London’s King Charles has recognition from some of the finest songwriters around. So what tips does he have for us?
It’s not everyday that Songwriting gets the opportunity to speak to a barrier-breaking and internationally acclaimed songwriter. King Charles, though, is not your average writer. Born Charles Costa and having received a musical training during his formative years – learning piano, cello and guitar while becoming a classically trained singer – King Charles began writing songs before his eighteenth birthday.
It would take until 2009 for King Charles songwriting skill to be acknowledged, but he received quite the recognition. Having put his song Love Lost forward for the International Songwriting Competition in Nashville, a judging panel including Tom Waits, Jeff Beck, Loretta Lynn and Jerry Lee Lewis chose him as the first person from Great Britain to win the award. His debut album LoveBlood was released three years later and made it to the Top 40 of the UK album charts. King Charles has also released six singles including the superb title track to his recent second album Gamble For A Rose.
We caught up with King Charles in the midst of his European tour and discovered what it’s like to have an album make it to No 3 on the UK Americana Chart.
You’re currently on tour in Europe, how’s that going?
“It’s going brilliantly. I’m having a really great time taking my guitar out each night and just playing them to people. It’s been a really enjoyable experience.”
Have you been able to spend any of your time working on your songwriting between your shows?
“I’ve taken a few days just to rest and recuperate. Other than that though I’ve just been working on my demos for my next album.”
But your last album was only released this January!
“Yes! I like to make sure that I can release what I’m working on as quickly as I can, because it’s important for me that the songs I record stay as true to the ideas as they possibly can and that I keep my releases as up to date with my writing as possible”
Does getting back into the creative process so quickly have an impact on your songwriting?
“Some songs can take a long time to blossom and to get them right, whereas some songs will just flow and I’ll get them written really quickly. It depends what pressures you put are putting on yourself. It’s like everything with writing, though, it’s a process and it means that you really have to just keep working at those ideas until you get them right.”
You won the International Songwriting Competition in Nashville in 2009. How did that come about?
“I just put the song forward to see what would happen and then forgot about it. The next I heard of it was getting a phone call from the organisers to say that I’d won!”
The competition was judged by some pretty significant songwriters. Did you pick up any tips from them?
“Unfortunately I didn’t have any contact with the songwriters on the judging panel, so didn’t have a chance to pick up any tips from them.”
As well as singing you play guitar, piano and cello, how does being a multi-instrumentalist affect your songwriting?
“I pretty much stick to stringed instruments and my songs are mainly written on guitar, it’s not purposeful it just happens that way organically.”
Your latest album Gamble For A Rose made it to No 3 on the UK Americana Charts. Do you consider yourself to be an Americana artist?
“I grew up loving Americana, so it has had an influence on my music. Even so, I wouldn’t necessarily define myself as an Americana artist, but I’m happy to take in the top five of any music chart!”
What are your plans for the rest of 2016?
“More touring, more festivals and I really want to get another album recorded and out before the end of the year.”
As an internationally renowned and award-winning songwriter, do you have any writing tips for our readers?
“The best thing is to just get an instrument in your hand and start developing where your interests lie. The rest will follow on from there!”
Interview: Damien Girling
Gamble For A Rose is out now on Buffalo Gang. For more information about what King Charles is up to, check out his official website: kingcharlesmusic.com