As terms like “psych rock” and “chamber folk” increase into the music lexicon, listeners often forget two terms that lay the foundation for rock– “the blues” and “players.” Texas-raised, Nashville-based blues/rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Charlie Oxford raised himself listening to guitarists that can really play and by that we mean Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton and John Mayer whose phrasing, tone and distinctive wail prevail.
Oxford remembers his introduction to the blues when taking lesson’s in Dallas, TX when he was about 11 years old at Charley’s Guitar Shop with Ken Wheeler, when he recounts, “He doesn’t teach there these days but he’d tell me stories about Stevie Ray and Jimmie coming in there to hang while he’d show me the ropes of songs like “Pride and Joy” and “Riviera Paradise.”
On September 25, 2015, independently with distribution through Tone Tree, Oxford will release his debut album, 10 tracks that mix Oxford’s sly and soulful vocals with horns, B3 organ and assistance from Horn Heads, whose work can be heard on albums by Prince, Chaka Khan and Tower of Power. Although the record holds a tried and true theme about finding your dreams, finding love and looking for your spot in the world, Oxford approaches his themes with a novel approach that never sours but inspires with sweet idealism.
Glide is premiering the emotive track “Waiting For” off the new LP (below), a rousing composition that touches some of the best of Tedeshi Trucks Band and the modern day guitar gurus of Mayer and Joe Bonamassa. We also had the opportunity to talk with Oxford about the new LP, where he gives us a run-down of what really makes for good guitar tone.
How long did the songs on this album take to come together? I understand you originally were going to release these songs years ago but they didn’t get the proper release. Did you orchestrate anything differently this time around with the songs?
The songs came from a year’s worth of about 50 songs I’d written or co-written and then we narrowed down the final 10 from that. It’s tough to let 40 songs you’d written basically wind up in the trash but I guess that’s what makes you a better writer in the end.
The press release states this is record about chasing down your dreams, finding love and looking for your spot in the world. In what ways are these themes autobiographical for you and what themes come easiest to you as a lyricist and composer?
Well, I think those three themes are really relatable for a lot of people. Everyone wants to find that person to spend the rest of their life with, figure out what they were meant to be in this world and find a passion to grasp on to. For me it was songwriting that drove me. I was also writing this album during the time with my wife and I were dating, then got engaged and then got married. So to me all three of those themes are intertwined in each other. Chasing down your dreams is great and all but, when you find the one you love it makes it that much more enjoyable to share it with that person. Your place in the world gets a little bigger when that someone is by your side every step of the way.
What songs on the album are you most proud of and feel are best representative of you? If you had two songs to play on late night TV – what would they be and why?
I’d say they all represent me in one way or another but if it came down to two songs that represented me most at that time in the writing process it would be “Speak Out” and “You & I.” Those most represent the album themes – trying to find your voice and my dating relationship with my wife. If I have to pick two to play on late night TV I would pick either “Letting Go” or “Drive Me Crazy.” I just love the grooves of those songs.
How did you develop your guitar tone as a blues player?
I think tone comes from three things- 1). Listening to really great players. They teach you what your fingers do and that’s the most important part BY FAR.. 2. Finding guitars that not only sound good but that inspire you. I was lucky enough for a friend of mine to sell me his ’79 Strat that previously belonged to Charlie Pride. It still smells like a smoky bar. It’s also really heavy which probably doesn’t help it but there’s no replacement for wood that’s been weathered for the last 35+ years. 3. Killer tube amps and a great pedal set up that’s not too crazy. This is where the gear nerd in me goes nuts. I love it but you can’t get everything on the planet or you will sound like an idiot and go broke in the process. Hanging out with my buds in Nashville has helped tremendously as they always have something to say about what to use. I’ve got a great relationship with Tyler Amps now because of it. Seriously the best sounding boutique amp company out there!!!
As a burgeoning musician, what other artists do you admire from a career standpoint in terms of output and integrity that you would most like to mirror?
For pop guys of the last 15 years I’d be silly not to say that guys like Mayer and DeGraw aren’t the pinnacle of the industry. But guys like Gary Clark Jr., Amos Lee, and even recently James Bay are all guys that in my eyes are doing really great things that I’d love to follow in the footsteps of.
What are some of your favorite places to play in Texas and what venues have been most supportive of allowing you to grow on stage?
I love playing in Texas. Venues like Poor David’s and Prophet Bar are great places. But last year getting to play on the main stage at the State Fair of Texas was a highlight for me. Growing up and seeing that stage every year was a big deal and when I got the call I almost fell on the floor.
Your songs are strongly orchestrated and strong in both a melodic and blues/ soulful sense. With that being the case, how’d you see your music progressing as your music career continues?
I want my music to reflect who I am as an individual but, I also want it to relate to the listener. I think over the last few years my musical taste has expanded to a lot of different genres of music. I think the blues and melodic side will always be there. However, those expanded genres will definitely lurk their way in there. I’ve been listening to a lot of 80’s music lately and a bit of country (the cool kind i.e Kacey Musgraves, Chris Stapelton etc.) that’s still got a lot of soul, which then brings me back around to the blues. My musicality is kinda like a constant moving circle that brings me back to where it started.
What have the biggest highlights for you in the past year in terms of certain performances or collaborations or anything else?
At this point being able to stay on the road so consistently is a big success in itself. I’ve gotten to do some really cool gigs in the past but 2015 has been a year of getting my ducks in a row. I search long and hard for the people that I’ve got behind me right now and I think building and cultivating those relationships are going to be great anchors for more future successes to come.