Ten cities and ten bands in ten months: this was how singer-songwriter Charlie Faye recorded her last album, appropriately titled Travels With Charlie. Faye hit the road for ten months, spending each month writing and recording in a different city with a different band. She may have settled down in one place to record her upcoming album You Were Fine, You Weren’t Even Lonely, but that doesn’t make this album any less of a journey. Charlie Faye recorded You Were Fine… in the midst of her deteriorating relationship with Will Sexton, creating a collection of songs that explores heartbreak from every angle. Stream the new album below and read our interview with the Austin-based artist.
Tell us a bit about the new album.
I made this album out in LA (I live in Austin) with Jen Condos, Jay Bellerose, Will Sexton, and Lynne Earls. We spent three days at Jay and Jen’s house, cooking, hanging out, and recording in their home studio. It was the most fun and most laid-back recording experience I’ve ever had. I co-wrote most of the songs with Will, so it was great for us to be able to develop them together in the studio.
How would you compare it to your last album?
Well, my last album was kind of an anomaly, in that each song was recorded in a different studio with a different band. I made that record, Travels With Charlie, while I was on a long, slow, tour. I lived in 10 different cities over 10 months, and put together a local band in each place. I wrote and recorded a new song in each city, and that became the record. So, I’d say Travels With Charlie was really an exploration of those different cities and their musicians, through the recording of my songs. This record (You Were Fine…) is more of a deep delving into one particular sound, and one particular feeling. I got to work really closely with an exceptional group of musicians, and the album has a real sense of intimacy.
Who are your songwriting heroes?
Carole King. Lucinda Williams. Nick Lowe. Ron Sexsmith. And Tom Petty.
When did you start writing songs? Were they good right away, or did that come later?
I started writing songs in my early twenties. I wouldn’t say they were all good right away, but there’s something about those early songs… they aren’t constrained by what you think they should be – they’re just happening, and you have no larger purpose or intention behind them, so they’re pure.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
The first song I ever wrote was a song called “We’ll Be Together Forever.” It was a co-write with my best friend Rachel Shapiro when we were in 3rd grade. We wrote it for our friend Elizabeth who was moving away, to tell her that we would always be together “in our hearts.” It was pretty cheeseball, but I still remember the tune!
What’s the last song you wrote or started?
The most recent song I’ve been working on is a song called “One More Chance.” It’s a kind of ’60s-feeling soul song about asking the universe for one more chance at love.
How do you go about writing songs?
I make sure I write down or record every idea I have. Usually it starts with a line recorded on my iPhone voice memo recorder. Sometimes they’ll come to me when I’m walking down the street, sometimes they’ll come to me when I’m doing yoga, or when I’m half asleep – I just make sure to get the ideas down. If the idea keeps stalking me in the moment, I have to leave whatever I’m doing and go home or go sit in the car and work on it. But sometimes, just the line comes at that moment, and the rest of the song comes later.
What is your approach to writing lyrics?
I just write ‘em. I don’t think too much about it – it has to feel and sound natural, so it can’t be overthought. I’ll write what comes to mind, and sometimes I’ll even write as many as six or seven verse options, and then I’ll choose the best of them to keep.
What percentage of songs that you start do you finish?
I feel I finish all of the songs that are worth finishing. Eventually. There are still some very worthy ones in the works, that have been in the works for years. Sometimes, they’re slow. I probably leave behind at least 50% of the stuff I write… but those scraps can always turn up later and be useful.
What sort of things inspire you to write?
Things that inspire intense emotion for me. It could be an intense feeling of excitement, or fear, or hopelessness, or hopefulness! Or sometimes, a tune just comes out of nowhere, and a line just comes out of nowhere, and I have no idea why. I guess in those instances I would say I’m inspired by the idea that pops in – that the mysteriously appearing line inspires me to flesh out a whole song in order to serve it.
What’s a song on your album you’re particularly proud of and why?
Last time I listened to my record, I was feeling very proud of “Conspiracy Of The Sad Song.” Why? Because it touched me. I felt it. It’s kind of strange to hear it from the outside, put it in my car stereo and feel it as a listener, because I created it. It’s kind of like it’s a grown child now and I’m looking at it like, wow, you grew up pretty good.
What’s a lyric or verse from the album you’re a fan of?
Love’s greatest fault – It enters without a knock or ring. Has no regard for good timing. It gets all over everything.
Is it easier, or harder to write songs, the more you write?
Doesn’t change, really. For me. I have prolific spurts and dry spells, just like I always did.
Do you ever do any other kinds of writing?
Yes. I wrote for and edited an anti-war magazine in my early 20s when I was living in Philadelphia. And I’ve also toyed with writing a memoir of my 10-city, 10-month, 10-band experience, traveling all over the country by myself, integrating myself into local music communities. I wrote everything down. But the editing process for something like that is a little intimidating, and I felt like I needed to put my energy toward putting out records, and not spread myself thin by trying to put out a book, too! The record business is hard enough – and the book business is a whole other unfamiliar animal.
Are there any words you love or hate?
Not in particular, no. I do love to see how simple everyday words can come together to express something very powerful or profound. You don’t really need the big fancy words.
The most annoying thing about songwriting is…
Honest answer? It’s pretty damn hard to make a living doing it. Even those who are undeniably great career songwriters tend to struggle to get by. It may be like this with all the arts.
What’s a song of yours that’s really touched people?
People always bring up my song “Heartaches And The Old Pains.” It’s a song about what draws you back toward home. I’ve also had a lot of people tell me they connect with “Coward’s Lament.”
If you could co-write with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
Good question. Honestly, I really wish I had a few days to just write with my main writing partner Will Sexton. But I would also love to write with David Baerwald. And Taylor Swift. For different reasons.
Who do you consider an underrated songwriter?
Will Sexton. David Baerwald. Randy Weeks. Jenifer Jackson.
What do you consider to be the perfect song, and why?
No such thing. I’ve got a lot of favorite songs, but I would never call any of them “perfect.”