When we’re younger and dream of making it in the music business, we fantasize about playing sold out stadiums, flying first class, and appearing on all of the major television shows with millions of adoring fans dying to have a second of our time and attention.
The reality is a different matter.
For many, they never leave their home town, playing what few bars and clubs still feature live music. It’s cheaper to pay a DJ with a sound system, but let’s face it, nothing gets you amped the way a live band can.
Thankfully there are still clubs where the music rules, and there are so many bands ready to supply that great music. The Charles Walker Band out of Milwaukee, WI is one of those bands. We first connected via Facebook, and then I caught a show of theirs at The Tin Pan.
But then they disappeared. First to Atlanta, then to parts unknown, before working their way back home. But let me tell you, despite the small crowd, Walker, female vocalist and partner in crime, Porsche Carmon, along with two other musicians put on a show that no one in attendance will ever forget.
They didn’t phone it in when they saw a small house, they electrified the audience and made fans out of everyone in attendance.
Now they are returning to Richmond. This time, they’ll be at The Camel on Sunday, March 26, and they will be joined by one of the hottest blues bands around, The Bush League. I have a feeling that the ones who caught the last show will be back for this one, and hopefully bringing some friends.
Catching up with Charles Walker isn’t always easy as he is often on the road or in the studio working on his next release. But it’s worth the effort and I was able to get him to answer a few questions for us. Enjoy, and don’t forget to make your reservations for March 26th as catching either of these bands is a good time, but both on the same night? Amazing…
Professor Johnny P.: You had a pretty steady life going. What took you out of your comfort zone and put you on the path of a musician?
Walker: I loved being an English teacher for the first seven years or so.
However, the longer I taught, the less in love I was with it. I still loved the students, but the actual job became less and less fulfilling. Meanwhile, I was running the band the entire time, and the more shows I booked, the more I loved it. There came a point where I realized I was doing the school a disservice as well as myself because I couldn't really focus on my music and teach full time. Eventually I realized the security was an illusion and my life was passing by, so I took the plunge.
Professor Johnny P.: How do you describe your music?
Walker: The music is, at its core, pure positivity. The forms it has taken has
been blues, then soul and now mostly funk. There are a lot of pop influences in our not yet released album, but the core is still in funk.
Professor Johnny P.: Describe your musical tastes and influences.
Walker: My favorite genres are soul, funk, blues, jazz and classical but there are examples of artists in most genres that I like too. My biggest influences
really depend on what instrument we are talking about. I love Prince,
James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire. I think Marvin Gaye was brilliant. For saxophone, I love Coletrane, Parker, Stan Getz, Maceo
Parker. Miles Davis had a tone to die for. Michael Jackson was a master
at writing hooks and catchy melodies.
Professor Johnny P.: What's the best part of being a touring band?
Walker: Getting to meet new people and see new cities. I have driven through the Smoky Mountains at least a dozen times and I am always blown away by their majesty. Seeing the hustle of New York was great. Seeing the street musicians in New Orleans is amazing. Seeing the Roman Aqueducts in Turkey was mind blowing. There is so much in this world that a person should experience first hand. A book or tv show can never really give a good idea of what things are like.
Professor Johnny P.: What’s the toughest part?
Walker: Long distances in the van. Poor sleep. Worrying about money. Forgetting deodorant at home!
Professor Johnny P.: How many miles do you have on that van of yours?
Walker: Current van: 112,000. Van before it 179,000.
Professor Johnny P.: How do you break into a new market?
Walker: It's tough. The first time it's going to be slow. The show better be
damn good so the few folks that are there bring their friends. Second show
will be a little better. Usually takes 3-5 shows before you have any fan
base. Facebook advertising can help, articles or tv appearances when we
can get them help.
Professor Johnny P.: How™s the new album coming along?
Walker: We have heard the first mix of it, waiting to hear the second. I am hoping it is released before we record another one!
Professor Johnny P.: Take me through your creative process – What comes first, image or sound?
Walker: Lots of our songs begin with licks on the keyboard or chord progressions. Then someone might hear something and add to it or take it in a different direction. It often takes three rehearsals to really solidify a song
musically. Lyrics and melody are a whole other thing. Sometimes we ask
for outside writers for melodies, sometimes we write them. Lyrics I often
write but Porsche will step in with the rewriting process. There are
exceptions to all of this. One time Porsche had a melody in her head and
then I wrote the music and lyrics after it. For us, the toughest parts
are melodies and finalized lyrics.
Professor Johnny P.: What is your philosophy of life and your art?
Walker: I had a chance to sit and watch the crowd during our show last weekend while our opening act performed and I really got to witness what we do. It's incredible that musicians have the ability to make people forget
inhibitions. We can help make someone forget that they can't pay their
mortgage, lost a loved one, or hate their job. And just for an hour or
two, they can live in the moment, lost in what humans have always done.
Move to rhythms and celebrate their life. That's power that millionaires
and politicians will never have.
Professor Johnny P.: How do you stay so positive?
Walker: I'm not perfect, I slip. I get discouraged. I wonder if all my hard work will pay off. I wonder if I even should get up on the stage when there are thousands of other musicians who are better than me. However, I read or listen to 30 minutes of something positive every day to fight the demons in my head and the circumstances that life throws my way.
That’s Charles Walker. One of the most positive forces in music today. Somewhere tonight, he is on the road playing music for strangers who become friends through his songs. His is one of hundreds of bands doing battle in clubs all across the country. Each is reaching out, trying for that brass ring, and fighting to keep a proud tradition of live music alive.
All they need is your support. Catching Walker and The Bush League is a great start. We’ll see you there.