I’ve listened to both of Charley’s albums, and I don’t recommend downloading either of them. I personally have no desire to put his music on my phone or computer, or even stream it online.
I’ll start by confessing that I don’t know Charley on a personal level. I remember randomly seeing him at a local music shop, and I only recognized him because I had seen a picture of him online. At that point I still hadn’t heard his music, but I definitely noticed his powerful persona; his attention to detail grabbed and demanded my attention.
Eventually, one late night, I finally heard Charley’s music after stumbling into The Freeman in Deep Ellum. And, just like his image, there was something about Charley’s music that commanded my focus. Musically, he draws inspiration from many familiar styles, but somehow meshes them into something that’s difficult to describe. Don’t believe me? Listen to his music and then try to describe his sound to your friends in just one sentence. I would say he incorporates the familiar sounds of gospel, blues, honky tonk and more, yet somehow makes them his own. To me, it simply sounds like Charley.
During the show, he had a suitcase in front of the stage filled with stacks of his first album, A Stolen Jewel. Between songs he encouraged people in the crowd to grab copies of the album in exchange for whatever they wanted to give – even if it was just advice. So I grabbed one. That CD stayed in my car stereo for two solid months. It’s still sitting in my console now, ready for the next play.
That was the first CD I had purchased in over a year, and it reminded me just how much I love having something tangible; how much I enjoy throwing a twenty dollar bill to the artist instead of clicking a virtual ‘BUY’ button and wondering who gets what percentage of my purchase; how personal the interaction feels when the artist witnesses my contribution and nods appreciatively from the stage.
So upon the release of Charley’s latest album, In the Night, I didn’t want a digital download. I wanted the CD. Sure, it cost a few more bucks and took longer to arrive, but when it did, I was shown once again that Charley Crockett pays attention to the little things. I was instantly transported back to my earliest years of discovering music – back when there were theatrics to receiving something I ordered. The CD arrived in a hand-addressed envelope with an autographed ‘CC’ on the bottom, and with the CD came a limited edition flyer and a handwritten thank-you note.
The note reminded me that Charley is a human being living in the same world as all of us. He’s got bills to pay like everyone else, and this is how he pays them. Making music is a labor of love, but sadly it only pays well for a small percentage of musicians. An even smaller percentage of musicians would take the time to personalize a package and fill it with unique memorabilia. Charley obviously values his fans as much as his art. I would have spent twice as much on that album had I known what was coming with it.
I’m certain Charley’s attention to detail has contributed to his recent success. Working on this blog, I’ve come across a number of musicians who take for granted the value of a purchase from one of their fans. They might say every fan counts, but after witnessing countless missed opportunities, I’m skeptical of their true beliefs. I’m not sure they understand that a gesture as simple as sending personalized extras with an album could help their fans feel connected to them on a more personal level. After all, isn’t that one of the main reasons we all listen to music? To find solace in something that echoes our own experiences and emotions and helps us get through this world?
I feel like I’ve made a connection with Charley simply because I bought his CDs. I’m sure I’ll eventually embrace a digital version of his music, but it won’t feel the same. We won’t exchange nods at the bar as I exit, album in hand. I won’t always have a limited edition poster to admire or a note to read as I push each new CD into my car stereo. But as Charley becomes more successful, I’ll still have some rare pieces to show off and a story to tell. Charley sent more than just music; he sent an experience and a memory. I’ve always liked his music, but I didn’t realize he would convert me into a lifelong fan with just a simple poster and some sloppy handwriting. Keep up the hustle, Charley Crockett.