Charlie answers questions about music and performing
VENTS Magazine Interview with Charlie Burger
1. What do you like most about playing music and singing?
Charlie: Making an uplifting emotional impact on a person and, in turn, being uplifted myself. Creating interest, first my own as a creative source, then eliciting attention/interest from others in what I am creating, plus some sort of participation from them even if it’s just a smile or a foot tapping. From there we rise together to new heights, mutually creating as we share in the aesthetic waves.
2. What inspired you to start singing and making music?
Charlie: I was born with this purpose. This is what I was meant to do. Then, my mom provided an environment that supported music. My mom was not a musician, she was a very fine painter (water colors). However, she saw that music lit me up and she introduced me to a wide variety of music from early on (I still have all those original vinyl records. The 1950’s up through the 70’s were when she had the most crucial influence. She never pushed me into it at all, but supported me fully in my own reach for it.
3. Who's your ideal singer/musician that you would like to collaborate with and why?
Charlie: David Pomerantz, singer/songwriter/performer/creative genius. He demonstrated a level of communication from the stage that opened my eyes and made me want to be able to do something like that in my own way. I think that being involved in a collaborative musical project with him would greatly help me to expand my own art.
4. What qualities do you think make a great singer/musician?
Charlie: Spiritual integrity, first. That is the platform I aspire to create from more and more. Every step I have made in my own spiritual journey has made me a better artist. And, I don’t think there is any limit to how far we can go along this line. The arts are right up next to who we are. Whatever you may believe, however you conceive of God or the Spirit, or how you see your own role as a participant or as a recipient in the creative process – I am certain that it starts with you and with the degree to which you are integrated with the spiritual. Even one’s ability to create energy emanates from the spiritual, not vice versa. The more I have been able to grasp that truth, the more effective I have become as a creative force and as an originator of art.
5. Are there any musicians who inspire you? What do you admire about them?
Charlie: David Pomerantz (see above).
Ravi Shankar. He brought his amazing competence and talent to strange lands and cultures and did it with such love and grace and integrity that it was embraced by those strangers and became a part of their musical heritage, as well.
Paul McCartney. He kept the music alive and focused on serving his audiences around the world even when he had long since surpassed any need of wealth or fame. In fact, he used his fame to bring goodness, decency, upliftment and an honest love of the music itself to people everywhere.
Garth Brooks. He is all about his audiences, and never for a moment allows anyone to forget that he would be nothing without his audiences. He cares for them, each one. He shuns status. He is like a father, a brother, and a supportive power to many other artists, and, as such, sets a stellar example of how we should have each other’s back.
6. Which skills have you gained that help you perform effectively as a singer/ musician?
My ability to be who I am and to know the things that are true for me. That includes understanding myself and having handled many of the ways in which I was holding myself back.
Also, my ability to communicate with others and find a mutual understanding, a common wavelength, a shared reality. This includes a certain knowledge about what makes us “tick” and why we do what we do, along with a far-reaching and enduring love for people of all ages, faiths, cultures and walks of life.
Music flows from the above skills, even more than it does from technical skills. However, competence in your art form allows for a richer and more powerful expression of your life skills. And it’s so incredibly fun!
7. Tell me about your favorite performance in your career.
Charlie: In Alexandria, Minnesota, just prior to the pandemic in 2020, performing for about 20 of my fans at a private party in my honor. It set a standard for me of what a wonderful experience we can create together when we lift each other up utilizing this vehicle of live music.
8. What's the best advice you would give an aspiring musician?·
- Know yourself, first, and what you stand for. Find a path that works for you, one that you can understand, one that you can do and make real (not imagined) progress on.
- Be a professional in every sense of the word. Don’t dabble in mediocrity. Get competent at your art. ·
- Stay away from booze and other mind-altering drugs, legal or illegal. They put you out of communication with your audiences. Wrong direction for an artist.·
- Know your people, especially those who pretend to be a “friend” but, despite appearances, instead cause you to doubt yourself and feel less able to reach your own goals as an artist. Associate with those who increase your abilities and self-confidence, who help you to win toward your own goals and purposes.
SPOTHERLD: Indie Artist Spotlight
Spotherld: Discussing the High Notes
with Las Vegas Singer/Musician Charlie Burger
[See URL link to original article above]
1. What first got you into music?
My mom, who was herself an accomplished fine artist/painter (water colors) and not a musician. She used to play the old vinyls for me because I so loved them. I recall some of my favorites when I was very young back in the 50’s – Country (Jimmie Rogers, Sons of the Pioneers, Jim Reeves, Ray Price, Eddie Arnold, Roger Miller, Marty Robbins, Glen Campbell) Classical music; big bands and jazz (Stan Kenton, Glen Miller, Woody Herman, Count Basie, also Louie Armstrong, the Dukes of Dixieland), early Rock ‘n’ Roll of the 60’s and 70’s eras (The Ventures, Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Kris Kistofferson, the Byrds, John Denver, Beach Boys, The Eagles, Eric Clapton), Blues (Janis Joplin, Blood, Sweat & Tears) R&B/Motown/Soul (Ray Charles and others), Pop and Folk music (Johnnie Rivers, Neil Diamond, Sergio Mendez & Brazil 66, Simon & Garfunkel), Disney and many show tunes, Holiday music, Hispanic (Mariachis, Trini Lopez, Perez Prado). I still have all those original LP vinyl records! I had a wide exposure to different types of music. And my mom and I often used to be there listening together.
2. Who inspired you to make music?
My mother was the principal supporter of my music interests all through my childhood and into my teens, although she never said a word to coax or prod me in any way. She didn’t really need to. I took to music and performing for others like a duck to water. She just unimposingly kept me supplied with those LP records right on through to the latter 60’s while I was still living at home, got me clarinet lessons when, at 13 years old, I was somewhat of a prodigy at Dixieland jazz. She got me my first electric guitar and amp when I got interested (enthralled is more accurate!) in the guitar. I don’t remember ever hearing from my mom any hint of doubt or naysaying or criticism, nor was there any prohibition of my enormous reach to play and perform. I was in my first rock band in junior high school within a couple of weeks after getting that initial guitar and amp. Performing music is not just something that I love and have passion for. I was meant to do this. This purpose came right with me into this life.
3. What is your favorite song to perform?
I have so many, although these are not set in stone, nor are they unvarying, nor is this list even close to all of them. That said, here are some that I especially love to perform: “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra, “The Glory Of Love” by Peter Cetera, “Country Roads” or “Annie’s Song” by John Denver, “All Of Me” by John Legend, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, “The Sound Of Silence” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel; “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones; “Check Yes Or No” and “Amarillo By Morning” by George Straight; “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “The Dance” by Garth Brooks; “Desperado” and “Hotel California” by The Eagles; “Heaven” and “Everything I Do, I Do For You” by Bryan Adams; “Yesterday”, While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Hey Jude”, “Blackbird”, “Here Comes The Sun”, “Eight Days A Week” by The Beatles; “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison; “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol; “Cielito Lindo” traditional Mexican song; “Show Yourself” by Idina Menzel; “Let It Be Me” by the Everly Brothers; “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” by Elvis; “Down On The Corner”, “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”, “Proud Mary”, “Who’ll Stop The Rain?” by Credence Clearwater Revival; “I Walk The Line” by Johnny Cash; “Jambalaya” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams, Sr.; Pancho & Lefty by Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard; “My Girl” by The Temptations; “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” and “Circle Of Life” by Elton John; “You Were Always On My Mind” and “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson; “Only You” by The Platters; “O Holy Night”, “Silent Night”, “Jingle Bell Rock”, “Ave Maria”, “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting)”, “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty, The Snowman” and “Jingle Bells” holidays songs; “A Whole New World” from the movie Aladdin. Now, that feels like a more truthful answer than trying to pick out just one!!!
4. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
David Pomerantz is one of my favorite performers and song writers. It would be such a joy and an honor for me to be able to be a part of something he was doing musically. His songs include “Trying To Get the Feeling Again” and “The Old Songs” which were recorded by Barry Manilow. His various songwriting projects have amassed a total of twenty-tow platinum and eighteen gold albums. I feel that, if I could rub elbows with him in a collaborative venture, he would help me to move forward as an artist.
5. If you could go open a show for any artist who would it be?
I don’t know how to answer this question. It is not something I have done as a solo artist. I think I have more to do before I would consider myself capable of being an opening act for a renowned artist, whether an individual or a group. There probably are some excellent performers whose acts would be complemented by my artistic style and expertise. Knowing me, if I were offered such an opportunity, I would be highly motivated and able to rise to the occasion. Back in 1965 I was in a rock band, “The Chancellors” in Minneapolis, and we had achieved notoriety in the Midwest, with a couple of hit records. We opened for “Kenny Rogers and The First Edition” at the Minnesota State Fair. That is to this day a cherished memory for me. It is very special to communicate with or be in close proximity to a great artist.
6. How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
It has made possible a world-wide Renaissance of the Arts, and certainly in music. One can learn anything at any level about any aspect of music: performers, all genres of music, histories, anything about the cultures and events that fostered the music, any possible opinion or commentary, knowledge of theory and practice, and, of course, endless audio-visual data. It is the library of the ages, a resource to help you realize your fondest dreams. And, you have, potentially, a world stage to perform on if you play the right “chords”. “Business” means exchanging a valuable service or product for another valuable, such as money or influence and renown and additional doors opened for expansion. It is a way to communicate on an unbelievable scale into the millions and billions. So, it is an extremely powerful tool or resource.
However, there is nothing quite like a live performance. The electronic and virtual universe is lacking a certain quality of sound and connection from one heart to another. It can so easily become unreal or disconnected in a personal sense. Live performances will always be needed in abundance, and are truly irreplaceable.
Furthermore, the internet can be twisted and perverted and used to deceive and trap another, as surely as it can be used for good. One must learn how to discern the good from the evil, especially the evil that hides or is masked as “friendliness”. It may be very difficult to sort this out in the illusory world of the internet. It is especially important for the artist to maintain an alert and realistic cautiousness on anything so easily to manipulate for evil purposes as the internet. One must learn how to know who he or she can and cannot trust. There are many vampire personalities who cannot endow things with life as an artist can, and who need to feed off the creative energies and resources of the artist. So, this is a primary knowledge and skill that must be acquired. Otherwise, all one’s creative works can be lost or pirated or used for evil purposes.
7. If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
I would change the tax laws so those working in the arts would not be burdened and could prosper. I would also make contract laws greatly favor and protect the rights of the creative artist to prosper from his creative works, rather than the lion’s share going to the lawyers and business sharks or crooks. I would make people responsible and subject to reversal of punishments for lawsuits against creative artists that are proven to be frivolous and malicious and fraudulent. And I would make the news media of every type responsible for public defamation and slanderous trials done in the media to any artist or celebrity or creative leader. They are the worst blight on society because they manufacture chaos and invent controversies and bad news which they then exploit for profit! They demonize every person who does not fit their pre-planned agenda. They make us lose faith in mankind. Our artists and creative leaders especially should not be used as fodder for a cynical, out-of-control and self-serving media. It’s time to put these villains in their place and get out the muzzles and put the worst behind bars. “Freedom of the Press“ and “Free Speech” have been grievously abused for many decades to harm and have ruined countless lives for monetary gain and power, especially used against celebrity artists and people of good will who are creating a more aesthetic and peaceful and harmonious world.
8. What’s next for you?
I want to establish several good-paying gigs/residencies performing every week in local Las Vegas restaurants or clubs or doing weddings, private or corporate events.
I also want to record all my renditions of songs so that others can learn from my arrangements and incorporate them into their own performances as it suits their own aesthetic tastes and style.
I am also greatly expanding my blog and other efforts to help singer/guitarists learn to become more competent and professional and to perform a lot more. The world needs many people working successfully in the arts – full time! In addition to my own writings and talks, I will be seeking out and interviewing other creative artists, particularly those in the music industry. I have a mission to expand and prosper as a performer, and to help other artists do so, as well.
NVRI Magazine Interview with Charlie Burger - August 2022
1.What made you decide to pursue a career in entertainment?
I started when I was 16. There was never a thought about starting anything – I dove into singing and guitar accompaniment the moment my parents brought home to me a guitar and amp from Sears Roebuck! I spent about six hours that first day learning “Louie, Louie” by the Kingsmen, which was a #1 hit at the time (“played until my fingers bled”). I think I was in a band within a couple of weeks with some guys I knew in school. This was not a decision after some thought process. It was an all-consuming immersion as an inevitable consequence of my passion. I was the embodiment of the song by Bryan Adams, “Summer of ’69”, except it was about 4 years prior.
2. What skills have you learned that will help you in your singing career?
I ran into a lady named Jeannie Deva a number of years ago and did two workshops with her and got her books and CDs and studied her methods. She opened my eyes to accurate knowledge of the anatomy of singing, and hence to my ability to sing without strain. This opened the doors wide to develop my technique. I had attempted to do a few other programs prior to hers which never clicked in the practical sense. I can now sing for 8 or 10 hours straight without getting hoarse. In fact, I sing better the longer I perform!
3. What kind of singer would you classify yourself as?
Versatile, not fixed in any genre. I like to do a mix of genres based on the songs I love and want to share with people of all ages.
My formal training in singing and guitar is very little. However, I was trained in junior high school on clarinet and became proficient in reading music and playing jazz, which I loved. These past ten years I find myself filling in my knowledge of music theory and technique. There are some great teachers on the internet, and I have had a voracious appetite for learning all I can about every aspect of this art.
My style and repertoire comes from a desire to communicate with many different ages and cultures and types of people, and to lift them up and make them, each one, feel valued, and, in turn, more able to see the value in others. In this way I have evolved a diversified repertoire of country, rock, pop, soul, blues, jazz, show tunes, traditional, folk and holiday music.
The more competent I become, the better the caliber of music I can reach for and the more satisfying it is to perform it. I am doing material now that I never approached before. I listen now with a more discerning and sophisticated ear. It is so-o-o-o-o worth the work to improve your skill level! And the sheer joy of singing is unlike anything I have ever done!
4. What has been the best performance of your career so far?
Performing for 15-20 of my fans just a few years ago at a private party in Alexandria, Minnesota. It was such a heart-to-heart sharing of me and my music with people who loved it and who had gotten to know and love me (and me them) through earlier performances! It is a stellar example of what I aim to achieve with my music. I do accomplish this frequently now on a broader basis with certain people who really connect with me and my music. But that time was special because of the quality of mutual love and sharing between me and that entire group.
5. Who is your favorite musician, band, or group? How important are they to you?
It’s an unfair question – there are so many that I have on that pinnacle!
I got rolling with Louie Armstrong (for his style and joyfulness), The Dukes of Dixieland (for their playful renditions of Dixieland jazz which I loved!), Jimmie Rogers (for his values and sincerity and bright vocals), The Sons Of the Pioneers (for their lovely harmonies and sentiments) – all when I was young.
The Beatles changed me forever (tremendous creative genius and innovative music, and they opened my eyes to new points of view). Simon & Garfunkel (for their sheer magic of imagery/poetry in a unique musical tapestry of harmony and haunting melodies). Stevie Wonder (awesome soulful, break-through, upbeat music), James Brown (king of R&B and funk and whose music awakened the joy of dance in me), Aretha Franklin and The Temptations (best of the Motown), The Beach Boys (for their rich harmonies and innovative songs). They all deeply connected with me.
Then in the late 60’s came Donovan Leich (for his beautiful and fantastic imagery and his love of life and nature and the innocent viewpoint of a child), Bob Dylan (for his poetic genius and his leadership), Cat Stevens (for his messages of truth and decency), The Doors (for their wild, raw innovation and haunting melodies), Ravi Shankar (for bringing us the beauty of India and its incredibly rich musical heritage), and Blood, Sweat & Tears (for their sophisticated but soulful renderings which were a breakthrough at the time).
John Denver followed close in there. To me he is one of the best songwriters of our times, and one of the most widely popular with my audiences. Then there was The Eagles for their unique approach to rock and rich vocals and catchy lyrics and musical stories). Bryan Adams I discovered in recent years and have come to love his performance videos, and his vocal expressions. I greatly enjoy covering several of his songs. And Michael Jackson for his incorporation of breakthrough dance moves into his breakthrough musical compositions and renderings.
I rediscovered Country Music in the 90’s and now have my favorites in Garth Brooks (for his prolific creative genius, and for his viewpoint on the audience’s essential role and the artist’s responsibility to them), George Strait (for his simple but unique style and so many great songs), George Jones (for his amazing way of expressing a musical phrase), Brad Paisley and Keith Urban (for their super-guitar licks and chord progressions and upbeat style), Alan Jackson (for his unique and yet traditional renderings of country music), Keith Whitley and Don Williams and Randy Travis (for their incredibly resonant voices and great songs), and many others.
I love Frank Sinatra (for his sass and vocal richness, his unique phrasing, as well as the awesome arrangements).
I love Ed Sheeran (for his innovation), and John Legend (for “All Of Me”).
6. What makes you like a song? The melody, the lyrics, or something else?
A song is a whole entity. There is everything about it and what it is connected to in your life when it enters your experience. It usually will have duration over time, and you keep rediscovering how much you like it. Look at how our culture has preserved and kept the “Oldies” alive. Also, the internet has served to foster an international modern-day Renaissance and is connecting artists and cultures everywhere as we share with each other the universal language of music.
I gain a huge additional love for a song as a performing artist. When I learn and then perform a song, it takes on a whole new dimension of personal involvement for me, and my “love” of the song is no longer just for me but for all those with whom I share it. Plus, I always gain a new depth of experience and understanding of any song that I take on as a performer. I make sure I understand the meaning of every word and I often research all about the song, the artist, the composer, its history and setting, and related information that enriches my feel for it and helps me to take ownership of it as a performer.
Furthermore, every time I play a song I bring new life to it. When I perform any song, I add something of myself, something unique, a personal communication to another that is fresh, new, something that has in actuality never occurred before. I believe this is why live music, done competently, but primarily from “the heart”, is so loved by people.
7. Is there a song that makes you emotional? Which song is it and why is it so powerful?
You may laugh, but “Show Yourself” by Idina Menzel from the movie “Frozen II” has been one of the most moving songs I have ever learned. It speaks to my own awakening spiritually, and I sometimes feel that overwhelming emotion of coming home to myself, my beingness, of discovering and aligning to my higher purposes in life. The first 150 times I could not sing the song without choking up, occasionally breaking down and weeping for a short while. I still “blub” sometimes when I do it! I think this song has a tremendous message for us all. I’m glad that the children are so taken by it. Gives me hope for the future generations.
That said, it is not the only song that has a strong emotional impact on me. There are many!
One added dimension to my answer: performing any song for someone else who responds to or is moved by it allows me to share in their emotion! I am often as emotionally impacted when I perform a song as when I hear it. I invest so much of myself into the process and the delivery. This is why I love to perform!!!!
8. What song best represents you, or your attitude to life?
“That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra. It’s one of the most positive, yet realistic in-your-face songs I’ve ever heard! I love to perform this one to lift people up as it has the “sass” that we need to take on life and rise above the cynicism and destructiveness in the world. God bless Frankie for his rendition of this!
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The Code of A Pro-Level Singer/Guitarist Performer
- I am and I operate as a Professional in every sense of the word. Whether I do my art to generate income or do it for charity, I conduct myself with integrity, honesty, and competence.
- I don’t dabble in my art. I am serious about learning and doing it very well, indeed.
- Pros don’t do alcohol and other mind-altering drugs, including bogus pseudo-scientific psychotropics – legal or illegal. These take me in the opposite direction away from my role as an artist/performer and make me less able to communicate with the people around me. I practice extreme moderation with alcohol and with any legitimate and necessary medications - if I use them at all.
- I refuse to negate my value as an artist. I disagree with anyone who says or ever said or did anything to me that was intended to undermine my reach to be an artist or make a living at it. I refuse to make any negative statements about myself as an artist, to myself or others. I am not “not very good” nor “just doing it for the fun of it” nor “just doing it for myself” nor “don’t know how to play” or any of this sort of garbage talk.
- I speak my artistic goals and purposes as though they were already done or being done. I say things such as, “I am always learning and working hard to be competent as an artist/performer”, and “I can do this” or “I can learn or acquire whatever I need to do this”, and “With my art I am able to make a positive impact on people”, and “I am achieving my goals as an artist and then setting new ones.”
- I am making all the money and/or other compensation I need to survive well from my artistic performances.
- I help other artists to succeed and do well in life, and realize that there is more than enough room for all of us to make a good living from our art. If other artists do well, that creates an atmosphere which helps me, as well. What goes around, comes around, regardless of what others who are selfish, cynical, and short-sighted may think.
- My art is to be communicated to others. It is not for the closet or for my bedroom walls. I don’t “just do it for myself”. When I play all alone it is with the intention to practice sincerely and to improve my art so I can communicate it better to others later. Art is a high-level communication, and my growing talent is to be put to good use to make life better for all of us. I may perform it, but it belongs to everyone who cares to reach for and share in it. If I have any talent, then it is my duty to use it for good, to lift my fellow man so we can all survive better.
- My compensation is not only measured in monetary terms, although that is surely one important way that I may receive an exchange for my service. I am also aiming to elicit the participation of others in the music. A smile, a sing-along, a thumbs up, dancing and moving to the rhythm, tears of flowing joy or strong emotion, interested attention given to my performance, plus any words of encouragement or other genuine, well-intentioned help that forwards my purposes as an artist -- these, along with monetary compensation are all part of my “pay” as an artist.
Charlie responds to 10 Queries from admirers or interested listeners:
Why don’t you perform with backing tracks and fancy effects?
Charlie: It is just my style of performing. I like the straightforward sound of one voice with one guitar. It is how I have always approached any song as a solo performer. My initial question is: Is it possible for me to perform this solo with only my guitar and voice? It’s not always clear when I first glance at it. So, I may have a little runway to determine how I could do this new song.
However, if I am really interested in a song, and, more so, if I think I can sing it well, then I will take up the task of working out a complementing guitar arrangement that greatly enhances the song when I sing it!
I have developed a few little tricks to adding some percussive effects to my strumming, such as slaps and hits and knocks on the guitar body, and jabs and muting or letting the guitar strings ring. I like to don my wooden-heeled cowboy boots, then for added effect, I use those boots to tap and stomp on a thin piece of Masonite wood. I also use reverb effects on both voice and guitar, but not much else.
Many folks truly enjoy the simplicity of only a guitar and a voice. There is a “campfire” quality to it. It isn’t easy to arrange a song to sound decent when it was initially arranged with a full ensemble or orchestra or backing vocals, and now it needs to be performed by one voice with a lone guitar! Nevertheless, I do enjoy the challenge of solving this. And I believe my audiences enjoy seeing it done, as well. They sense that it requires certain skills to do this well.
How long does it take you to learn a song? And what is your process of doing it?
Charlie: Well, that varies a lot, depending on several factors, such as the complexity of the arrangement. Then, figuring how to adopt it to my style while maintaining the integrity of the song, it’s message and feel, to connect with my audiences.
Also, there is how much research I conduct on the lyrical content and the meaning of the words in the context of the song’s message or tone. Additionally, I might investigate the historical information about the song or related subjects, or the artist or the songwriters. I usually watch the original videos of songs to observe how it was delivered by that artist. When the song comes from a movie, I usually watch the whole movie, including a careful review of the music credits at the end. I want to find out more about the composers and arrangers and performers of the piece. I may go chasing off on some related tangent that intrigues me.
For example, I worked on Frozen II, and discovered fascinating details about the composers, the performers, the story itself, how it had impacted people, and much more. I became so deeply moved in a positive way by the song, “Show Yourself” that, for the first 100 or so times through, I literally could not play it without breaking down and weeping. I just could not contain the emotion! I had a similar journey in learning several songs from Encanto, which became one of my favorite movies of all times! I love to learn songs in this way as it gives me a much deeper, more meaningful personal involvement which I am then able to communicate to my audiences.
Then, there is the amount of practical work I need to do, especially if I need to acquire a new vocal or guitar skill that pushes my boundaries a little.
Once I have the song arranged the way I want to play it, I usually must drill it until it is grooved in. This is where the song comes together, and I start to get the flow of it. I may have to put in extra time on certain parts or even a particular transition from one note or chord to another until I get it smoothed out. I practice each component until I am proficient. Then I work to get the entire piece seamless from beginning to end. Normally, I write everything down and make any required notes so that I may refer to it the following day or the following week and remember what I did.
Last, once I have mastered it, I will perform it with my notes in front of me. I perform 10 to 15 hours on a public stage every week, so I get a lot of "hands-on" time with the music in front of crowds. Playing a song in front of an audience is more demanding of one’s skills than playing for yourself. Consequently, this ultimately raises the song to a higher level, and then I can take ownership of it. Soon, my own performance style begins to shine through, allowing me to give it my all. When I perform a song, I always, always strive to do it as though it were the first and best time that song was ever played, fresh and alive!
What is your favorite song to perform?
Charlie: I don’t have one, although I have many that I particularly enjoy playing. The correct response to this question is, “The one that makes an emotional impact on you, dear listener!” If it makes you happy, smile, tap your feet, dance, sing along, drop a nice tip in my bucket, feel love for a certain location, time, or person, then I love it, too!!!! If even one person is uplifted by my artistic expression, then I consider that I am doing something worthwhile.
My “favorite song”, if I’m performing it for a young girl, may be “Let It Go” or “Show Yourself” from Frozen I or II. For someone else it might be a song by John Denver, The Eagles, Garth Brooks, George Jones, Train, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, CCR, Bryan Adams. The Beatles, or, or, or… My active playlist is about 250 songs, plus a nice beautiful Christmas repertoire that I do throughout the holiday season.
Truth is, I have loved and continue to love every song I do. I occasionally blub or choke up right in the middle of a song when I am especially moved by it or when I see how deeply it affects someone in the audience. But my more usual emotions are joy, happiness, and deep admiration and love.
Did you take lessons to learn how to play?
Charlie: I have learned from a multitude of sources and will continue to do so. I will utilize whatever enables me to execute what I want to perform. I hunt for and watch on-line videos which show how to do a particular song that I want to learn. I always watch/listen to the original or best performers videos to get the feel and flow of the piece. I also consult sheet music with chords and lyrics. I use sheetmusicdirect.com as this usually has the correct chords and lyrics, plus a play feature that goes through the whole piece note-for-note. And, you can change the key with one click, buy the whole score if you need to, and other tools. It also preserves the copyrights unlike sites that just pirate the songs and the artist never gets their due remuneration.
I always create my own sheet music and work out the lyrics and chords on it so everything lines up the way I want it to. Then I print it out and use it to practice the song, and add notes, or musical notations, any special chord diagrams, etc. I try to get this down to two sheets, if possible, so I can easily put it on my music stand for reference when I perform it. I have many song books. I listen to music and frequently Shazam it, particularly if I think I might want to perform it. The most natural way to learn something is to copy or mimic another who is doing what you want to learn to do.
I think a good rule of thumb is to put in 10,000 hours of work to become good (that means professional level) at this. Anything worth doing is worth learning to do well. In the end, it is ME who is doing or performing the song live for a live audience. That is the communication which brings life.
Music is for all of us, even if it is only performed by a few of us. It is owned by all who reach for it and take it into their hearts and minds and benefit from it – listeners, as well as performers.
Do you think the music was better in the old days than it is now?
Charlie: The “oldies” are now part of the culture. They are being discovered newly every day by the new generation, and by other people around the world. The music from the 50’s 60’s and 70’s forward has been well-preserved and many of the youth today know the music of that era, and love and respect it as their own. They will often ask me to play songs from my own youth (the 50’s and 60’s) that I never heard before, or only dimly know of. I then go and look up the artist or song and often fill in a gap in my past that I didn’t even know I was missing! Many times, these songs become my favorites as I take ownership of them and perform them in public.
Even so, there are a lot of great new artists and new material coming to the stages of the world. So, I love newer songs and artists just as much as those I grew up with. My audiences keep me growing and keep showing me things that they would like to hear me perform.
These days the internet is a fabulous library of every aspect of written or recorded music. I believe it is responsible for a world-wide Modern Renaissance in the arts, certainly in music. One can learn anything, at any level, with every kind of resource imaginable. You can see all the original artists performing their stuff on video, or, if you live in a major city you can even see many of those now-gray-haired artists still performing their songs live!
I remember one day on-line stumbling across a video of a collaboration of musicians from around the world all playing “The Weight” by The Band in their own styles and cultural surroundings. The video flashed from one country to another with each artist contributing to a part of the song, all synched together on one video! Somehow, each of these musicians had come to know this Classic Rock piece and had learned to play it in modern times! I thought that was just phenomenal! I was deeply moved by how all these diverse peoples were united by their love for this one great song! I was playing this song back in the 60’s when it was first released, and here it was more than 50 years later now become an internationally performed piece!
Why do you perform solo?
Charlie: Time and location constraints, perhaps. I couldn’t tour with a group for days or weeks or relocate right now due to other responsibilities and commitments I have which keep me mostly here in Las Vegas.
Plus, to be part of a group requires a certain focus of one’s time and creative energies if you are going to do it to a professional level, which would be the only way I would want to do it. I’m not interested in just dabbling. I might join a group if the right opportunity presented itself.
As a solo artist I already have everything I need to perform at most any event or wedding or restaurant or club, and my set-up is simple and portable. I have a nice vehicle to get around in, so it’s very easy for me to bounce around from one gig to another, and only takes me about half an hour max to set things up.
I have a diverse and well-practiced repertoire ready for most any occasion where my style of music is needed. And I can, all by myself, keep many an audience happy and entertained.
Where do you get all your energy to perform as many hours per week as you do?
This is not something I do as a hobby or a side hustle. It is what I am meant to do, integral to my basic purpose in life. I can create all the energy I need from that alone. I barely even need to eat or sleep, although it helps! It has taken me some time and a lot of inner spiritual work to get myself together enough in this life to be doing this artistic endeavor and being who I am today. I am in the most creative time of my life right now. And my art keeps getting better and is now at a point where it is good enough to be very satisfying and enjoyable, and it fulfills my purpose to lift people up. I feel that what I do with my art is very much needed in this world, now more than ever.
I also feel that we need many, many people in the arts. And, so, I try to help artists of all types to discover their purposes and develop their talents, as well.
How can I learn to play like you do?
Charlie: I love this question because it is also part of MY basic purpose to help other aspiring artists to succeed, to get on their own path of artistic development and endeavor. The first step is WANTING to become an artist, and a certain willingness to do what it takes to achieve it.
I usually try to find out what that person wants to do, as well as how far they are along the path, what barriers or difficulties they are running into. I help them to get their own insight and belief that they can do it.
This is particularly important if it is a child or youth. I try to discover what THEIR interest might be and then help them achieve that.
I offer them good, trustworthy on-line resources and programs that I know of, such as www.justingguitar.com for learning guitar, or www.jeanniedeva.com for learning to sing correctly. By the way, I can now sing for many, many hours and never get hoarse, and even sound better the longer I sing! I learned this by studying the Jeannie Deva Method. I wish I had found her early in life. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble and failure!
Do you know how to play (some particular song or artist)?
Charlie: Well, because I do have a wide variety of genres that I perform, and because I do know a lot of songs off the top of my head, I will have a fair number of successes on this question. It will usually surprise but also greatly please the person when I launch into a skillful rendition of their requested song without the slightest hesitation.
However, if I don’t know the song or any songs by that artist, I will usually tell them, “No, I’m sorry.” They are only allowed 2 or 3 requests before I pull out my song list and have them find something they like.
I keep things light and fun, and I have a rather irrepressible sense of humor and a genuine love of people of every race, creed, age, and disposition. I am a happy guy, and I have a good understanding of my fellow man, and I like to help him out as much as possible. So, I have managed to create and hold the ideal job for myself!
Do you write your own original songs and perform them?
Charlie: At this time I play songs that people know and can readily relate to. I make those cover songs my own, and I perform them as though they were mine. However, these songs also belong to my audiences. I am still creating this type of show and I love what it is doing for people, and I also love playing cover songs. It’s a different game than doing one’s own material.
Now, that said, I have written my own songs and have a growing interest in doing more along this line. It is not the time yet for me to go charging down that road. When I am properly set up and prepared, I may put out a song or two and see how it goes.