Singer/Bass Player/Song Writer
Style: New Orleans
Influences: Too many to mention…
The old car auction market next to Belgrove Station. The streets behind the market are Sydney Street and Melbourne Street.
K: You’re band, “Charlotte Marshall & The 45s” recently won “The Future of the Blues” competition in London. This is pretty well known in Glasgow but for anyone else reading this, can you tell me a little bit of the history around this?
C: This was held in London earlier this year and there were 5 finalists chosen from entries right across the UK. We were the only band from Scotland that got through, there were 3 from England and another from Ireland. It was put together by The Mascot Label Group and Classic Rock Magazine, who own The Blues Magazine and it was held in The Big Easy restaurant in London, which happens to be my favourite restaurant. It is pure New Orleans and there is live music every night. The food is New Orleans, the music is New Orleans, the look is New Orleans, it is absolutely fantastic and I had always made a point of going there when I was ever in London anyway. Our new single is called “Big Easy Blues” so it was totally serendipitous especially as the song for me is about traveling. It’s either about “escaping from” or “running towards” something, depending on how you want to read it. It’s about moving away from where you’ve started and towards your Mecca, which in this case, is New Orleans and there was a real parallel between us all getting in a bus in Glasgow and going down to London in the same way that the song is about moving from Chicago down South to New Orleans.
K: Staying on the “Future” theme then…What is the attraction of New Orleans?
C: For me personally? I would say, I think, while I’ve been traveling, I’ve been drawn towards places with passion and fire. Naples was amazing, living in amongst mobsters and just the way of life, and Glasgow where people are passionate about everything. There’s something about New Orleans and that fire and it’s such a melting pot of musical genres from all around the world. I don’t like to pigeon-hole myself. I love Blues, Funk, R&B, Soul, Gospel, Jazz, Motown and everything that comes in between, so New Orleans is just this place I’ve always felt drawn towards.
K: When I watch you and listen to the stuff you’re doing at the moment I can see that sassy, Voodoo, New Orleans style emanating quite clearly from the stage. There are quite a few New Orleans artists that I follow …Dr John, Jon Cleary…
C: I never knew you were a Jon Cleary fan!
K: Massive! In fact my youngest daughter caught me dancing in the kitchen to one of his tracks last night when I was making dinner!
C: Really? Which track?!
K: “So Damn Good”. I was busting some scary moves man! She just turned around and walked right back out (laughs)
C: Really!! I get that! I love that!!
At that point the bar is privileged to have a personal rendition of the song delivered by both of us, and not quietly. Dancing almost ensues.
You’re into Jon Cleary? He epitomises for me what New Orleans is about, now, and that it is still alive.
K: He’s actually English and he traveled over there years ago and stayed.
C: I know and I think that’s a big part of what I love about him. It’s about traveling; it’s about being where your heart is.
K: So is that part of the future for you? To visit, gig or stay for a while in New Orleans? 20 years from now, where do you see yourself?
C: 20 years from now I would hope that I am still not settled. I’ve always wanted to keep moving on but New Orleans is a pilgrimage for me that I’m looking forward to embarking on and I do look forward to leaving a bit of my heart there and maybe staying there for some time.
K: Would that be a personal mission?
C: Ideally I’d like to do that with my band. With any luck, that will happen one day. But the most important thing for me is the bit in between now and when I get there. That’s what the single is about, and hopefully, when I get there, I can keep my head above the water because I know I’m no match for these people but I will soak up every bit of the experience.
K: Ok, so that’s looking forward. Looking back for a moment. I read a review last night by Graham Forbes. It was an excellent piece and he compared you to a couple of massive names… “Her voice is like Etta James, or Ella Fitzgerald, rich and creamy, but with the punch of Amy when she hits those hook lines.” Are there any influences from those singers?
C: I have to admit there isn’t one specific person. I have this “Rolodex” of artists and songs and ideas in my mind. I pull from every artist and every song I’ve ever heard and there are so many, both male and female. And certainly not only Blues so it’s a real mix of influences.
K: You and your band have a real style and quite an individual… attitude… is probably the word I’m looking for. Where does that come from?
C: I guess it comes from a place of total passion. I do have very high standards and enormous respect for… what I guess we could call “The Golden Age” of music. The idea of bands and band leaders and groups working together and striving to make the best music, the best performance, the best charisma to really try and focus on creating something that emulates the real passion behind the music and something that you can really… “feel”! I’m very serious about that. It may be to my detriment because it can sometimes apply a lot of pressure.
K: You have a fantastic stage presence and a real charisma when you perform but how do you actually feel when you are on stage?
C: We were speaking earlier about being self-conscious in front of the camera and I do absolutely suffer from terrible nerves but when I am on stage I just have to let it go. Sometimes I look back at photos and videos and seem to be so lost in the moment it’s almost embarrassing. I’m so exposed or I’m pulling faces or my body is contorted… but then I look at people like Joe Cocker and he was, and is, so into his music. There are times when I am so into it that when I look back… I don’t even remember that gig! I’ve reached a stage in my career where I am much prouder to completely let go and run the risk that some people may not like what they see or hear rather than be hindered by my own self consciousness. We got a few good shots of one of our last gigs and every shot I had a completely different expression so I am feeling a whole lot of different things throughout the gig. I do try and put myself into each song as much as I can, whether it’s my own song or somebody else’s. I think that you need to feel the song. Whether you’ve experienced the situation within the song or not I do feel that you have to understand it. In fact, on the same topic there was another shot that was taken of me at the Blues competition down in London and when I see it now it comes across as being a bit extreme and I’ve had a few comments about it. It was the first time I’ve ever been in a magazine and I was very self-conscious about it but you know what? Whether I won the competition or not, at the end of the day, the important thing is: I would have been very disappointed in myself if I hadn’t let myself get that involved in my music.
K: I’m jumping about a bit between past, present and future here so can we go back to the past again and can you tell me a bit about the journey that led you from Australia to Glasgow?
C: The first place I moved to from Australia was the Isle of Mull and I was out there for a time. I’d just released my first album and I was very young, I was just out of University. For different reasons I got to a point where I felt I needed to get away for a bit. I sold everything, quit my job, broke up the band and hit the road, basically. I then moved to Oban briefly and then I got a job on the canal boats between Fort William and Inverness, which was a great job, just living on the boats, being on the water all day, crossing Loch Ness, which can be a pretty hairy crossing on a bad day. I really loved being out there, throwing ropes and all of that, battling the elements. I then found myself living in Fort Augustus and I stayed through the Winter. Then I decided to go to Italy for a few weeks and I fell in love with Naples and I stayed there for a year. And then, after almost exactly 24 months of not singing a note, I suppose I must have been ready and I came to Glasgow and went into the State Bar, accidentally, on a Tuesday night. And I… got my mojo back… and I started again. Now it’s been two and a half years in Glasgow and I feel like I’m finally working again.
K: It’s fantastic that you got back into it and the band seems to have a lot of energy and there’s a lot of commitment.
C: Thank you. You dream for a long time about things like this and you want to create something. I know I’ll never get it right because I’m a perfectionist, but I just need to keep believing… and working hard and developing my craft.
K: One of the first guys I interviewed on this project said that as well. Davie Boyle. He played with Rev Doc and The Congregation and they did some amount of touring back in the day and he referred to that period as “learning your craft”. Let’s talk about that for a minute – whether you believe in a God-given gift or not, that’s where a lot of people start and then they go for lessons and then they become proficient in their art. What’s the difference between being able to play an instrument and executing your “craft”.
C: I firmly believe you have to pay your dues. People say: “You’re so lucky to be able to do what you love”. And that’s true, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not a hard slog. It can be monotonous and stressful and aggravating just like any other job and sometimes you can hate it, and if you hate it sometimes then “Good!” because it’s not meant to be easy! I’m not interested in any X Factor, American Idol crap. If you want to be a musician you’ve got to get out there and work. You have to pay your dues till your fingers are raw and your voice is shot and you’re aching from head to toe because you’ve been lugging amplifiers up and down stairs every night for 2/3/4/5/ years. That’s the only way to make something of yourself. None of this “Oh hi! I’ve just been discovered…” Work for it and then just maybe, if you’re lucky, you might get somewhere. I really believe that. I think it’s… critical. If it was too easy you wouldn’t get any sense of achievement. I think there are too many people out there who don’t get the importance of developing your craft. Because it is a craft. It’s about learning to be able to work that audience and turn a hostile situation around and how to work around all of the possible variations that you will encounter at every gig and make them work. It’s about how to execute your delivery every time. That’s the craft. You need to analyse yourself and be objective and that is really hard! Your passion and your natural expression… that’s your art, and that’s going to take you so far but you need to put the work in and figure out all the things you need to do and it’s not easy.
K: I think as long as you are honest in your expression, then people will get it. People in general have a very accurate radar that picks up when people are faking it. What is it that keeps you moving yourself forward Charlotte. What is it that drives you? Is it fame, money or is it something else?
C: It’s absolutely not fame or fortune. In fact, I’m just about record a new tune, it will be coming out on video and I’m playing bass on it. It’s just a little Blues/Country song that I wrote and it’s actually about dwindling our time away until the grave. And the third verse has the lyrics…
“No use for fortune,
No use for fame…”
So no, not at all.
K: So what is it?
C: You know… I don’t think I could say anything that wouldn’t sound completely “wanky”. I don’t think there is an answer! I’m just not interested in the fame and fortune thing. I could do with a bit more money… that would be lovely.
K: Is it being the best you can be… or is it something that you don’t have any control over?
C: Ok, here it is. I gig 6 nights a week and most of that time I’m putting all of that energy out there and getting nothing back. People are sitting in bars and they may or may not be enjoying it but I’m putting it all out there. If I can actually feel a vibe and energy coming back at me, and energy between myself and my musicians… that’s what drives me. I want to keep getting inspired. I want to get home at the end of the night and have a new idea that I can work on. At the moment it’s a lot of hard work and sometimes that’s how it is. It’s just work. But there are times… for example, we did a Blues Dance gig over in Leith a couple of months ago as part of a Blues Dance Festival over in Edinburgh. There’s a huge community of dancers in Glasgow and Edinburgh who dance to the Blues, which is quite unique. It’s very close and very sweaty and very New Orleans. We played our single for the first time at that gig and it just got this response and they danced to it and I just looked around at my guys on stage and thought… “Holy Shit! I am a musician. This is my job!” I mean… how cool is that? I’m a musician. I play music. And they like it. That’s all I got… just this feeling of “How cool is that?!?” (laughs) I guess my philosophy is that there will always be people out there that will totally be able to wipe the floor with me and I accept that and I enjoy it. Do I want to be the best? I guess I just want to “be in the game”. Yeah… I just want to be “in the game”
K: Great. Thanks Charlotte.
C: Thank YOU! I can’t wait to see the shots. That was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
Camera: Nikon D750
Lens: Nikon 24-120 Kit
Focal length: 120mm
Exposure: 1/160 sec at f/5
Time of day: 16:24
Conditions: Even cloud cover
Lighting: Keylight at 45 degrees with 24″ Softbox, Fill light 36″ opaque umbrella
An old glasgow warehouse