An Interview with Pearl Charles

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Image Credit: Dana Trippe

I listen to a lot of music both new and old. I listen in the car. I listen at home. I listen on vinyl, CD and cassette as well as MP3. So, what’s the point? The point is that for something new to really catch my ear and not get caught up in the jumble of notes I have ratting around it my head, it really needs to be something. Yes, I am to the point where I am starting to very seriously assess if any given piece of physical media will remain in my house. Why? Mostly for space reasons, honestly. So, with that being said, if it’s not top notch…if it’s not something I see myself listening to again and again, I am no longer keeping it around. Now that I’ve said all that, let’s talk about Magic Mirror by Pearl Charles.

I am relatively new to Pearl’s music, but I can say after a few listens of her new record Magic Mirror, that her retro aesthetic and Pop, Soul, Psych blend of Indie really and truly appeals to me. This is what I look for these days when I put on a new record. So, if you’re wondering if it’s a keeper for the collection, I’ll save you the suspense- it is. The music of Pearl Charles is good “any time” music. It’s good in the summer, fall, spring or winter. It’s great for long drives to nowhere on a weekend, or for a quick jaunt to the store. It’s great at night and it’s perfect for morning. I think you get the picture. You want this record. If you are intrigued and want to learn more, head over to Pearl’s Bandcamp here and grab Magic Mirror. You will not be sorry you did. After you’ve done that, and told all your friends as well, give this cool interview with Pearl a read through. It’s a good one. Dig it.

Andrew:
Pearl, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during this seemingly ever-raging dumpster fire?

Pearl:
Thank you for having me and helping get the word out about the album! This last year has most definitely been rough, but I’ve been lucky enough to be quarantined with my boyfriend and musical partner Michael Rault, so we’ve been able to stay busy and creative despite not being able to tour. We also decided to move out to the desert for a little while and have been building a home studio out here while work back in LA is slow, so that’s been a saving grace of this time.

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Pearl:
I’ve been playing music since I was very young. I started piano lessons and musical theatre when I was five and as I got older gravitated more towards songwriting and playing guitar. I was in two bands before I started my solo project, so have more or less spent the last 10 years of my life on the road and making records.

Andrew:
What first sparked your interest in making music?

Pearl:
When I was four years old my older sister was taking piano lessons and I begged my parents to let me start. They said if I still wanted to when I was five they would let me and the rest is history! I’ve always made up little songs in my head from as far back as I can remember, but as I got older, I began to grow out of musical theatre, which had been my passion when I was young, and began to focus more on playing in bands and writing my own material.

Image Credit: Dana Trippe

Andrew:
As an artist, which artists have been your biggest inspiration and why?

Pearl:
I am hugely inspired by so many of the female singers and songwriters of the ‘70s and I definitely aspire to carrying their torch into the 21st century. The list is long, but a few of my biggest influences are Christine McVie, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt. Songwriting aside, I was sonically inspired on this record in particular by ABBA, Fleetwood Mac and Todd Rundgren to name a few.

Andrew:
What does your process look like? How do you go about creating your music?

Pearl:
Sometimes, if I’m lucky, the songs come fully formed to me in a dream or through a psychedelic experience. Other times, I will just randomly find myself singing a lyric or melody and then I have to go on the hunt to figure out what it is that I am trying to say. Some of the songs almost end up making more sense to me in retrospect, because when I’m in the midst of actually writing them I’m so focused on completing the song itself that I don’t even necessarily stop to think about what it is I’m really talking about until it’s done!

Andrew:
Let’s touch on your newest release Magic Mirror. Tell us about the recording of the record. What was your inspiration? Where can we get your album, and what formats will it be on?

Pearl:
Magic Mirror is a very autobiographical, introspective record about self-exploration and self-discovery. The title came to me in a dream and I feel like it perfectly describes the themes of personal growth and reflection that the record is all about. We were lucky enough to finish recording Magic Mirror prior to the pandemic and we just really wanted to start out by capturing my live band and adding some extra flair on top of that and that would have been much more difficult to do once we went into lockdown.

The album is available on vinyl through Rough Trade, my label Kanine Records and at your local record store! It is also available on all streaming platforms and on CD. I don’t think we did a cassette run this time around, but if there’s enough demand it’s possible we could get that going as well!

Pearl Charles (@pearl_charles) | Twitter

Andrew:
As a songwriter, what does your process look like? Are your lyrical themes of a personal nature, are stories so to speak?

Pearl:
My process definitely varies from song to song, but when it comes to writing for my own solo project I am definitely a very personal writer. I find songwriting to be a very cathartic and therapeutic way to work through what’s going on around me and my emotional reactions to those things, so I am grateful to have a project that lends itself to that. I occasionally help write songs for other people and I also have a side project in the works, so when writing for those things I am able to experiment with writing from a different perspective that doesn’t have to be entirely personal, though I still usually draw on some element of personal experience just to maintain a level of authenticity.

Andrew:
Let’s talk about the state of the music industry a bit. What are a few things you would like to see change for the betterment of both the fans and artists alike?

Pearl:
I think the real ticket is trying to break down all the barriers that prevent the music from getting to the fans, though I don’t necessarily know just how to do that. I think platforms like Bandcamp and Patreon are helping move in the direction of more direct fan to artist support. There are just so many gatekeepers in this industry and I think that there are probably fans out there for just about every type of artist, if they can just get the word out to the right people. Social media and streaming services are definitely both a blessing and a curse because though they can be great ways to get discovered by new fans, if your work doesn’t hit the algorithm in the right way, it can feel very daunting and almost like a deterrent rather than an encouragement. Ultimately, there’s nothing better than good old-fashioned word of mouth recommendations, so if there is an artist out there that you love, tell your friends about them!

Andrew:
Opinion question. In a world dominated by capitalism and social media, can indie artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Pearl:
That’s a great question and to be honest, one that I can’t say I have the answer to. I’d love to hope and believe that for myself and all the other amazing indie artists that I know are out there working so hard! I know that no matter what, I will keep making and releasing music and trying to get it heard by as many people as possible, so really only time will tell if quality and persistence can be the David to the Goliath that is late-stage capitalism.

Pearl Charles, “Magic Mirror” | Bandcamp Daily
Image Credit: Dana Trippe

Andrew:
Are you into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music? How big is your collection these days?

Pearl:
I love records, mainly 33s and 45s, though back in my old-timey days I used to even collect 78s. I have been building up a record collection for years from various thrift shops and record stores across the US and even in the UK, but I mainly use them for DJing (I used to do sets at different bars around LA pre-pandemic) which has obviously been put on hold for the time being. These days, I do a lot of my “crate” digging online, specifically through an app/website called Mixcloud where curators post playlists. I’ve discovered some of my all-time favorite records through these internet DJs, a few of my favourites are Pastoralia by Feathered Canyons and “Torn and Frayed!”

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Pearl:
I’ve always had a hard time deciding on any sort of favourites because music is such a vast and diverse emotional experience for me, so every different record that has ever occupied the space of “favourite” in my heart has been for a specific emotional reason in that moment. That being said, a few the records that have meant to the most to me throughout my life are Tusk by Fleetwood Mac (or basically any Fleetwood Mac album), Good For You, Too by Toni Brown, On The Beach by Neil Young and Ram by Paul McCartney.

Andrew:
Last question. You’ve maintained a strong DIY approach thus far in your career, which is never a bad thing. That being said, what advice would you have for artists just getting started?

Pearl:
I think the best advice that was ever given to me as a young artist was to always continue writing and creating! And then once you’ve really given your all to the music, reminding yourself to stop and and really appreciate the fact that you’re actually doing it, instead of always looking forward and wondering what the next step is, because if you don’t look up, you just might miss it!

Pearl Charles Tackles 'Imposter' Syndrome on New Groovy Track
Image Credit: Dana Trippe

Interested in diving deeper into the work of Pearl Charles? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, USA, Andrew has always loved writing, music, drumming and collecting music on CD, tape and vinyl. After losing his life-long vinyl collection in 2014, Andrew began his vinyl collection from scratch again when he met his future wife Angela in 2015. Andrew’s love of music only further blossomed as his collection spanned all genres possible. After amassing over 3,000 albums in under two years, he knew it was time to finally follow his dream of being a music journalist, and thus, Vinyl Writer was born.

Andrew’s not only the go-to friend for music trivia, but his intricate knowledge of the ins and outs of the music industry allows him to develop engaging questions that really tap into each artist and individual to deliver insightful and enjoyable interviews. He’s proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict, for fellow music addicts.

Andrew lives on Long Island, NY, with his wife Angela and their four cats, Oliver, Patrick, Charlie and Kevin. Andrew’s collection of over 4,700 vinyl albums, plus several hundred tapes and CDs, tells the story of his passion for all that is music. Andrew works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer website by night. Andrew is also the admin of several Facebook groups dedicated to music.

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