Plenty of artists go on tour. But few tour in the style of Austin Singer-Songwriter Charlie Faye. Determined to get to know the places and people along the way, Faye ambitiously embarked on a 10-towns-in-10-months tour. She played with new musicians at every stop, and got to know the local crowd. She even wrote and recorded a new song in every town, which she then put together for her latest album “Travels With Charlie.” Read on to find out what inspired this unusual tour, and how it has influenced her music.
Without using the words “rock,” “country,” or “alternative” describe your sound.
It’s like if Carole King moved to Texas in her formative years, and never played piano. But the sound of my Travels With Charlie record is pretty varied. The songwriting is consistent, because it’s all coming from me, but I recorded each song in a different town with a different band, and I wanted to let the sound of each place seep into the recordings. So, the Tucson track has some of that Tucson vibe to it, the Nashville track sounds like something that could have only come out of Nashville, and the Lafayette track definitely carries a little taste of Louisiana.
So what inspired your 10 towns in 10 months tour?
Well, I had just put out my last record, Wilson St., and I was talking to a friend about how I would tour to support the record’s release. He started talking about some friends of ours, a band called Poi Dog Pondering, who, in their early days, would go to a college town and hang out for a week before they played a show there. In that week they would hang out with the college kids, make friends, have jam sessions, and by the time the gig rolled around, everyone was excited to go see the show. Then, the next time they came back through those towns, they had friends to hang out with, places to crash, and an audience for the gigs. It sounded pretty genius to me.
I also have a love-hate relationship with traditional touring – the going from place to place every day and never really getting to catch your breath, or get a feel for the places, or get to know anyone – I think that part of touring pretty much sucks. So, I decided I would do this crazy long-term 10-month tour, and really try to settle in and get to know each of 10 different towns. Now I really feel like I have 10 sort-of homes all across the country. It’s pretty damn cool.
How’d you set up your bands in each city?
Most months, I would show up in a city not really knowing anybody. But I would put out the word to my friends before I went. I’d post on facebook “Next month, Burlington, VT. Anyone know anyone I should hang out with?” And responses would start rolling in. The bands came together similarly. I have a great (and now even greater) musical community and network. A friend of mine, a drummer from Austin, recommended a drummer in Nashville. A friend who used to live in L.A. suggested an entire band there for me. But sometimes, I just ended up playing with the people I met when I was already living there. In Nashville, for instance, I ran into a guitar player whose name I had heard at a bar one night. We started talking, and he was drunk and funny and insisted that he should play a gig with me. So I hired him.
Did you have anyone traveling with you from place to place? A manager? Friends?
Nope. I was traveling solo, all the way. There were a few times when a friend came out to visit for a couple days, or I’d run into another touring musician when our routes crossed. But for the most part, I did it alone. And that’s actually what made it easier to connect with new people in the new places I was living. I didn’t have old friends and familiar people to fall back on.
When you weren’t performing, what kinds of things did you do in each town?
Midway through the tour, I began to notice a similar pattern to each month – a common arc. The month always began with a drive to my new location. Sometimes this was a leisurely six-hour drive, sometimes it took three days. The first week in a new town was always pretty solitary. I explored on my own, found a coffee shop I liked, a good hike, my neighborhood market, and a place to hang out at night. I called up friends of friends to see if there was anyone who might want to show me around. By the second week, I would start meeting people. I haven’t always been the most outgoing person, but there’s nothing like being alone for extended periods of time to make you talk to strangers. After a few days on my own I would talk to pretty much anyone.
I would find players for my local band by going out to see people play. So I went out and saw a lot of local music. By the third week of the month, I was always pretty busy. The first two gigs, I usually played solo, or just with a guitar player, but by week three, rehearsals with my new band were in full swing. And then, toward the end of the month, I would be getting ready for the recording, figuring out what song to do with my local band, where to record, and getting everyone’s schedules lined up.
What were some of the hurdles you came upon while touring (if any!)?
Oh, there are always hurdles. Venues that aren’t quite what you thought they would be, players that aren’t quite what you thought they would be… but you take it in stride, and keep going. The hardest part about this tour for me was being away from home (Austin) for 10 months. I could see stuff going by on facebook while I was miles away–friends’ record release shows, birthday parties, big community events… New Year’s, 4th of July, and my birthday last year were all spent in new places where I didn’t know anyone yet.
Would you do it all again with 10 new towns?
If I had the means to, yes. Definitely. I would especially love to do it internationally – one month in Dublin, one month in Toronto, one month in Melbourne… If anyone wants to help me make it happen, drop me a line.
How has the experience influenced your musical process?
I think I’m definitely more flexible, musically, than I was before, more able to go with the flow. Every month of this tour, I played with a new group of musicians. It was really interesting to hear how each player had their own take on the songs, and I really encouraged the guys to “do their thing.” In the best situations, the music would stay alive and fresh for me through playing with new people. But sometimes the situation wasn’t ideal– people didn’t have a lot of time to learn the stuff and we would just be winging it. And that doesn’t shake me anymore. I can get onstage with someone I’ve just met and be alright with feeling it out as it happens.
Do you recommend this type of prolonged tour to other artists?
Yes, I do. Try it. And if you don’t want to commit to something as long as ten months, try it for one month in one place and see how it works.
What projects do you have in the works?
I’m working on a book about my touring experience, what it was like to live this way, and get an inside glimpse at these 10 different music communities. I’m also starting an artist-to-artist consulting service, to help other artists figure out how to get their careers rolling in a way that works for them. I’ve learned a lot from my experiences… and what is all that experience worth if you don’t share it?