Welcome back to the second part of Mike’s interview with Charles Connolly.
Last week, you guys were introduced you to this well-spoken and completely brilliant up-and-coming musician from the United Kingdom. This week, we bring you the second part of that interview.
Charles has been quite busy since the interview took place. He got in touch with jazz singer James Tormé (Los Angeles-based producer, host of Sunday Jazz on Jazz FM, and son of the legendary Mel Tormé) through Twitter. This has lead to a very promising partnership between these two talented soundsmiths, under Tormé’s company, Tormé Music.
This is what Mr. Tormé had to say about Charles‘ music:
“Charles Connolly is one of those artists that you only come across once in a long while. Someone with a sound all his own. Most artists’ music are clear reflections of things they’ve osmosized over the years. And though you can hear hints of influences ranging from McCartney to Arctic Monkeys, there is something totally fresh, totally ‘now’ about the songs on Snakes and Ladders.
“Charles pushes on the front end of the musical envelope while at the same time managing to pay tribute to some of the great musical moments of the past. Just being able to do this, in a highly marketable way, is a very serious talent. It’s a mantra I try to live up to myself as an artist. In truth, very rarely is it done super effectively.
“So when Charles contacted me over Twitter – seriously that’s how we met, does it get any more organic? – to ask my opinion of his music. . . I wasted no time writing back to tell him what a supremely talented artist he really is. And, as they say, the rest is history.
“I’m proud to say we are now working together under the Tormé Music umbrella (my company) to develop Charles’ career, and I really believe it’s going to be a stellar one. I’m so thrilled to lend a little support to a young cat like this from the musical legacy I hail from. So glad to lend some support and guidance, when there is so much talent there to work with. It is exactly why I started my entertainment company.
“Look out music scene. There’s a new kid on the block from London. And boy, he’s definitely not kidding around. . .”
So, yeah. This guy is a pretty big deal. And that’s why you should catch up on the first part of the interview (here), in case you missed it.
RMM: What new artist or band that’s new on the music scene are you most excited about?
CC: Umm, I probably can’t answer that, I’m afraid. It’s just that I listen to so much music that, well, I do, actually now that I think about it. I was going to say that I don’t listen to a lot of unsigned stuff, but I do, and it tends to frustrate me.
RMM: How so?
CC: This is really sort of horrible to say, but a lot of that stuff is the same as other bands that are signed and are massive, and I hear it and it frustrates me because I think, “that’s sort of rubbish” or “that’s derivative” or “that just sounds like that other song”. But it annoys me the most when you get someone who’s massive, and I just want to speak to the fans, and ask them “Why? Why do you like this? What’s wrong with you?” Well, that’s not really what you’re meant to say in an interview.
RMM: No, no, it’s okay. People love a little controversy, I mean, for example, Jake Bugg said about Mumford and Sons that they’re just “posh farmers with banjos”.
CC: Those are perfect examples. Jake Bugg and Mumford and Sons. Particularly Mumford and Sons because they are so massive, and I feel that it’s nice, it’s good, but I feel it’s sort of fake. It’s too much of an image, I mean they’re great musicians, and good singers, but I almost feel like it’s a boy band, who also have the talent to play and write and sing. I think that what they do is good, but I don’t really understand why they’re suddenly taking over the world. It’s also the fact that they’ve allowed themselves to be pigeonholed, you know. So they’ve done that stuff, and now there’s a million other bands who’re doing that sort of thing.
RMM: Picking up banjos, and bellowing out whatever.
CC: Yeah. And yet, you look at their albums, and you can tell the production is absolutely perfect, it’s perfectly done. I can tell you the artists I’ve been listening to over the last year, but they’re not new. One of my absolute favourites of all time is Coldplay. Also, one of the most underrated albums of last year was Andy Burrows’ Company. He used to be the drummer of Razorlight, before going solo. He’s the most beautiful singer and songwriter that I know, certainly in the last twenty, thirty years. It’s a stunning album, and I advise everyone to listen to it. I also liked Queens of the Stone Age’s latest album – which is very different [from Burrows’] – but I mean, one’s very lush, and somehow soft, yet room filling, and the other’s heavy, cool rock. I’m very melody driven, and I find that most artists don’t have it. They’ll have a few things here and there, but they won’t have a full melody. Melody has been ignored in the past, but I think that now it’s maybe starting to come back.
CC: It’s not really easy to describe, because some songs are in a certain style, and some are in another. Like some songs will be more pop-y, while others will be more straight-up rock. Many of the tracks have this flowing melody, and some of them are really funky. Generally, it’s pretty upbeat, but it takes you through a lot of moods. I mean, I never really set out to create a sound. It’s kind of what I hope to sound like. It’s a sort of classic sound, but at the same time it’s also new. Some of my tracks are acoustic, some are more electro. I have a lot of variation, so you’ll never get bored. It’s the same reason I have my iPod set on random all the time.
RMM: Speaking of random, this is a question I ask more or less anyone who comes from the U.K. There are so, so many great artists, yourself included, that come from the U.K. Why is that? Why do you think that is? Is it, like, a different way of listening to music, or thinking about music, or is it just something in the drinking water?
CC: Well, you could say the same about America. There’s so much stuff coming out of America and Canada. It’s not like we’re the only ones in the world. I think it’s probably because of the Queen and the fact that it rains a lot.
RMM: Many aspiring musicians think there’s sort of a formula to success, or a ten-step, or twelve-step formula. In your opinion, in your experience, what would you say the formula for success in the music industry is?
CC: [laughs] I was getting really excited. I thought you were going to tell me. I thought fantastic!
RMM: Oh, I wouldn’t be recording this if I knew. I’d be out making records of my own.
CC: I don’t know, to be honest. The only thing you can’t do is leave it alone for a moment. I’ve noticed that if you leave it, even half a day, It starts to go down. You have to constantly be on it. You have to be absolutely driven. You also can’t be put down by negative comments. So someone doesn’t like your sound, so what? Thankfully, I haven’t heard that yet. I mean, people will say, “Oh it’s not my stuff” or “I don’t like it”. You can’t have some record bloke say, “Oh, it’s not really what we’re into. We don’t like that stuff”, and then you just die. You have to be strong, you have to be driven. And you have to be just pushy enough. You have to be a bit pushy, a bit cocky, you have to get to people in a certain way, which they may not like. It might piss them off, but they know who you are. But don’t be too pushy because then they’ll close the door in your face, and that’s that.
You can’t act in that extremely English way where you go: “Umm, ah, excuse me, sorry, if you could just . . . if you could, umm, actually, no, actually, tell you what, it’s nothing. Sorry, sorry. Lovely hat by the way. Love that hat.” You know, you can’t really do that, because you won’t get anywhere. And also, you have to have a bit of faith in yourself. I mean, if you think “Oh it’s all right” or “It’s okay”, then you may as well just stop. You’ve got to think it’s really, really good, because if you don’t, then God knows what the random listener’s going to say about it. I’ve done a lot of stuff, and some of it is good, and some of it is great, but it’s really up to the audience to decide.
I mean, I’m not a massive fan of rap, or hip hop, although, I’m sort of starting to write a track that’s sort of hip hop. It’s not straight up hip hop, but it’s got the feel and the beat of hip hop, but it’s more melodic. Having said that, a lot of the artists that are on SoundCloud tend to be more hip hop, or rappers. That’s kinda weird, and I get loads of comments saying “I love your sound. It’s not what I’d normally listen to” and that’s perfect. See, this is why I can’t really fit myself into a certain genre or other.
CC: Well, I have a constant stream of ideas, and I’ve got to get it down, and record it, but as I’ve said before, when it’s an idea, then I can hear the rest of the song in my mind. As far as a new album goes, I’m still trying to get this one out, and promote it, so there’s no point in saying, “Well, I’ve done that” and then scrapping it. But on the other hand, I don’t want the music, the creativity to stop either. And we were also talking about being driven, I’m not naturally driven, but because ideas keep coming to me, I have to get them down. As far as promoting this album, it’s still pretty difficult.
For instance, on Twitter, I followed this radio station, and they followed me back, and a person from the station got in touch with me, and asked me for a small donation, in order to play my songs. Here I am, I can barely eat at the moment, and he’s asking for money. So I sent him the tracks anyway, and he said “Look, I really like your sound, and I’m going to try and get a few of the tracks on the air, several times during the day.” That was great, and that’s the kind of thing you’ve got do to; that’s what I mean by being pushy. I mean, he wanted a donation, and I didn’t have the money, but I sent him the tracks anyway. It was a small radio station, which I won’t name. They liked the stuff, and apparently that was bribe enough for them.
In terms of what to expect in the future, now that I’m working on another album, I think I’d like to go a little bit more punchy, more rock. You know, this album (Snakes and Ladders) has a lot of tracks that have different styles. What I intend to do with the new album is to make something that’s more straight up rock. To be honest, I haven’t really thought things over. It might turn out to be another varied album, if I try to go the rock route, and find out that I get bored doing it. The idea, at the moment, is that the new album’s going to be more rock, and it will have more of an edge and punch. That doesn’t mean screaming and frantic drums.
RMM: So, no Linkin Park.
CC: No [laughs].
RMM: But the album will be heavier, sound-wise.
CC: Yes, most likely. Speaking of heavier, rock sounds, I’ve actually discovered something interesting about the Foo Fighters. I’ve found that you can actually play their songs acoustically. They stand out, and they’re famous for their big, heavy sound, but if you strip it down, it still works. For me, if you can sing and play a song on a piano or a guitar, and it still sounds great, then that’s a good song. It’s all about the melody and the sound. These are great songwriters, because they write melodically. I mean, apart from McCartney, the best melody writer – well, the worst is Morissey, who just writes two notes – is Dave Grohl.
There’s also Damon Albarn, and a couple of really obvious ones that I can’t remember at the moment. There’s also Josh Homme, and a few others. I just think they’re fantastic, and they have such range, particularly Queens of the Stone Age, and the sound is almost like . . . Liam Gallagher just punched you in the face. And Queens [of the Stone Age] sort of trip you up; you hear the next track, and you’re thrown off balance because it’s this massive kick, and at the same time it’s also kinda cool and subtle. Also, there’s the big Arctic Monkeys album from last year. That’s the kind of sound that I want to do on the new album, but at the same time I’m worried about being typecast, and people going, “oh, that sounds like . . .” I want that sort of smooth, kick rock. The interesting thing is that whenever I try to emulate a certain style, it comes out sounding different. It does sound like what I was going for, but it sounds more like my own sound. In the end, the album will, hopefully, sound like me.
RMM: I have just two more questions for you. First question: What is your Friday night jam? What’s the the song that really gets you up, and makes you say, “yeah, let’s go party”?
CC: Well, I’ll tell you what I used to listen to years ago, and this is kind of embarrassing. I used to listen to the Bee Gees, and that used to get me pumped. It was always sort of funky, or funk-driven. It does tend to be that sort of thing. It’s either heavy, cool rock, or something funky. Or it could even be something like Katy Perry. It’s weird, I’m a big fan of pop music and of pop bands. It’s actually difficult to name just one song. Oh, actually, I’ve been listening to a song . . . it’s like . . . umm. Oh, god, I think it’s Mark Ronson . . . it was a huge hit a few years ago . . . ‘Bang, Bang, Bang’, that’s the one. That kind of thing. Actually, the song that I’ve been listening to lately that’s absolutely great is ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams. It should be incredibly irritating after a while, I mean, I’ve probably listened to it fifteen times in a row, and I still love it.
RMM: And finally, what is your Sunday morning song? What gets you out of bed on a lazy Sunday morning?
CC: Hmm . . . morning song [long pause] . . . umm . . . [long pause].
MR: Uh-oh, I think I’ve broken Charles.
CC: [laughs] That is very, very difficult. It very much depends on the weather. If it’s Sunday morning and it’s sunny, I’m going to listen to something like ‘Happy’. Something upbeat, but also chilled at the same time. I mean, I want to say ‘Go To Sleep’ [by Jesca Hoop], ‘cause that’s the first thing I want to do when I wake up, but that’s just silly. Umm, I honestly don’t know. [laughs] It might be ‘Happy’ again, to be honest. It’s my song of the moment; it’s just so damn happy.
MR: Do you have any parting words of wisdom for the readers at Raz Mataz Magazine?
CC: Well, I’d like to say, “Go and buy my album” but it’s free. It’s there on SoundCloud. I could say what that radio station said: I am open to donations. I think, pretty much, if you love a certain style, there’s a good chance you’re going to find it on the album, and I hope one day I’ll make it big. [laughs] That’s my goal.
Visit Charles Connolly’s SoundCloud here. And be kind – make a donation.
Be sure to listen to Sunday Afternoon with James Tormé on Jazz FM.