I play the guitar and sing the songs. It’s pretty basic stuff.
Während am Samstag abend Alice Phoebe Lou mit ihrer Mischung aus Gitarrenspiel und Hintergrundstory („Straßenmusikerin in Berlin!“) dem Maifeld-Publikum beim Parcours d’Amour eine Verschnaufpause bietet, treffe ich micht mit einem ganz anderen Singer-Songwriter. Charlie Cunningham ist gut gelaunt, im Gespräch locker drauf und doch ein wenig aufgekratzt ob seines bevorstehenden Auftritts. Nachdem er unsere Tischnachbarn, die norwegische Aurora mit Band, und ihren Auftritt gelobt hat, beantwortet mir der bodenständige Brite ein paar Fragen zu seiner Musik und seinen Vorbildern.
Thanks for sitting down with us for this interview. You’re from Bedfordshire in East England. There is a dish called the „Bedfordshire Clanger“ that seems kind of irritating to me. Dou you know what it is and have you ever eaten one yourself?
I’ve got no idea what that is! I’ve never heard of it.
It’s a dish made of pastry, with meat and potatoes in one end and jam in the other.
Alright, so a savoury-sweet thing. Didn’t know that’s from Bedfordshire. Amazing… I’ve never had it in my life! Sounds good though.
Let’s dive in: Can you give us a little presentation of who you are and what you do?
I’m Charlie Cunningham and I make acoustic music. It’s quite percussive, quite dynamic. I try and do nice melodies. It’s just acoustic guitar playing with my kind of style, which is a bit of a mix of things, really.
Is this your first time playing Germany?
No, I played Way Back When yesterday and I did a tour in February, my first headline tour. I did, like, six dates. And I supported Mighty Oaks on a big tour in November. I’ve been a few times to Germany, and I like it.
You’re one of those guitar players who uses flourishes and percussion to conjure up whole worlds of sound with just your instrument and your voice. Who are your idols and influences?
Guitar players: lots and lots. I lived in Spain for a bit, so I love guitar players like Paco de Lucia, Tomatito and Diego del Morao, these kind of people. I still like heavy bands like Botch and Coverge, that kind of dynamic, you know? That stuff’s amazing. I love Eric Clapton. People who sound like themselves when they play guitar. When you hear them and you know it’s them, I think that’s an amazing thing.
I wouldn’t have thought of Botch and Converge, to be honest.
It’s just that dynamic, having a drive. I don’t think that is necessarily why I sound like that, but I love that shit.
How did you come to making music?
I just always did, since I was little. As a kid, there was a counter in the house, I used to play on that. I’ve always been in that world, ever since I can remember.
So you have always planned on being a musician?
I think I was just always going to be. I didn’t think seriously about anything else.
You have released two EPs so far, the second one, Breather, came out in March. Is it just touring now or are you working on a follow-up?
Doing the festival thing, and then recording the third EP as well, which I will start doing next week, actually. It will come out by the end of the year. I don’t know what it is called yet, but I will let you know when I do.
In a review of Breather, Tom Jowett from the music blog The 405 had some harsh words for singer-songwriters. In what way do you consider yourself different from these „twenty-something whining shit-eaters“?
Yeah he did, didn’t he? That was fairly brutal. But I’m thirty-one, so that’s ok. [laughs] I’m just doing my own kind of thing. I don’t try and think too much about what other people are doing or what singer-songwriters should be. I play the guitar and sing the songs. It’s pretty basic stuff. I don’t think their shit-eaters, I think they’re alright. [laughs]
Do you have a personal favourite, this one singer-songwriter that inspires you?
I don’t know, really. Obviously, I love Bon Iver – would Justin be considered a singer-songwriter? That kind of stuff. Bonnie „Prince“ Billy. King Creosote. I’m a big fan of his, I toured with him. He’s great.
King Creosote also did an album with Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine…
Yeah, an amazing album!
Could you consider yourself doing this? Something more in the direction of electronic singer-songwriter?
What, with Jon Hopkins? I wish! No, absolutely, I can be up for doing anything. It’s just everything needs to be gradual. But definitely, I’ve got a few electronic-y bits in some of my tunes. After the next one, there might be slightly more. But it’s just a natural progression.
Do you have plans for a full-length?
I do, that’s next. I’m writing all the time. I try to be as active as I can over the next few years.
Now I want to do something we call „Quickies“: two things, you have to pick one of them. First: Guitar or singing?
[without hesitation] Guitar. Definitely.
Nick Drake or José González?
Wow. Blimey! That’s so hard. Maybe… I might give to José González. But Nick Drake’s incredible. That was naughty.
Festivals or living-room concerts?
I think festivals. The vibe is different. It’s an eclectic thing.
Have you already played living-room concerts?
Thanks so much and one last question: What would a perfect Friday evening look like to you?
Having had a good day, a productive day. If I’ve had a good day, I reckon a few drinks, a little bit of smoke. See my friends. You know, normal stuff. But if I had a good day, then I’m going to have a good night.