when they first fell in love with music. So Beginning of Things is the story of me turning 30 and falling back in love with music, growing up a little bit, letting a little bit of frustration with the business side of things, scratching all my musical itches you know, exploring some musical curiosity whether that writing funny songs like ‘Take Me Drunk’ or ‘ Lawn Chair’ I tip my hat to Roger Miller or playing more of a bluesy guitar whatever it might have been. That’s really what I think ‘Beginning of Things’ for me, it was a good picture of me at 30 years old.
RFP: aside from recent release I once read somewhere, in an interview where you mentioned that at one point you made up your mind to leave music all behind after the disappointment of at that time debut ‘Rubberband’ what changed your mind?
CW: I never questioned doing this, I don’t know that might’ve been a misquoting or whatever that was posted- the only I ever done, all I think I’ll ever do really. I think that if anything I just needed some time off that I wasn’t able to get in the moment. But no, I’ve always known that I was supposed to play music and never really had a backup plan. but i think that the way I fell back in love with music was really to learn how to let go of expectations so having accepted the fact that once I make the music and pass that music off into the hands of the people who are responsible for releasing and promoting it, it’s really out of my control once it gets into the world, to the fans to decide if they like it or not a lot of that is out of my control. All I can do is make the best music that I can and that’s all I’ve done. And of course I can be smart about you know you don’t want to sleep through interviews or show up drunk for a gig, I have done that! Either, ,But i have to at some point trust warner, have to trust my management, have to trust everyone on the team to also to do their job and then I have to trust the music is going to the right set of ears and that people going to like it or not but I can’t control that. So, learning to focus on the things I can control which is making up music or the joy or lack thereof I can bring to the process of making music that I can control and that’s what I’m focused on. The more I focused on that the better music I made and the happier I was and the more in love with music I was all over again. And still, I think Begining With Things, did less commercial damage than Rubberband and so, fortunately, I’m continuing to practice the lesson that I learned and I say practice because someday I do better job than others but still have a record deal and I’m still making music and I’m still writing what I believe best songs I’ve ever written and getting better at my craft and that’s what I can control. And nobody can stop me from making music so I just keep on making it and I believe I really believe just like so many of my heroes I’m almost in any path to success and I believe that I’ll have the right record for the right moment at some point and it’ll bust wide open. And the beauty of the whole time having to make music with rebrand is when I do have the crazy wild success, people will have a whole catalog of records of mine that they can go back and enjoy that will all make sense to their ears because wherever someone hears me sing it’s going to be true to what I sing 3 years, true to what I sang 5 years ago and then they’ll hear the evolution but they won’t hear me try to be something that I am not.
RFP: As the founder of ‘Follow Your Heart Foundation’ who helps fund support to the youth of your hometown -Grenada, Mississippi- What has been the best part about forming the organization?
CW: The cool thing about Follow Your Heart is how I met my soon to be wife. I’m getting married in about 12 days. That’s how I met her! We had two parts to follow your heart and the first part we created was a scholarship fund and there’s a place in Nashville called The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and they run about five hundred plus scholarship funds alone not counting their others funds they offer and pretty much anyone who is a country singer that has a charitable organization being Lady Antblubm or Eric Church or someone else they usually work with Community Foundation in Middle Tennessee, those folks really know what they are doing and they are good people. So, I go to The Community Foundation in Middle Tennesee to set up a scholarship and walk in the meeting room there and that’s where I met my wife, she was working there. So that’s been the really cool side effect of Follow Your Heart. The craziest thing about Follow Your Heart is that I see myself in the students and doing the work with Follow Your Heart to me feels like the most important work I’ll ever do and that comes from the chance that I had to do with the incredible things in music, nothing will never compare to getting to visit home, getting to work with kids and see myself in them and this year was a big year for us. What we learned a year after we created the scholarship fund was that kids weren’t even aware that they could apply to pursue their dream they were growing up with a mindset that was fixed and stuck where you couldn’t picture yourself as a ballerina or a screenplay writer or a comedian or a painter or any of these things so we started a music education program and the idea of ‘Follow Your Heart Arts program is that we want to put fender guitars in hands of young and we’d want them to learn the basics of music but it’s not about teaching to become Lidnesy Eil or Eddie Van Halen. That would be great but we want them to have that friend for life that you’d find when you have a guitar. Because maybe all a guitar does is help us through rough patches of childhood but if that’s all it does that’s really important still and also in addition teaching kids the basics of music and guitar playing we keep teaching them the history of music and Mississipi is the place for that because Mississippi is a really cool state but it is the birthplace of American music whether you’re talking about the blues, Muddy Waters and so many legends or country music Jimmie Rodgers, Tammy Wynette, Oprah Winfrey, Morgen Freemen, William Faulkner and all of these great people from across the golden art/arc we want to teach those kids that’s where they are growing up in this very rich historic place for American art and culture and we also bring the kids over to Cleveland, Mississipi where they tour the Delta Music Institute of Delta State University. For a lot of those kids, it’s the first time that they set foot on a college campus so we get their wheels turned and they visit the Grammy Museum in Cleveland, Mississippi and there’s a Grammy museum in a little ole town in Mississippi because there are more Grammy winners from Mississippi than anywhere else. So, if one kid could see that it’s possible and that they’re growing in a place that has a very rich heritage.
RFP: Have you heard feedback from any of the students so far?
CW: So, this year we had three scholarship winners we’re proud to announce and we hit and 50mark in terms of the number of kids with guitars in their hands and these kids that won scholarship it’s just the most inspiring stories you’ll hear. One kid, he’s the first in his family to attend college, this young guy he’s going pursue animation and video. And that’s the other things about these classes a kid maybe look at Taylor Swift and think ‘oh, I’ll never be Taylor Swift’ but if you look around Taylor Swift that’s a 100 different jobs needed in the business right there, her lawyer, to her booking agent to her stage manager to the bus driver, to guitar players. So, we want them to know, just because you’re not going to be Taylor Swift doesn’t mean you can’t have a career in the field that you love. Go be a lawyer, go be account but do Taxes for Rockstars. I can go all day.. It really is the most important work I’ve ever had the chance to do.
RFP: One important question! Who coined the term Follow Your Heart?
CW: Well, that phrase came from an autograph from one of my heroes Marty Stuart. Marty grew up in Mississippi and my parents got a book of his photography to give me at Christmas and they asked him to autograph ‘To Charlie follow your dreams’ and instead he wrote ‘follow your heart’ so I got it tattooed on my arm and the rest is history.
RFP: You’ve mentioned new music during the beginning of this interview, so what can fans expect in the following year 2019 and what are you most looking forward to?
CW: Oh gosh, well the new music is a big season of growth in my life and you know getting married for the first time I’ve had in my life with this much gravitational pull as music if not more. So, I’m actually writing love songs but it’s not like I’m 16 or 17 or 18 years old I gotta crush kinda of love songs! This is the grown up, the nitty-gritty, love is a great thing and it’s your partnership in life. There’s this great old quote ‘If you want to travel fast go alone if you want to travel far go together.’ and I’m learning, I’m living that right now and so love is slowing me down in a beautiful way and affecting my writing in a beautiful way and that’s a part of it and now that I’ve sort of reclaimed and out in concrete or put into stone my love for playing music and I’ve isolated myself from the things about the business that can threaten that but in confidence for me in terms of owning my space, claiming my space and not be willing to back down from that or apologize for that. So, I’m just in a really interesting place with no shortage of things to write about and I also think if you listen to Rubberband, it was very me but it was very much looking at the country music landscape and trying to fit in a little bit and if you listen to the ‘Begining of Things’ it was very much me but it was also very much me just trying to prove myself to everyone ‘No, no I’m good at this, see I can write a song like this’ and I think this third record is going to be me not having anything to prove and kind of relaxing a little a bit and saying to myself ‘you know what, it really doesn’t matter’ i don’t really care what happens anymore. Because A, I found love my partner for life and B, I’ll always be playing music. So I’ve got nothing to lose, I’ve got nothing to worry about and it’s funny how I’m not caring about the right things or caring about the right things and I think that’s what the music in this third record is going to be.
RFP: Advice you can give to musicians trying to make it out there?
CW: Well, I’ll pass what Marty Stuart told me on to them that you’ve got to follow your heart. The thing about the voice of the heart its a quiet voice and the more you get into the business of it the more loud voices you’re going to be surrounded by but you’ll never regret getting yourself in a state of mind in a place where you can hear that voice of the heart because it’ll never steer you wrong. So definitely follow your heart, be kind to everyone, basically, you can point at anyone with success in the music business and the thing they all have in common they may not be super talented they may not be good looking they may not be whatever it is but the one thing that pretty much they are is kind and kindness is critical. And the last thing I’d say is to try to surround yourself with people who are better than you be the weakest in the band, be the weakest songwriter, never, ever be the best of what you’re doing in the room because then you don;t stand to learn as much if you put yourself in a position to grow that’s what’s going to happen and I’ve always learned more when I can put myself in perhaps and uncomfortable position but a position in which I can learn from everyone around and help me stand a little bit taller to be in situations with people more experienced than me.
RFP: In other news, today in music history marks the occasion of WC Handy’s publication of St Louis Blues.. Do you have a favorite blues song?
CW: Oh golly…. There’s a really, really cool song called ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ pretty much everyone has recorded. I love that song! The rhythm of it, it has sort of a skip and the bars.. It’s an odd phrase and yet it’s so simple and I just love that.
RFP: Who’s version?
CW: Oh golly, I think Lightnin Hopkins or anything by BB King..
RFP: Thank you, Charlie, for your time and joining the Free Press!
CW: Thank you!