By D.C. Bloom
(March/April 2012/vol. 5 – Issue 2)
Austin singer-songwriter Charlie Faye isn’t afraid to take the road less traveled. No, wait, that’s Robert Frost, isn’t it? She’s more of a John Steinbeck kinda gal. The Grapes of Wrath author provided Faye the inspiration to hit the road like no other working musician has ever done. Her’s was a plan that made such sense — and a concept so cool — that it’s surprising no one had done it before … or since, as far as we know. She would embark on a 10-city tour and, rather than doing the one-night-stand of a gig and then go on to the next stop within minutes or hours of leaving the stage, Faye decided she wanted to linger a bit longer. The idea was to really soak up a locale’s gestalt. For an entire month.
So Faye made short-term living arrangements in every city, tapped into the local music community, put a band together from some of the best players she could find and befriend, and then recorded a track before packing up the car and heading off to the next stop. “I figured if I’m going to spend the rest of my life traveling around this country making music, I want to actually get to know it,” Faye explains. “I want to actually connect. Not just pass through. Not just gloss over.”
The result was Faye’s Travels with Charlie, an homage to Steinbeck and his autobiographical tale of traversing the U.S. in the early ‘60s in the company of his french poodle. In fact, after learning of Faye’s 10 cities in 10 months tour of the nation, Steinbeck’s daughter agreed it was a pretty cool thing to do and endorsed her using the similar-sounding title.
Faye’s road adventure has produced a 21st century Americana music that sounds as diverse and unique as today’s America, from the spanish horns of Tucson, Ariz., and Calexico to Warren’s Storm’s Shreveport, La., swamp pop. Other month-long homes included Los Angeles (where Faye stayed in a cottage made for the Munchkins during the filming of The Wizard of Oz); Portland; Boulder; Milwaukee; Nashville; Asheville, N.C.; Burlington, Vt.; and her hometown of New York City.
“I’ve always been one of the shyer kids and this experience kind of forced me to be a lot more social,” says Faye. It also gave her ample “alone time and inspiration” because it was just Faye and a stuffed dog named Muttso in the passenger seat logging all those miles. In one of first of the videos Faye made to chronicle her journeys, she notes that her first day’s solitary trip of six hours was the longest she’d ever driven solo up until her ambitious coast-to-coaster.
Now back in Austin, where she’s recorded a “little rock and roll EP with Will Sexton that was really fun,” Faye’s geographical and musical wanderlust hasn’t been sated. While a five-song “Travels ’Round Texas” EP that could take her to oh, say, Lubbock, Abilene, Brownsville, Galveston and Texarkana, sounded tempting to Faye, she’s determined to make the next one a bit more of a globetrotting affair. “I’m thinking Dublin, Melbourne and Amsterdam,” says Faye hopefully. “Let’s see if I can make it happen.”