We talk with blues singer Charley Crockett about the itinerant life that led to his new album, Lonesome As a Shadow. Due out April 20, we have an exclusive first listen.
Credit blues songster Charley Crockett’s nomadic upbringing for inspiring a one-of-a-kind sound and several critically acclaimed albums. Described as elusive, rebellious, and self-taught, he follows to some extent in the footsteps of his “King of the Wild Frontier” relative, Davy Crockett.
Charley spent most of his early life as a drifter, traveling from town to town and country to country. Over the years, in true street-musician fashion, he’s performed in New Orleans’ French Quarter, busked in New York City subways, lived on the streets of Paris for a year, and traveled through Spain, Morocco, and North Africa.
Crockett’s rich voice and Southern-flair blues have earned him a loyal following. His solo album debut, Stolen Jewel, garnered a Dallas Observer Music Award for Best Blues Act; the single “I Am Not Afraid” from his sophomore album, In the Night, received recognition from NPR Music.
His new album, Lonesome As a Shadow — recorded at Memphis’ historic Sam Phillips Recording with producer-engineer Matt Ross-Spang — documents the singer-songwriter’s time living and performing on the streets and captures his unusual life experience with a captivating blend of Memphis soul, Cajun blues, and Texas country.
C&I recently caught up with the talented bluesman to talk about the new record, writing music, and his unique perspective on life.
Cowboys & Indians: You have an album coming out this Friday. What do you hope your fans will get out of Lonesome As a Shadow?
Charley Crockett: I hope the people who listen to this album feel like they can bring their sorrows and struggles to me and leave them where they lie.
C&I: What are some memorable stories along the way of getting this album from concept to actual release?
Crockett: It breaks my heart when I think about how hard it is for a young artist to get even as far as I have in this business. All the times, in my isolation, I wrote a song just to stay alive. That’s what comes to mind. I’ve been cutting records for years. The only difference is there’s more politics now. Recording is the easy part. That’s why we endure the circus.
C&I: What was the writing and recording process like? What inspired the sound?
Crockett: I don’t have trouble coming up with songs and I never write them down. We cut the album in four days. I’ve been drifting for years. You see a lot that way. It’s a wild world. If you’re awake the inspiration is endless.
C&I: Since the release of your other album, In the Night, how do you think your music has evolved?
Crockett: I don’t know really. I’m proud of In the Night. With each passing year I feel stronger and see clearer. I hope that shows through with the new record.
C&I: You have such an interesting bio. How did growing up in San Benito, Texas, and hitchhiking across the country shape your music?
Crockett: South Texas is a place you’ll most likely never see if you aren’t from there. We lived in a trailer off a farm road surrounded by cotton and grapefruit. It was beautiful, but things fell apart. My mama changed her life and focused on lifting us out of poverty. Her strength to transform led me to start traveling. The highway is for gamblers — and writing songs.
C&I: Who are some of the singers and songwriters that have inspired your creative development and made you want to become an artist?
Crockett: Lots of old-school artists from Lightnin’ Hopkins to Hank Williams. Bill Withers to classic hip-hop.
C&I: What can we expect in terms of touring?
Crockett: I used to play eight hours a day in the French Quarter. Just as much in the subways of NYC. I’ve got a new record to promote. You can expect nonstop touring.
C&I: What’s something that fans might not know about you?
Crockett: Nobody and nothing are what they at first appear to be.
For more information on Charley Crockett and his upcoming tour dates, visit his website.