Now here’s something!
I want you all to meet Charles Corby from Australia – an up-and-coming singer songwriter from Australia with both something to say and something to eventually show us all once that new album is officially out….
In writing this I thought the challenge of the interview would be provided from just not having the music – but the challenge became innovation in my questioning line, responding to the mindset and creative attitude of Charles and giving his brain a few questions to chew on.
In reading this, with the answers back – Charles is someone you can certainly count on me looking into during the years and decades to come. LOOK at the quality of these answers! NO I don’t mean simple sentences structure – I’m talking about TRUE quality. There is some absolute GOLD in here, lots of references to visual art accompaniment having a true place with the music itself – something you all certainly know I believe in and encourage you all in our internet age to out your faith in that as well.
Not only that – but this guy is a CHAMPION in terms of giving back in an interview scenario. I literally couldn’t believe how much fun I was able to have in this without hearing an official sound from Charles Corby. One thing I’d like to point out that he’s completely RIGHT on, in my opinion, is how we fall in love with music nowadays. I know that we built our show on knowing that the personalities behind the music, the people creating it can be every bit as fascinating as the music itself. They can become important and necessary guides for us at times. I think back to all that time I spent in headphones as a youth, forming my own opinions from the ideals of others while listening to brilliant minds expressing themselves over disc after disc. Had I not put myself into the earphones as relentlessly as I did – I don’t believe I would be the person I am today, with the core values I have learned over time.
So as far as I’m concerned – Charles Corby and I are definitely on the same page. We’d welcome him back to SBS in any capacity he’d like to come back in – this is a respectable mind that I truly believe is capable of many great things.
And c’mon – if THAT doesn’t convince you – wait until I ask him about one of my own favorite Australian bands and see how he was able to answer! I mean, he credits US with going above and beyond – but let me say firsthand – the work and the spirit of Charles Corby and his music are destined to go in the exact same direction.
Interview with Charles Corby
SBS: Charles! Alright – you know through correspondence already that you’ve nearly broken my heart without sending me some tunes to go with my research into your work! Then I scoured – like for REAL my friend – and unless I’m missing something – there’s nothing I could find on your YouTube channel, Facebook profile, Soundcloud accounts – yet they all EXIST. I’m sensing that this can only mean one thing – the launch of your long awaited debut EP! It seems like the groundwork has been done to really hit the ground running with a full social media spread – tell us how much longer you’re going to keep us waiting for the EP and what the plans are to make some noise about its release!
Charles: Jer, firstly I want to say a massive thank you for having me here, because I respect your site so much and you go well above and beyond what you need to in order to support music. I really respect that. I need to have the record out this year and I need to have it out for me; because I’ve been working on it for so long now I could cry. Trust me, when it’s coming…you’ll know. My ideology behind all the media and social networking is that I would have an audience there to receive the EP; I don’t want to be running after people with it. In saying that, I’ve always been highly conscious of marketing and promotion and started that a long time ago, which has helped immensely, and I really appreciate the support from everyone. The funny thing is I’ve never really done much live gigging. I have always seen it a little redundant to be promoting my music to a small local scene, instead of laying the foundation across on the internet where the market is unlimited. I have some big plans for the release, but no expectations.
The thing about this job is that you have to do everything for yourself personally, and as long as it’s a finished product that I love, I don’t care how it’s received. I almost failed my final year of high school because I was studying how to promote my CD, rather than studying the recommended coursework. I was inspired by a whole bunch of really awesome marketing companies who work with bands like Nine Inch Nails and trying to work out a route for my own. The other interesting point about the marketing is that my main demographic of my campaigns is record company staff, not the general public.
SBS: I want to know from your perspective – is there a risk to doing interviews without having the interviewer sample some of your work first? Something about this process shouts two things to me: One (First impression) that’s bold! Two: Charles Corby must be an artist with something to say. So what do you think my friend – is it a risk worth taking and can you truly explain your music through words alone?
Charles: Thank you! Look to be completely honest, I think these days we fall in love with artists, not their music. If we like what an artist portrays, or are aligned with their core values, we tend to gravitate toward their music no matter what it is. The reason I don’t send out music samples is because I don’t have any that I would consider up to my standard. Of course I have recordings and whatnot, but first impressions stick. And I would rather lose a potential fan temporarily from them not hearing anything, than to give them a bad impression. I have a lot to say; I have a lot of statements that you don’t often come across in solo male artists recently which makes me really angry. I don’t sell sex, I sell music. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who takes their top off to perform or promote their music is not on the same wavelength as me. I respect the marketing of it, but they are speaking a different language to me.
SBS: The influences you’ve listed are people I completely respect in the musical community. You’ve cited artists like Bjork and the Smashing Pumpkins – truly “artistic” artists, in my opinion. Influential – certainly I’m sure – but tell me about the relationship between art & music in general – what’s the link between them and how do they feed off of each other in your own work? Would you consider your music to be art?
Charles: This is a brilliant question – thanks for asking. Art plays a massive, massive role in the creation of my music. I ‘see’ music a lot more than I hear it. When I set out to write this EP, I had a vision, and that’s why it’s taken so long to complete. I’ve never explored how other musicians sense the movement of their songs, but for me it has to be as aesthetically pleasing as it is auditorally. I see the colours in the keys that I play, and the bumps in the sections, the instruments weaving, and the overall shape which has to be balanced. For me, also a big part of the process is making all parts mix and interweave, and not have any parts that are more important the other. I think if there is a piano part, as well as a guitar part, both should be equally as complex and not just be chords.
SBS: Since you’re from Australia – I have to ask about one of my own personal favorite bands of all time that hails directly from there – Something For Kate. Now, I’ve been following that band since roughly 2002 and NOTHING has changed for them in terms of awareness here in Canada or as far as I can see in North America in general but I’m truly hoping that talent like theirs is a VISIBLE thing where you are! I know this is your interview Charles – but I haven’t honestly talked to Australia whatsoever since I did an e-mail interview with Clint the drummer for Something For Kate nearly 10 years ago! So let’s say this – if you know them, know of them or have had any experiences with that band let me know – but if not (Or by all means as well) let us know about your local scene in your part of Australia. I know Australia to produce and put out a ton of great music and influential artists – but tell us about the support level within the independent scene.
Charles: Hang on let me ask them. Here: “The band have not spent much time in Canada unfortunately however main songwriter and lead singer, Paul Dempsey tours Toronto, Canada quite regularly and also played in Montreal only 12 months ago. Perhaps let the interviewer know that Paul will be back in Canada next year and to check Paul and the band’s Facebook’s and website for information about this and all other international touring coming up.” You’re all set now Jer! The support level is unlimited; there is as much work as you want, and you can escalate as much as you’re willing to put in work, in my experience. It’s a very supportive network.
SBS: Now brother – you opened one LARGE can of worms saying that you wanted something off the wall for questioning in this interview – I’m all too happy to oblige! So…here goes….from as far out of left field as possible…..tell us…..hmmm…..tell us the reasons that musicians and artists should be in control of the overall “politics” and structure of the planet. Cause let’s face it – they’re certainly not right now – this is a planet of malls, commerce and big business. What would it look like in this version of the planet and what would a day be like for Charles Corby in it?
Charles: Phwoah, what a question! If the planet were left up to musicians to run, I think that would be the right decision because we would be sensible enough to hand it back to people who know what they’re doing! In my opinion, the world is great as it is. Sure there’s a whole bunch of problems, but really everyone just likes to put in their two bob because they’re passionate about standing up for stuff, which is important. Just yesterday I read on someone’s blog that their philosophy is to take nothing seriously, given our limited time on earth. I used to think like this, but as I read this I thought “this cannot be right”; you can’t have the good without the bad. We are wired to get stressed over things, get sad, and think things matter.
SBS: I’ll pop in with something else random in a bit – but let’s go back to the influences you’ve listed again and just talk some music for a minute. We have a lot in common through these artists and I live a lot of my life like I’m auditioning for a role in the movie “High Fidelity.” And if you’ve seen that – you’ll probably remember this basic but awesome idea: The Top 5. So I figure it’s only fair that I share mine on your listed influences and I was hoping you’d do the same! Let’s compare musical notes my musical friend! And NO WORRIES – this isn’t BINDING – because it’s always so hard to choose from artists with an expansive collection like these – it’s cool to go with a top five for which tracks you’re loving at this very moment! Let’s do this!
Jer’s List: 1) In the Arms of Sleep 2) Stumbleine 3) Drown 4) Bodies 5) Apples + Oranjes
Charles’ List: 1) MCATIS 2) Rhino 3) Tonight 4) Quasar 5) Oceania
Jer’s List: 1) All Is Full Of Love 2) I’ve Seen It All 3) Hope 4) Human Behavior 5) Innocence
Charles’ List: 1) Joga 2) Hyperballad 3) Hunter 4) All is Full of Love 5) Innocence
SBS: Alright, alright – thanks for putting up with my questions about all these other artists – time to talk about YOU Charles! This EP that you’re putting out has taken a considerable amount of your LIFE to come out the way you’ve wanted it to and finally be recorded in full. Tell me why that is – beyond the perfectionist aspect – I work with one of those myself and if it had been up to him he acknowledges we’d still be working on our first and only track – after 15 years or recording together! The difference between us mainly – is that I’m a SONG guy and he’s an ALBUM dude. I believe in magical moments – whereas he sees the larger picture for the grand opus – know what I mean? We now have literally recorded over 400 songs and continually push to write and record more…. So tell me Charlie – you have a lot more in the tank besides this EP surely, do you not? Musically – what’s happening behind the scenes over there – how many songs were written and considered for this upcoming EP?
Charles: I wrote over 50 songs for this record, but like I mentioned before, I was writing to a specific image I had in my mind. Problem with that is that taste changes, and I listen to different music than I did back when I started. All the songs have evolved immensely; Nightmare Child, I’m sure, has been re-written and adapted more than 5 times. All the songs flow into each other organically and you literally could not put them in another order. In terms of you saying you’re a ‘song’ guy, and he’s an ‘album’ dude, I absolutely respect both of those equally. Each song of this record feels to me like an entire world. As if it could be dependent upon itself. However, the record moves in a very balanced and satisfying shape for me, where it starts on a more commercial in-your-face number, followed by a more intricate but left-of-center one. The third track is just piano and voice. Two chords. It feels so organic and raw to me that it takes a lot out of me. The chorus is also one sentence, not even repeated. It’s a bold statement. And finally the last track is written for strings in simple triple, and includes a choir and rock band.
SBS: You have an absolutely stunning record with your social media despite not having any music up yet! The number of likes and support for your pages is pretty incredible! I know we’re just getting to know you in Canada – but those numbers make it seem like you know every second resident in Australia! What did you do personally to gain that much support on your social media boards?
Charles: Thanks! I’m very open to trying new marketing techniques, that’s all it comes down to. I am so appreciative of all the support. Haha, unfortunately there are a lot more people in Australia than I have likes or followers on my pages. I think the difference is that I keep connected on the web, making sure I follow up on forums, and keep connected with up and coming bands and artists. I used to do it all myself, then a friend studying management helped me out for a while. Conclusively I now work with a publicist who is great and knows a lot, which I really respect a whole bunch. I still do all of the work though, there’s no slacking off for me!
SBS: I actually watch ALL of the “Got Talent” shows because I’m an absolute sucker for “that moment.” You know the one Charles – some call it go time – that magic moment in time where everything stops and will and determination pay off…. Australia has a great version of this with some brilliant judges (Brian! Danni! Kyle!!!) – though it suffers a bit with a weaker host than the others (Grant Denyer – c’mon – I’m right aren’t I?)…. Anyway….can we expect to see you on the show? The Australian version of this program is way more accepting of live music as part of the variety and trust me, the others ones it’s nearly absent! Take advantage Charles! Got talent? Got time for shows that “judge” and “compartmentalize” music like this?
Charles: I know “that moment” very well. I watch the clips on YouTube and I shit you not, I cry in every single one. Susan Boyle, Paul Potts, all the classics make me burst into tears because of what the show has done to their lives. I went to a live recording of one a couple of weeks ago and I cried there too, but it was mostly fun. I was shortlisted for a reality TV recently, though not a talent one, funny you should mention it. However, after speaking to my uncle and a few other wise people, I decided not to go on the show as Australians are very unforgiving when it comes to impressions. I feel I know exactly where I am going career wise and I admit now I was manipulating the show to boost my career. I will never go on a talent show though. I know some people that went through that, and although having a successful career eventually, it looks as if it tore them to pieces.
SBS: Tell me about the ideal place for you to make a new song. Take me to that place through words here on the page – doesn’t have to be the REAL place where it occurs now….but give us some insight and as much detail as you can think of on the ACTUAL ideal place for you to make music. What’s it look like? What’s in it? What’s the world like around this space? Where are you are in your life at that point? Whatever you want to include – give us the ultimate description of the vision you have for your music.
Charles: Thanks for understanding the visual aspects of composing, and the real mechanics of songwriting. I write in my studio, late at night, in jumbled sequence by candlelight. I can only write when no one else can hear because I can create the most natural pathway between my ability and music. My studio, which you can soon find a Flash 3-D version of on my website, is stuffed with all assortments I’ve collected. I’m a serial dumpster diver, op-shopper and tip scrounger. I have pulled the greatest stuff out of bins; mannequins, paper mache reindeers, paintings, a fast food chain’s neon lights, the list goes on. As soon as you walk in the door you see a cabinet of butterflies in domes, terrariums of living plants, hundreds of antique books, dolls… I have to stop but check it out on the website. That’s my ideal writing environment; a reflection of my mind state.
SBS: Finish this short paragraph for me!
I noticed that when I went to eat my sandwich that the bread was intact but someone has stolen the meat right out of the middle! Now all I’m left with is a bit of sad cheese, mustard and a broken heart. I think I’ll……..”most definitely eat it anyway, as no cheese is sad cheese, and boy do I love mustard. I’m not going to go write a song about it because who writes songs about sandwiches? I will then skip down to the local tip shop with my friend and we will bargain down the staff on all the awesome stuff we are about to grab like a Zoo sign, a rusty drum kit, and a chandelier. “
SBS: Weigh the importance of achieving perfection and taking time in songwriting versus being constantly “out there” and posting new videos and songs that might NOT be perfect on the internet. Is one of these ways necessarily any better than the other?
Charles: I think you can have the best of both worlds here. Like I mentioned before, any online presence is better than none. I have a good musician friend who I was discussing this with. I respect him a whole bunch, and he could do so well with his goals but he just doesn’t seem to want to put the money, or whatever, into establishing what he wants to convey. But maybe that’s just the way he goes about it and inevitably he may end up on top. I think that people would rather follow clues to listen to music they don’t know rather than what they do know, to some extent anyway.
SBS: Tell us about how you personally are represented through the songs on your upcoming EP. Are they personal? Are they about universal subjects? What is your approach to writing lyrics and would you say that there’s an overall message or tone that connects the things you write and music you create?
Charles: I have a good friend who used to criticize every single musical move I made. Of course it made me stronger, and I secretly appreciated the feedback, but the way she used to describe my music was ‘self-indulgent’, and this is true. A breathtaking record like Evanescence’s The Open Door justsimply could not have been written if Amy Lee and Terry Balsamo spent 8 months in the studio writing to please a radio audience; it just couldn’t happen. They wrote from what they were experiencing and needed to express. I think we can all instantly tell the difference between a song that’s been written for an audience, mostly pop songs, and ones that’s been written for the composer. There are too many core values of mine to be able to list, but expressing what I need to for my own sake is one of the main ones. You can probably gather the general lyrical content from titles like Snow White Queen, Virtuous, Nightmare Child.
SBS: Ever heard of the “alternate universe?” You know – the one where there’s another version of you running around who made all of the OPPOSITE choices that you’ve made today. What would that version of you look like Charles?
Charles: I saw a movie today Spring Breakers or whatever. That is the most ridiculous film I have ever seen, and is the absolute epitome of the opposite of me. Watch 5 seconds of the film and you’ll understand.
SBS: Describe your earliest musical memory for us.
Charles: I tried to learn the guitar when I was young as, but that never stuck obviously, and now I play piano instead. I never used to practice or anything and would turn up to lessons with as much ability to play as a potato. The piano I swung to because I learned by myself, and then took lessons trying to learn some classical stuff.
SBS: Tell us about the short term goals Charles – and dude – convince me that you’re going to be back soon and not hole up forever perfecting the next album!
Charles: Believe it or not, I’ve already written definite content for the record following this, so that’s well on its way. I suppose I feel my first album is somewhat defining so that’s why I bully it. Look, to be honest though, whether it takes a year or a decade to write a satisfying album, I don’t really mind. It’s a fine line to walk though, I’m just glad I’m not after money out of this industry and that I do it because I’m passionate.
SBS: Are you any different Charles? What drives YOU to continue making music? What WILL drive you to keep on making music in these years to come?
Charles: The challenge is what drives me. As a great writer once said ‘the thrill is in the chase; never in the capture,’ and this stands true for me. This job is really tolling a lot of the time. I never realized before getting into this business, and I even now only have my foot in the door, that there would be an enormous amount of pressure all the time. It’s a full time job that you do 24/7; even when you’re sleeping you’re working! I think it might be different for me as well because I’m not naturally talented, but this music is something I’ve had to work really hard at, and therefore that I’m conscious of every influence. What drives me to continue is the support I get from everyone. People don’t realize that every comment makes a difference to who I am as a person and how I change or choose to represent myself. All comments are helpful; good or bad, and I appreciate the fans so much.
SBS: How can your fans find you and communicate with you? What’s the best thing that a fan can say to you as a compliment to the effort you put into your work? Is there something about what you create that you hope stands out more in your work from the rest?
Charles: The best way to communicate is to comment on my social networking forums, especially Instagram at the moment, though it goes in phases. We all pretend we don’t look at the sites and fan comments and whatever, but really, it’s something that drives me in this job every day. Instagram can get me annoyed because people judge my music on my looks, but I know that’s hypocritical because that’s why I use it. The best compliment would probably be a comparison between my music and that of an artist I look up to. There are lots of things that I hope stands out more in my music than other particular artists. I think you can notice the effort and the passion, and at the end of the day that’s all that matters to me.
SBS: Charles I just want to say thank you once again for taking the time to find us at sleepingbagstudios and to share your stories and insights with us. I look forward to hearing your music at the first available moment I can get my hands on some – be sure to send some our way in Canada my friend! For now though – to take us out – we have a standard tradition – the SBS “open floor” where you can say, thank, shout-out anything or anyone you want. Anything we didn’t mention that you wanted to bring up – here’s your opportunity!
Charles: No, thank-you so much Jer. This is by far the most intimate interview I’ve ever done, and thanks for your research. I’ll take this opportunity to make a note to other people who are considering music as a career, that I was never given: If you have an influence who means a lot to you, grab it by the balls and swing it around. I was so ashamed of my influences because they made me not ‘fit in’ anywhere in life. I genuinely felt that nobody understood me, and although I pushed on through, I never stood back and had the chance to realize that these influences just make me who I am. People who don’t like you or put you down because of stuff like that just aren’t worth having around. Be proud to wear it.
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