Charity-Rose Turner is a drummer and singer/songwriter whose family background in music inspired her from a young age to pursue an ongoing career in music. Her light, accessible take on folk music has seen her top the triple j Unearthed charts with ‘Into The Stream’, a single from her last independently released EP. Following the success that single Charity was approached for licensed use of her song by the TV show ‘Winners & Losers’, a result that helped her set up publishing contacts and make a bit of money. As a multi-instrumentalist, Turner does most of the work on her records alone. She manages her own bookings and recordings, writes and records herself, and designs the release herself. Jake from MusicNSW talked to her about servicing her followup single ‘Home Again’, and life as an independent artist.
You’ve taken a pretty individual path toward becoming a singer/songwriter, having spent some time as a session drummer in LA. Talk us through how you decided to do your own thing…
I was at a fork in the road here in Oz, a bit tired of the everyday and wanted to try something new out of my comfort zone. That was LA. I had fun, wrote a bit, drummed a bit, hung out with some amazing creatives and had epic adventures up the coast and in the desert. The coast and desert were my saving grace in that town! I’ve been writing songs since I was six and drumming since about then too, so the independent singer songwriter/drummer is a part of me. My path has been a bit windy and steep at times, like most musos, but the personal satisfaction you get from a small success tastes sweet and it gives you something more to write about.
You primarily seem to work in the region of folk/pop. What is it about this genre that particularly appeals to you?
In a world full of disposable pop, there needs to be some honest music that reflects life and the journey that surrounds it. This is where the ‘folk’ comes in. So many real and inspiring game changers and fabulous writers were folk artists.
I guess the appeal of folk pop is that balance – crafting something which has substance whilst hopefully delivering it to a broadish audience, hoping it resonates on some level. Do you have some heroes who do that kind of thing?
Yeah definitely. There are some classic heroes of mine including Joni Mitchell and Cat Stevens right through to the more modern artists like Tracy Chapman, Ani DiFranco, PJ Harvey and Lissie (more folk rock than pop). They have done wonders and seem to cut through the bullshit but still have appeal for a pop culture audience craving something real.
What inspires you to write most often?
Being immersed in nature. I lived for a while in the far North West of Australia, and I feel like I have a clarity there that I don’t get anywhere else. For me there is freedom in wide open spaces to write. Also being surrounded by other artists. It’s inspiring being surround by other artists, learning, sharing and collaborating. It’s motivating. Being on the roller coaster of life. Relationships and friendships from the past, present and future, seem to provide fuel for me. I once had Dave Higgins tell me, “You want to write for a new album, then break up with your girlfriend.” Funny in retrospect, but true. There’s nothing like emotional turmoil to inspire one to write.
You really are completely independent – you write, record, and play almost everything yourself. When you’re done, you mix and even design the artwork yourself!
I’m an independent soul in many ways and yes I do record a lot of instruments in the studio myself. My latest single released at the end of April, ‘Home Again’ had Chris Collins and myself do all the instrumentals. I’m happy to shop it out also, you can never stop learning from other musos and producers.
What are the specific challenges facing an independent artist? How do you manage to move forward whilst doing so much of the work yourself?
It’s a fine balance I think. The challenges are to not become stale, since you are responsible for the business side of your art too. That can be really dry at times, and feels a lot like work. Trying to combine the creative and the business is a juggling act, sometimes one that is manageable and at other times overwhelming. I think my downfall in this area is that I’m not a shameless self promoter, as an independent artist you need to have some thick skin and a lot of personal motivation to promote yourself. I’m still learning that and how to move forward. It’s a process and it’s constant.
You enjoyed some success when your song Sailing Alone (feat. Claire Bowditch) topped Triple J’s Unearthed website, and you got a sync deal for television for the song.
I had two tracks off my latest EP, “Sailing Alone”, which were synched here in Oz which was fabulous. The track ‘Into The Stream’ went to the top of the Triple J Unearthed pop charts and got me the synchonisation deals through Level 2 Music.
Can you tell us about what you think makes that song special, and how that success changed things for you?
‘Into the Stream’ is a pretty simple song on many levels, about that one special person you can take on the world with and at the end of the day be so happy just spend one more night with them even if the odds are against you. It’s a small success, but I guess gave me a little more faith in myself and my ability as a songwriter, particularly at a time when I had lost faith.
What do you ideally want for your music in the future, and do you have a plan as to how to go about achieving it?
I want to be writing and collaborating more with like minded songwriters. I will have another EP on the cards shortly. I’d love to do some more festival slots later this year, I did a few awesome ones last year with the Waifs and Eskimo Joe, and really enjoyed the vibes. I think the placements were really helpful in terms of audience reach and paying the bills, so will pursue that avenue with a publishing deal. I’ll continue to make music, travelling, writing and collaborating and let my music speak for itself.