Charlie Shafter

Charlie Shafter
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Sometimes you encounter a musical artist for a first time and find yourself experiencing a warm sense of déjà vu – not a feeling that you’ve heard it all before, but a feeling that you’ve reunited with a person you’ve known for ages, someone with whom you share a connection. That’s the vibe conjured up by Charlie Shafter, a young singer-songwriter with an old soul – and a knack for forging a connection with just about anyone who crosses paths with his songs.

On his self-titled debut album, the 26-year-old Shafter weaves ten richly-toned tales that recall iconic writers such as Townes Van Zandt and Elliott Smith, songs that range into acoustic blues and the grittier side of country-rock on a panoramic trek through blue-highway Americana. Shafter doesn’t write songs that grab you by the lapel and shake you into listening; they’re more likely to throw an arm around you and whisper their way into your consciousness. 

“I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a songwriter,” he says. “When I was a little kid, I’d listen to my parents’ records and they were mostly singer-songwriter type things. Those really made me appreciate what a good song was all about and made me want to do that – to write songs people would really be moved by.”

He succeeds in a big way on his debut. Buoyed by his affably gritty vocals and his warm, enveloping guitar tone, songs like “Sea Wall” and “Actor” wash over the listener, leaving a strong, sensual imprint long after their last notes resound. He takes a more direct approach on other tracks, like the gently finger-picked “Drunk on Desire” – which underscores the song’s hopeful plea for love – and a little bit of lustfulness on the side – with its playful melody.

On the other end of the sonic spectrum, “Dog on a Chain”(co-written with Ray Wylie Hubbard, who also lent his production talents to the project) finds Shafter mining the deeper end of both his vocal and emotive range in order to drive home the dark tones of the slide-and-organ laced bluesiness. That tune, a travelogue of cultural touchstones and sonic landmarks, finds him weaving down the dirt roads of memory, creating a picture that’s at once vivid and surreal.

“I hardly ever write an entire song about one thing,” he says. “I know what it all means, but when you look at it, it’s more like a collage than a picture. I can be writing a love song, but then throw in something that’s actually about my grandfather. I guess I like to let people fill in the blanks themselves – sometimes I can’t even do that for a couple years after I write a song.”

Shafter has had some time to fill in those blanks. While he’s lived in Texas for several years, Shafter actually cut his musical teeth in his home state of Illinois, first in cover bands specializing in standard fare like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, then gradually pushing the envelope by exploring the corners of his record collection – artists like Leon Russell and Tom Waits (both of which can be heard lurking in the corners of Shafter’s own compositions). He also came to appreciate the sounds of the Lone Star State – particularly smart, hard-scrabble artists like Hubbard, who’s emerged as something of a mentor.

“I moved down here after high school because my brother in law had a band down here and it was the only place I’d ever heard of where you could actually make a living playing the music you wanted to play,” he says. “I never wrote a song about Texas or being a Texan and I probably never will –– but it’s had a profound effect, for sure. Just seeing these guys and how much they know about music, all kinds of music, not just the stuff you might think at first glance, that’s been really inspiring.”

That inspiration can be heard throughout the disc. Yes, you can feel the rich earth of the hill country rising up through some of its darker grooves, but there’s also a sense of light-heartedness that comes with the troubadour’s territory – like “Big Debut,” which calls to mind “Big Rock Candy Mountain” in its jaunty delivery of a message that’s deeper than one might think at first listen. Each of the album’s ten tracks, in fact, reveals new facets with repeated spins – something that can probably be attributed to Shafter’s stated desire to make a mark more than a paycheck.

“Most of the songs come out of a struggle, really. I think anything hard to do is indicative of something that will last,” he says. “I don’t necessarily see my songs as something that will make money, but I see them as steps on a road that will last, potentially, my entire life. I want to write songs that I will be happy playing when I am 60, not songs I’ll look at it five years and say ‘what was I thinking?’”

Date Venue City State Note
No Tour Dates Available
09/11/2008 - Charlie Shafter and The Gnomes to be at Rockin’ S - Read More
08/23/2008 - Texas ‘folk rock’ band to perform tonight - Read More
07/06/2007 - Charlie Shafter brings folksy sounds to San Angelo - Read More
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Average Rating : 0              Total Reviews: 32

Charlie Shafter   11/30/2008            
This is the outright best band to come along in years! If they're ever near you don't miss it!! Original as hell aand they'll rock your socks off!
Charlie Shafter   10/21/2008            
This was one of the most incredible shows I have ever seen. They came onstage, there were smoke bombs, laser lights flashing, it was like Pink Floyd or something, I mean we were all sort of surprised, but immediately they went right into it and BAM they turned up the heat and left it NAILED there for over an hour. The band was so tight, it was unreal. They mixed everything, salsa beats, fiddle, lap steel, they were way beyond anything we had ever seen. The suits were a bit much but hey, they are all about the image of rock which is fine by me if they keep playing like that.
Charlie Shafter   10/12/2008            
CJ in Texas
Their album is awesome!!!! If you ever get a chance to see these guys live DO IT!!!! They put on one heck of a show!!! Adam Cline is awesome on the guitar & Joel Drestadt is a fantastic drummer. Charlie Shafter has the greatest vocals & Clayton Freeman will amaze you. So go see a show, grab a Shiner & get ready to rock! I'm a fan for life!!!! Luv you guys!!!
Charlie Shafter   10/06/2008            
I love you guys! Everyone who has heard you in Colorado loves you too. We fight over your CD.
Charlie Shafter   05/30/2008            
As good as song writing as there is out there! Jesus and James Dean says a LOT about today's world.
Charlie Shafter   05/20/2008            
Joe Hyde
"Jesus & James Dean" and "Medicine Man" make this one of the best records I have heard in 2008. Great voice, incredible lyrics, excellent musicianship. Worth every penny.
Charlie Shafter   03/02/2008            
One of the most talented bands you'll hear!
Charlie Shafter   02/07/2008            
"Now your all out of bread and your goin to the store, you fead the ducks, the last slice, now they're comin back for more." - Medicine Man "I broke a picture of someone I love, sometimes bad memoires need a good shove" - Big City Baby Uncommonly great lyrics put to great music. Well off the beaten path, and well worth listening.
Charlie Shafter   01/27/2008            
Amazing talent!! If you haven't seen them... you are missing one hell of a show. Charlie's song writing abilites and vocals are out of this world. Looking for cd #3 guys!!
Charlie Shafter   03/06/2007            
Velcroe Kid
These guys are amazing. So creative and insanely talented. I own orange and can't wait to get their new cd. Anyone out there who doesn't know who these guys are should definately pick up their albums. Their not only good at what they do, but their very nice guys also.
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