Life on the road is a necessary evil for professional musicians. Recording an album means not just a commitment to studio time, gut-wrenching writing sessions and endless rehearsals, but a commitment to a year on the road, playing shows in towns you’ve never heard of and would probably never visit otherwise. Austin indie alt-country-Americana songwriter Charlie Faye was facing this bleak future after she released her album Wilson St. in 2009.
“I was thinking, what do I need to do to really make a go of it and really make it happen for this record? The general consensus was that you have to be on the road for a year,” she says over a cup of decaf at the Trident Café. Faye pauses. “And uh, ugh. I love being on the road, but it’s hard. The part that’s hard on me is the going from place to place every day and just never having a chance to get to know a place or settle in and make friends. You’re just constantly moving, and I did not like the idea of doing that for a year.”
While talking with a friend, she had an idea. Why not mess with the traditional business model of 100 shows in 300 days? Spending the time getting to know the people who appreciate your music helped build the fan base for her friend’s band, Poi Dog Pondering.
“What they did in their younger days, when they were really starting to become popular, was that they would go to a town where they had a gig and hang out there for two or three weeks,” Faye says. “The guys would sleep with all the college girls and just become friends with everyone. So by the time they had the gig, everyone in the town was really excited. ... Every time they would come back, people would be like, ‘Oh we missed you guys,’ and you know, they had actual real connections to people there.”
The idea inspired Faye, and she concocted the ruse for her current tour: 10 cities in 10 months. Assemble 10 bands, record 10 songs, and then make a 10-song album at the end. She started in January and has spent a month each in Tuscon, Ariz., Los Angeles and Portland, Ore. She arrived in Boulder at the beginning of April and looks to record her next song on Sunday at Boulder’s Coupe Studios.
“Obviously, I’m not going to sleep with all the college girls,” Faye laughs. “But [the tour] is more personal. It’s more real, in terms of what people are getting from you. They’re not just getting one night of music; they’re getting to know who you are.”
It’s an ambitious idea, both artistically and logistically, but Faye is no stranger to ambition. The New York transplant and one-time magazine editor didn’t pick up a guitar until she was 21, and she once single-handedly saved a famous block of musician-inhabited houses in Austin from ravenous developers, giving the name to her first album, Wilson St.
For Faye, each song she’s recorded so far has its own identity, its own set of memories of tireless networking and miraculous coincidences that allowed the project to come together, often at the last second. For instance, the song she recorded in L.A., “Whirlwind,” didn’t come together until the last day she was in town. And it ended up being her favorite song she’s ever recorded.
“It’s, like, the best sounding recording ever,” Faye says. She was hanging out with friend and L.A. mixing engineer Dave Way and lamenting how things appeared to have fallen through in the city of angels.
“I was kind if complaining to Dave ... I thought this was going to happen this way and I was going to do it with this person, but it looks like it’s just not going to happen,” Faye says, “and track two on the record is going to be called ‘Fuck L.A.,’ and it was going to be two minutes of silence.”
But a flurry of last-second calls later, Way and Faye assembled an impressive band that included frequent Sheryl Crow drummer Brian MacLeod and Eagles touring keyboardist Mike Thompson. They recorded the song in an hour, Faye says.
She has no idea how the Boulder song is going to sound — after L.A., anything can happen, she cautions — but the town definitely gave her good vibes.
“[Boulder] is definitely my favorite so far. I know I’m not supposed to play favorites ... but I can see myself living here. It feels really good to me,” she says.
On the Bill
Charlie Faye & The New Band plays The Laughing Goat on Friday, April 30. Show starts at 9 p.m. 1709 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-440-4628.