In true klutzomania, I ran late for our phone interview when butter fingers collided with an old school calling card, as I fumbled to key in multiple pin numbers of extraordinary length, but, when I finally reached King Charles, he graciously accepted my apology and we happily skipped together through my, at times, befuddling questions.
What excited me most about this artist, asides from the Loose Change for the Boatman single, which had me reminiscing over my first auditory experience of Paulo Nutini, was the knowledge that King Charles has worked with Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons (I know, some things don’t need to be written, but you’d be surprised – they actually do – what if you’ve never heard of Little Lion Man? Here all week folks…).
I saw that you did a live session for Ray Ban back in 2009. Fashion syncs interest me. How did it come about? What did that collaboration do for you?
Yeah… it was at a music festival. I can’t remember which one [excellent festival], Ray Ban got people – musicians and songwriters to climb in to the back of a black cab, which would drive around as we performed. That’s right, it was called the Black Cab Sessions, and I was wearing white wayfarers.
Did you really have dreadlocks?
“Yes. I cut my hair about a year ago. I did have dreadlocks for a long time. I was worried that it would become my identity and overshadow the music.”
I enthusiastically laugh in agreeance (like a maniac), confirming my approval of his decision. A pregnant pause follows…
Marcus Mumford produced the new album Gamble For A Rose – he says in the album trailer that he wanted to keep the sound simple to show your vocal and guitar talent over the production. It seems like a natural style for you.
Marcus was the natural choice to produce the album. I went through this phase of wanting to go back to my roots and style as an artist. Marcus knew what I was talking about – he understood. The whole process is really natural with him – not like other different people who you might work with – it didn’t feel like a ‘music industry project’.
You referred to going back to your roots as an artist. Who inspired you?
I’m set alight by Bob Dylan, a lot of US country music – when the soundtrack for Oh Brother Where Art Thou came out I thought it was incredible! Also lots of Pop/Rock like Bowie and Queen.
“In the beginning I really got involved in the raw personalities behind the music, and the story telling that comes with it.”
What makes you tune out?
I guess I have to tune out lest I become obsessive and too hands on. I have to take a step back, and let other people do their job. Marcus? He’d tune out as well, not just me! But we have a good relationship, and we understand each other.
Do you hit a creative wall if there’s too much output?
It’s like you pursue an idea, chase it down – across meadows and through the forest – sometimes it does just disappears down a rabbit hole.
What’s your favourite mindless distraction?
Looking at my phone – I’ll mainly scroll through Instagram. There is no input required.
When you work with Marcus, what’s the process like? Does he give you tough feedback? What’s the dynamic?
When everybody gets the same feeling while we’re recording – everything is woking and binding together – there’s a natural excitement in the room and it gets results.
But, it can’t always be a constructive or exciting process. There’s important production decisions to be made, and a practicality to it.
And practicality is a tough thing for lots of creative people. Most don’t quite get the grasp of it too well.
[Laughs…] Yes, exactly!
Tell me about the evolution of your sound and touring the Deep South of the US with Mumford & Sons?
I toured with Mumford & Sons three or four years ago. We travelled all over the States. I released my Loveblood album about three months after that.
Tell me about the tour experience, and how it changed you?
For me it was just surreal. It was like a half dream world – the scale of the rocky mountains – it was like living in a dream, but at the same time so real, it doesn’t let you forget that life on the road is really hard work.
Did you feel tested?
It felt natural being on stage – playing solo – and thriving, but it is challenging to keep it going. Every new stage can be daunting.
I guess you’d have to keep it entertaining for yourself as well as the audience?
Yes [chuckles]… exactly.
You come across as quite the wordsmith, with tales of love and grandeur, told in different paces in each song. I notice with your later work that the rhythm frames the material perfectly, giving it another layer that works really well.
[he hesitates, which means, my question didn’t really make sense to another human] I’d always worked solo – just me singing with a guitar on stage, but I longed for a fuller sound with a backing band with different instruments so I could just fall back into it, instead of being alone up there!
You appear to have a likeness to Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. Has anyone ever told you that?
Ha. I’ve been told that only once, but now that you mention it again, I guess I can see it.
How do you feel about releasing the new album in January?
I’m excited! It’s been a long time in the making.
Will you come to Australia?
“I’m so excited to play in Australia. I’m ready to come there. I just need an excuse.”
It’s arranged. We will commission a royal visit from King Charles real soon.
Watch the Official Music Video for ‘Gamble For A Rose’ by King Charles:
Directors : Claudia Legge, Josh Lee Underwater cinematographer : Claudia Legge, Editor : Kelly Armstrong