Charlie Oxford / by E

See what Charlie Oxford had to say about working in Nashville and his self-titled debut album, available now.

When did you first become interested in writing your own music?

Charlie Oxford: I think I started first writing probably [around] fifteen or sixteen. It was just kind of a hobby but I didn't really start taking it seriously until college. I went to school in New Orleans at Loyola University and it kind of put me into this situation where I was surrounded by all these other musicians so it felt like it was kind of more of a natural thing for [music] to become more of a serious aspect of my life by that time.

You said you were influenced by your time in New Orleans, specifically during Hurricane Katrina, how did these experiences help to shape your sound?

That was a rough time for everybody down there. There were a lot of students dealing with depression and who had lost a bunch of stuff during the storm [and it] just made us feel closer together. It's a pretty crazy thing to be going through.

Musically I think it made me turn to songwriting as a way to cope with all of that going on down there. Music was a pretty big crutch to lean on so I think it made me dive into it a lot more.

This is your debut album but it feels much fuller and more mature than a lot of artist's early work; Why do you think you were able to create that full sound?

You know, I moved to Nashville probably four years ago and that was probably, for my music, I think that was the smartest decision I ever made since this is probably the best songwriting town you could probably ever move to.  Again, being brought into a situation where everybody is about the music. The music scene here is just a lot stronger than [Dallas]. I'm originally from Dallas, Texas and Dallas is great but, I mean, there's no city like Nashville when it comes to the songwriting scene. All my friends are musicians and we all write together and it's a thing that we focus on every, every single day to get better at it. So you know when I was thinking about doing the Kickstarter campaign to raise money for this I thought to myself, I'm going to take my time with this 'cause you only get one first impression: I wanted to take my time with the writing to make sure that I was, on the music side, getting as good as I possibly could before I put my first step forward.

You've been working in Nashville for quite some time now; are there any memorable stories from performances/working in the studio you want to share?

The studio time for this record was pretty funny. We recorded it at Welcome to 1979 over in West Nashville: it's a pretty cool place; it used to be a vinyl record pressing plant and now it's a complete studio. It was just fun getting in there with the guys we had playing in the band, just 'cause you don't get to do that a lot so it was pretty fun.

I walked down - the studio's set up with two different levels and I was trying to film the entire thing - I walk down at the end of the last day: the entire band is sweating with their shirts off and I've got the video camera rolling on them. It was just pretty funny; cool scene to watch.

Yeah, it was a really cool experience. Adam Smith and I really worked well together; we co-wrote four of the songs on there. It was a really great experience for me.

There a lot of different influences, different genres I guess, in your music, so which genre or artist inspired this work?

I don't know if there's one but, I mean, as far as like, current artists out there right now, you know, I listen to a lot of guys like James Morrison, Gary Clark Jr, Amos Lee - male singer/songwriters. I mean, the first and second songs on there are pretty blues driven and then there's "Letting Go" which is, to me, close to just a straight up pop song and then there's "You and I" on there which is more of an acoustic ballad. As far as my earlier musical influences, you know, like Sam Cooke and Stevie Ray Vaughn and guys like that... I don't think that I could boil it down to one just 'cause I'm constantly listening to as many new artists as possible just to keep it fresh.

You said in your bio that songwriting became a therapeutic way for you to express yourself; which of your songs has the most personal meaning?

I would probably say "You and I", just because it's about my wife. Before we were even married or engaged we were driving around one day and apparently I was bugging her and she was getting a little bit annoyed with me so she dropped me off at my apartment and said "just leave me alone" and I was, I think I was like, "what the heck did I do" and I go in and I write that song and it was really about like, how do I not screw this [relationship] up? I wrote that song and then a few years later we were married so it's a constant reminder to me to be a better person, I think.

Both the music and lyrics for "Waiting For" are pretty emotional; what was the inspiration behind that song?

You know, Adam and I wrote that song with a friend of ours and I would go over to his [Adam's] house to write a lot, 'cause he's got this big studio over there, and I walked in and he was like "well, what do you want to write about today?" and I was like "you know, we've been writing love song after love song after love song and I'm kind of so sick of it. You know, I want to write about where I'm at right now" 'cause I was just at the point where, I was in that kind of floating zone of 'we have the funding to do the record but the songs aren't quite there yet'. I kind of felt like I was stuck in a rut and it was really about, you know, what are you waiting for with your life? Get up and do something with it and turn it around for the better. To me, it's not a love song, even though it does kind of sound like that.

Do you have a favorite song to perform live or a song from the album you would say is your favorite?

I think "Waiting For" is my favorite. That one or, I go back [and forth] between three; there's that one, "Drive Me Crazy", and "Letting Go" and I think it just kind of depends on the day and the mood I'm in.

A lot of your tracks have a bluesy soul or folk feel to them but you went with a different vibe for "Disappear"; why did you decide to record the song in this way?

It is different and it can get a little heavy. It's just the way the song went. It was kind of that ethereal, kind of heavy rock song and, to me, for some people maybe it doesn't make sense for the record but, to me, at the time, it did 'cause I just wanted to, I made a point of wanting to put, you know, songs on there that were different from each other.

There's a wide variety of instrumentation on the album; did you personally write the music for each  instrument, or did you collaborate with other artists?

On ["Intermission"] we collaborated with David Davidson of the National Symphony Orchestra. We were thinking of doing a string intro for "Stranger Than Fiction", which happened, and then we were in there and we were just kind of playing around and we thought, well, why don't we set up something so there's kind of a break in the middle of the album? "Disappear" is kind of a heavy song and just, you know, give your ears a rest for a second. The first half and the second half [of the album], to me, are pretty different. We hadn't really seen it [album intermission] done before and we thought it was kind of a cool idea.

I played guitars and did vocals; the drums were done by Jeremy Lutito: he's in a band called Leagues that's out of Nashville. They're good; I love those guys, they're so awesome: those guys were class A musicians so, when we were in studio days, I kind of let the reins free and just let them do what they do.. I felt like that was the best thing to do. The bass was done by Tony Lucido and the guitars were done by Court Clement - he's done a lot of work with guys like Matthew West.

Jason Reeves played a little bit of guitar on it and then Joe Pangallo played a little bit of guitar on "Stranger Than Fiction"; I kind of brought all my friends together to make as good of a project as I could.

"Stranger Than Fiction" feels a little different from the rest of the songs. How did you come up with that sound?

That was another one that Adam and I wrote together with Joe Pangallo's help. A lot of the times I would come in with - my song writing stems off of melody - so I would come in with a basic melody that was chorded on my iPhone or singing in my head on the way over and we would just go from there. That melody, that kind of heavy, distorted bar sound, worked for that. The strings idea didn't come until much, much later; until we were sitting there and we were like well, this needs much more backing vocals, this needs way more strings: the song lends itself to that kind of thing. Each song, to me, has a way of just telling you what you need to do.

Which track are you most excited to share with your fans?

The first single, "Waiting For", is probably the one; I'm a sucker for horn sections and the horns on here are just phenomenal. The guys that did it, they're called the Hornheads, from Minneapolis; they did the last Prince record and Chaka Khan stuff: something I just loved, so it was pretty fun to have those guys on that record. I just feel it's a fun song; it's upbeat and I'm excited for people to hear it.

Do you plan on bringing back any of the fifty songs you wrote in preparation for this album on any later albums or b-sides?

That's a possibility. I don't know. I haven't really thought about that 'cause I've been writing new stuff for my next project so, I don't know, we'll see. I've definitely got them locked in the vault but I don't know.

Songwriting is one of those things where, for me, I have to focus on it pretty much every day. It's kind of like a muscle that you have to exercise. I've probably got ten or so songs for the next project and hopefully that will come out soon. This project took awhile to get out so hopefully the next one will not take quite as long.

I think the Kickstarter ended at the end of 2011 and I was still writing then; I think we may have possibly jumped the gun on the funding part but I'm glad we got it done when we did. I think we started recording maybe a year later and then maybe took nine more months after that to finish mixing and mastering and getting it all printed up and then me moving them around to different labels and seeing who I could team up with for the project; a lot of that stuff is the boring business side that nobody wants to talk about, but it's essential. I started working with Rock Ridge last summer and the album was completely done by then; I was looking for partners to work with to help me get it out there.

Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sticking with me because I know it's been a long process and I can definitely see if any of them were frustrated with me if they thought I took too long to get this out but, you know, just; I'm excited for the next year, for touring and all that stuff. It should be a fun ride.

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