Interview: Charlie Peacock Talks Music Career & The Overdub Hub

April 6, 2015

Charlie Peacock has had a busy career in music. As an artist, songwriter and producer, he began in the 1980s aligned with A&M, Island and Sparrow/EMI. Charlie was named by Billboard’s Encyclopedia of Record Producers as on the 500 most important producers in music history, and for a good reason: he’s played a role in the careers of hit-making artists such as Amy Grant, Switchfoot, and The Civil Wars. In fact, Charlie earned Grammys for Best Folk Album and Country Duo Performance (twice) thanks to his work with the Civil Wars!

Charlie has continued to push the barriers of his own song and music writing – his most recent recordings have jumped between the jazz/improvisational and folk/Americana genres, displaying Peacock’s diverse range of musical talent. On top of all of this, Charlie is also an A&R consultant for Downtown Music Publishing, the Director of Contemporary Music and Industry Outreach at Lipscomb University, and the Founder/President of The Overdub Hub – a new, innovative service that provides access to reputable producers, engineers and session musicians to artists of all genres looking to complete their projects.

We got the chance to interview Charlie Peacock about his musical career, partnering with TuneCore and his latest venture, The Overdub Hub:

Music runs in your family. When did you first know you wanted to pursue a life in music?

My father was a musician and a huge inspiration to me, so it’s difficult to locate a time when I wasn’t pursuing a life in music. I suppose freshman year of high school was the year of ‘never turning back’. I recorded my first songs and while on vacation in southern California that summer, my dad took me to David Geffen’s office on Sunset Blvd. so I could drop my songs off in person. I received my cassettes back with a wonderfully positive rejection letter a month or so later.

How has your experience playing in instrumental ensembles impacted your style of production?

It embedded within me musical values that I still pursue today – passionate playing, dynamics, careful listening, only playing just a little bit louder than the person to your left or right, timing and tuning – fundamental things like that. When looked after in a natural non-dogmatic way, your productions are hopefully, dare I say, more musical.

What inspires you to write these days?

Everything! It could be a story from half-way around the world, a new Pro Tools plug-in, a writing assignment from my publisher, or something very personal to me that needs to become a song. I keep my satellite scanning the earth and skies for inspiration. It never lets me down.

Tell us about going from being in the crowd during The Civil Wars’ first concert to producing two of their smash albums!

Anyone who was there that first night won’t forget the feeling of witnessing a little pop music history. Seamless, winsome, essential, breathtaking are a few words that come to mind. And then we literally went right into the studio creating the first EP. It was an amazing five year ride. Hate that it ended so abruptly as it did, but groups, even duos, can be a very temporary thing. I’m grateful I got to produce the majority of the catalog, no matter how short-lived it was.

Having a career that spans several decades in a drastically changing music industry, what are some major challenges you see for indie artists these days? Conversely, what kind of advantages for artists do you think lie in today’s market?

Well, we know there has never been a more empowering time for indies than today. The tools for self-promotion and distribution are phenomenal – TuneCore being a major piece of this infrastructure – so that’s the advantage. As you know, The Civil Wars’ Barton Hollow was independent with digital distribution via TuneCore and it was a Gold album. This was and still is, exceptional. So big success is available to the indie artist.
But, you can’t chase exceptions. In the normal course of events for indies it’s one very small victory at a time, hopefully by year’s end, adding up to making a living at what you love. But, it’s very, very hard work. I think it’s becoming apparent that there’s a ceiling on what the average indie can achieve – simply because you’re usually just one small person against the world. Not everyone is Amanda Palmer or The Civil Wars. All that said, it’s exhilarating to control your own destiny and actually succeed at it. Ups and downs aside, I would never discourage anyone from that experience.

What advice do you have for independent artists who are looking to further their career but cannot afford to hire a producer?

One of the remedies that I’ve looked at is to give independent artists access to great engineers and musicians. This can go a long ways in improving the music when a major producer is not an option – most major engineers and studio musicians are able to use their huge diversity of experience to make great contributions to songs, with or without a formal producer. It’s one of the reasons why I started something called The Overdub Hub.

Tell us more about The Overdub Hub and how it can help indie artists of varying genres.

The Overdub Hub is an exclusive aggregator website that I curate. It’s a very simple way for artists, songwriters, and producers to get direct and easy access to the same musicians and engineers I use every day on my own productions (The Civil Wars, Chris Cornell, The Lone Bellow, Joy Williams). It’s a pretty exclusive, limited stable of players who share me in common. It’s Nashville-centric and represents some of the very best of the ‘New Nashville Sound’ – whether it’s country, rock, pop, singer-songwriter, folk-Americana or beyond.

I think The Overdub Hub’s number one source of help for indie creatives is to put them with the very best when they are ready for it – and to do it an affordable way. Another upside to a curated access site like this, is that I make my production notes, signal chains, and stories on the players available to the Premium Members – this is like getting several hours of direct consultation with me – basically telling you: ‘Here’s how we do it.’

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What inspired you to address the issue of booking session musicians and create the Overdub Hub?

It’s all about access. I want people to have access to great talent and to grow as artistic people. I get asked to produce so many artists that I simply don’t have the time to – it’s not lack of interest, it’s time. But as a session player, I might have time to create a Wurli piano part for them or recommend a great guitar player – the same player I just used on a hit record, or a critically acclaimed indie release. So, it seemed to me that putting great engineers, background vocalists, and session players in front of the indie community was a solid way of contributing without having to be in a hundred places at once – which I understand is still impossible.

At what career levels do you anticipate artists will find a solution in The Overdub Hub?

The primary level is the talented, forward-thinking indie songwriter, artist and producer. I think they will get the most out of the experience. It requires that they have a little funding for their music, but not as much as some might think. Most, if not all of, The Overdub Hub players have agreed to work at a scale of $100-200 an hour. And there’s not one of them that can’t get a whole lot of music done in an hour. But it’s democratic and egalitarian – come one, come all.

Given your career and various roles in other artists’ careers, how do you view TuneCore in the grand scheme of an ever-evolving music industry?

I hope it’s not too much of a suck-up to say essential! I use TuneCore exclusively for my own music and all my artist development projects. My Top 5 Billboard Jazz recording Lemonade went through TuneCore as did Lenachka, and the recent Kris Allen record I produced. The more TuneCore can effectively be a comprehensive one-stop shop for distribution and administration, the more it becomes invaluable. Personally, I see it making all the right moves for this time in music business history.

Tell us about some other projects you’ve been involved with, recent past and right now. Any cool TuneCore Artists?

In addition to The Overdub Hub, three very major and important projects for me are: my alignment with Downtown Music Publishing as a writer/publisher and Sr. A&R consultant, my appointment as Director of Contemporary Music & Industry Outreach at Lipscomb University here in Nashville, and my role as curator/co-director for this summer’s Ottaquechee Farm Songwriters Festival in Bridgewater, Vermont. Production-wise, the new Joy Williams record for Columbia will come out this year, as will Angelica Garcia for Warner Brothers. My production and co-write with Joy and Matt Berninger of The National was renewed this year as the title theme for the AMC drama, TURN: Washington’s Spies. Also watch for ChessBoxer, Peyton Parker, Shawn Conerton, Gracie Schram, and the Tiny Fire Collective. Every year I launch several artists via TuneCore. 2015 and beyond won’t be any different!

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