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June 2020

Charles Watson: "I hadn't really planned to make a solo record"

Keep an eye out for Charles' new album, it's a good 'un.
Published: 10:52 am, May 16, 2018
Charles Watson: "I hadn't really planned to make a solo record"
Last year saw Rebecca from Slow Club branch out with her new project, Self Esteem - and now it's bandmate Charles' turn with his debut solo record, 'Now That I’m A River'.

Hey Charles, how’s it going?
I'm well, thanks. I’m currently just having a massage. I like to get them daily. It keeps me relaxed.

Fancy. How have you found going solo then, when did you decide to branch out on your own?
I hadn’t really planned to make a solo record. I had some songs I wanted to record and once the first session was out of the way it felt like we were onto something so I got cracking writing more. I think the mix of not really knowing what the project was when we started and working with old mates made it probably the most fun session I’ve ever done.

What was your frame of mind like going into the record?
I felt pretty optimistic. The production side of the record was the thing I was really excited about. I tried a bunch of different things and had time to mess around with sounds at home. No deadlines are the way forward!

Do you find yourself writing about more personal, or different subjects for your solo tunes?
I don’t think there’s any distinction between solo songs or otherwise really. The methods might be different, but ultimately it’s about what’s happening when it was written.

Tell us about the JG Ballard novel that inspired some of the record, Hello America?
I tried this method of just picking pages and writing down words. It worked for a couple of songs, and so I started keeping a copy with me all the time. It’s not so much that it’s inspired by the narrative or themes of the book it’s more the language used. I noticed in just paying attention to single words how repetitive the language is. It kinda tells its own story. I felt while doing this that there were a lot of parallels to be drawn with what’s happening at the moment.

Do you often draw inspiration from literature? What are your fave kinds of books?
It’s not something I have gone looking for, but I suppose if you spend a lot of time with a certain medium it’ll influence you in one way or another. I’m a huge Raymond Carver fan. I like short books because I’m a very slow reader. I got really into nonfiction for the first time this year. I’ve been reading more science stuff. I liked Sapiens and Homo Deus (not quite finished the latter) and the John Markoff’s Machines Of Loving Grace.

It sounds like you had a good list of collaborators for the record - David Glover, Fyfe Dangerfield, Paul Rafferty... What did they bring to the process?
They were the process, to be honest. For years I’ve gone through the process of writing - demoing - getting obsessed with the demo - trying to recreate the demo in the studio - being disappointed with the final version. And so, this time I decided I was making no production demos. I made acoustic demos so the band could hear the songs but didn’t want us to be chasing some crappy bedroom thing. The band are credited as arrangers on the record too as what they brought was so much more than playing. It’s hard to overstate how important their role was.

Have you played many solo shows so far? Are you ready for your upcoming tour?
I’ve done a bunch of shows already, but the bulk of the touring is happening around the release date. There’s still quite a lot of work to do on the live band, but I’m excited about playing these songs live.

What else have you got coming up over the summer?
I’m doing a few festivals in the UK and Europe. I’m planning to head back to the studio over the summer too. I’m ready to make my difficult second album.

Taken from the June issue of Dork - order your copy below. Charles Watson’s debut solo album ‘Now That I’m A River’ is out 18th May.

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