By Jacqueline Cassell on Sep 1, 2014
Charlie Leavy, a young female singer/songwriter from across the pond in the UK is on the fast track of her career. Charlie is currently busy gigging throughout the UK promoting her most recent EP release, “The Best Damn Ride.” She mostly performs her original acoustic music in and around Oxfordshire and has performed close to 100 gigs within the last 20 months. Since the EP release in August, Charlie has been busy keeping the hype of her new EP alive – we caught up with her to ask her how the reception has been, and what she has planned next!
Entertwine: Could you give us some insight into your musical background? What inspired you to begin creating music in general?
Charlie Leavy: I have always sung. When I say “always”, I mean, ever since I can remember, I have sung songs from the radio and wanted to be part of the school musicals. When I was 14, we were at a relative’s house for Christmas and I was playing with an old keyboard. After a few days, I have picked out 7 or 8 Christmas songs and learnt the words. A couple of months later I was writing my first songs on that keyboard. My Grandad heard me singing some covers and a few original songs and offered me his old electric guitar to learn. I was then asked to join a school band, but on bass, so my Dad bought me a cheap bass and I joined a couple of bands. But I always enjoyed the solo creativity and performing, so eventually, me, my bass, my keyboards, my electric and acoustic guitars and a newly acquired ukulele went solo.
ET: What encouraged you to begin performing live so frequently?
CL: Initially (obviously), I gigged infrequently, but as more and more people started asking me to gig it really took a life of its own. I never consciously decided to gig more, but as I have never really been nervous I never really said no. Now I actively seek out gigs and when I miss a week without gigging, something feels like it is missing.
ET: What can you tell us about your local music scene? What about the state of music in the United Kingdom in general? What are some of your favourite places to play, and why?
CL: My two main scenes are Yorkshire and Oxfordshire. Both have fantastic and thriving music scenes in Leeds and Oxford. A few promoters have taken me under their wing (so to speak) and given me loads of gigs, culminating in an opening set at the Oxford 02 Academy, which has been a highlight of my gigs so far.
ET: What life experiences and events led to the writing and recording of your debut EP “The Best Damn Ride”? Can you walk us through the album and tell us about each song’s meaning or significance?
CL: I didn’t set out to record an EP. Each track was written during a period of time where I wrote around 30+ songs. I then wrote a song for Oxfam aged 16 which won a national competition and I was asked to record it in a local studio in Bradford. It was at this studio that I first wondered whether I might record an EP. The studio is basic, but large and not posh. It is the top floor of an old stone mill and I loved the feel of it from the very first moment I started to record that Oxfam track.
When I started to record the EP, I didn’t decide on which 5 tracks initially. I chose each track as I went along, based on how I felt at the time and when each was complete, I then chose the next track. The tracks were already written and already performed live, so I had a feel for them that wasn’t just based on how they looked on paper & sounded in my bedroom.
I mostly (but not always) write songs based on things I experience; see or hear around me; on the news or things my friends and family experience. These sometimes take weeks or months, but the major things will eventually filter into my songs.
Track 1: The Way life Is – I wrote this song because I think it’s about time people realised that there are bigger issues and concerns in the world besides whom each celebrity is dating and all of the stupid scandals in the Hollywood world. Also, because the troublemaking people of today have no respect for anything and think they’re the royalty of the world as they create havoc while carrying weapons. We have bigger things to be dealing with than people who have no respect, who could easily take a look at their life and think “wait a second, I’m better than this.” It angers me how change could be within our grasp if people stopped being so closed-minded and started to think about not only life now, but life for future generations too.
Track 2: Tongue Tied – No great hidden meaning to this song. This is one of those upbeat pop songs, the kind that I find are really easy and enjoyable to write. Basically, I just really liked the title ‘Tongue Tied’ and so I constructed a song. I think it was written in less than an hour. The original version also had a ukulele in the quiet chorus after the middle.
Track 3: Summer’s Day Runaway – I wrote this after something really good had happened, though I don’t remember what it was now. I do remember a few things though. I remember feeling quite spontaneous and that forms the desire in the song and the weather was blissfully warm outside with the sun was shining on my back as I was writing. Ah the good life.
Track 4: Falter Baby – This isn’t a personal experience – I wrote this about an experience a close friend has and is about when you’ve started to become close to the person you like, but their actions can sometimes be confusing as to whether they actually feel the same way about you.
Track 5: Running My Mouth – This is one of those unfortunate experiences you have in life and is definitely one of mine! I accidentally spoke without thinking and upset my best friend. I wrote the song as a way to express the frustration I was feeling towards myself, and helped me to understand that everyone says stupid things sometimes, but with a little time and compassion everything can be sorted out.
ET: Can you tell us also about the two live takes you included on the album?
CL: Why Are You Waiting and Wearing Your Kiss are two of my favourite lives songs to perform and did consider adding them as more produced versions as part of the original five tracks, but I knew I wanted to add two live tracks and they seemed to fit that purpose better than any of my other tracks.
Why Are You Waiting is the story of a relationship that has happened too early, with no time to live life and gain the experience necessary to make it work properly. So, why are you waiting, I’ve said you need to go, so please just go.
Wearing Your Kiss tells a slightly different story of a kiss that perhaps shouldn’t have happened but did and what should I think about that kiss.
ET: What was it like working with Luke Haran, John Fitzpatrick, and Prospect Studios? What musical equipment was used in the making of this record? Is that consistent with what you generally use live?
CL: Luke is amazing. He is in his 20’s and a talented musician, as well as the owner of the studio. He made the whole experience easy for me and he did seem to know my music and how I felt I wanted it to sound. Luke was the only person, I worked with in the studio, other than my Dad doing a little whistling! Luke brought John in as felt he needed them.
When I perform live I will mainly be just me and my Martin. I do occasionally also gig with an electric and an electric tenor ukulele, although I have my heart set on a hollow body Gretsch 5420T for my 18th, so I feel that could be as important to my gigging as my Martin in the future.
ET: You’ve performed nearly 100 gigs in the past twenty months; what has kept you motivated during this time?
CL: I just love gigging. I never have to make myself stand up and sing in front of people.
ET: How are you able to keep up with your studies being that you play so many live shows?
CL: Averaging 1 gig per week, hasn’t really affected my ability to study. My studies come first. When I am happy that I have completed my homework to the required standard and have then completed enough revision, only then will I write or practice in my bedroom.
ET: You’ve obviously been able to observe a number of different music scenes and areas during the many times you’ve performed around the United Kingdom; what are your favourite aspects of certain places? Has there been anything you’ve seen or experienced that you really didn’t like?
CL: I love festivals! Attending to watch other bands and also performing. This is my favourite type of venue. In a pub or club, you might get anywhere from 5 to 50 people watching you I’ve not been lucky enough to play a main stage at a large festival, but either on the main stage at a small festival or a small stage at a large festival you can have hundreds of people watching you!
Sometimes for whatever reason you can perform in front of only a few people in a pub or club. This can be a little disheartening, but I always perform as if there are thousands watching me.
ET: Is it true that you wrote nearly 100 songs before deciding on five to release as a debut EP?
CL: I think the reality is closer to 150+, but I only recorded about 100 or so in my bedroom as demos. The rest I deemed as not ready or not good enough. Some of those “not ready” tracks do eventually get recorded in my bedroom, but sometimes they might take months or a year to mature enough in my mind to turn them from “also rans” to a demo.