Interview: Charlie Cunningham

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon and I’m on my to Mannheim to see Charlie Cunningham play at the Atlantis cinema. That’s right. A cinema. Never have I ever seen someone perform a gig in a cinema. And I’m intrigued. But before I get to see Charlie Cunningham play, Charlie has agreed to have a little chat and tell me a little about his new album “Lines”, how a baby might be called after him and who you need to “go listen to”.

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Photo: Marla Geesing

WLT: How has the tour been so far?

Charlie Cunningham: Amazing to be honest. Unbelievable venues. Thought they might be a little ambitious bookings but it’s been pretty special actually. Especially having a band with me this time it’s been really nice.

So who’s playing with you?

We’ve got a guy called Tom who play’s percussion and backing vocals and a guy called John who play’s synth. And we’ve got the amazing Lilly Fenne who’s wicked [his support on tour]. So it’s a pretty nice little team.

Well, that sounds nice. I bet it’s a whole other feeling than playing alone (as you usually do).

Yeah, it just means I get to interact a little more on stage and don’t have all the attention just focused on me (laughs).

And all these special venues. How did you come up with the idea to play here?

It was actually Andreas, the promoter, who came up with the idea. He suggested venues that might allow for a more full sound. I have done a few churches on my last tour but now we’ve got some more classical venues which is a little crazy.

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Photo: Marla Geesing

It’s definitely pretty cool. I mean a cinema… I’ve never seen a gig in a cinema before. So everyone’s sitting in seats then I presume?

Me neither! My first time playing in a cinema. Yes, everyone’s seated. It looks pretty cool. There’s the screen behind the stage, cool lights… Let’s see how it goes (grins).

So what about after the show. You still come out and say hello?

Definitely! I go stand by the CDs and chat a little bit. It’s the only chance you really get to interact with the people who came.

You must get some feedback and a few stories then? Any good ones to tell?

There was this girl in Cologne when I played there last year that told me her boyfriend bought her a ticket for my show the previous year and this time round (points at his stomach), they’d brought their baby. She was pregnant! That was really nice (smiles).

Did she say they’ll call the baby Charlie then?

(Laughs) She did say that but I don’t think she meant it….

Let’s move onto the album now. Three EPs, now finally your album “Lines” is out. I’ve noticed some of the songs from the EPs have made it unto the LP. Did you intend them to be on the album all along or did you just want to have them all in one place as well?

I just wanted to have one song from each EP. I didn’t want to have all the songs from the EP on the album because I wanted to move forward. But I wanted to take one song from each each EP and work it into the concept of the album just to kind of come full circle on the whole thing.

Do you have a favourite song?

It changes all the time – it’s hard a question. I haven’t played ‘Plans’ in a long time. It isn’t on the album but I’ve been playing it on this tour so that’s been nice bringing that one back.

So can you tell us a little bit about the album process. With a song from each EP on it, it’s technically been in the making for a couple of years now?

It has. I’ve constantly been writing. And I think by the time it came to the album, I’d done a lot of writing, a lot of touring and a lot of playing so I knew more what it was that I was doing – my process. So with the album, I turned up there with all my songs written and then we kind of just went in there (the studio) and made it really… A cohesive, fluid piece of work (smiles).

Most musicians stick to the general genre they play but if you could just go wild for one album and do something totally different, what would you do?

Well, the teenager in me would love to do a hardcor-y, punky type of thing. But that won’t happen. I think I’m going to try on progressing and just keep on pushing the boundaries of what I’m doing whilst maintaining the songs and the directness of my songs. We’ll just see what happens…

As the blog is about promoting music and artists that people might not really know and we’re nearing the end of this chat, I have to ask what I generally ask everyone. “If you could stop someone on the street and say “Wait, you need to listen to this person”, who would it be? And why?”

Big Thief. They’re a band I saw at SXSW three weeks ago while I was there. They’ve got an album called “Masterpiece” and it’s brillant. Been listening to it everyday (grins).

Well, that’s basically it. Just to finish off, what’s still planned for the rest of the year?

Well, finish this tour which is still on for a couple more weeks. Then I’m going to Scandinavia for some gigs, then Spain. And then there are the festivals. Then lot’s still happening end of the year as well. Another tour but the details still need to be sorted out.

Well thank you so much again Charlie!

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Photo: Marla Geesing

If you want to see Charlie Cunningham play live I can only highly recommend you do (remaining tour dates here). I first heard and saw him play at the Mighty Oaks concert in Hannover nearly two and half years ago (and I have mentioned him in their blogpost as well) and then once more on his solo tour early 2015. It really was love at first listen. A single man, alone on stage with his guitar, strumming and picking his way swiftly through every song (note, Charlie’s guitar playing influence, a Spanish flamenco style, that’s comes from his time living in Spain) accompanied by a voice so smooth and hypnotic you can’t help but be captivated. So much so, every song seems to end far too quickly. One really got the feeling, less is so much more. As for Charlie himself: Now add a dash of charm and just a generally lovely persona and ta da: Charlie Cunningham. I really am so happy his album “Lines” is finally out but as much as I love the new songs however, I thought I’d share with you my personal older favourite too…

Photos: Marla Geesing, Konzertbüro Schöneberg
Videos: YouTube
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