Charlie Faye on Necessary Journeys and Touring with “Ol’ Reliable”

June 14, 2016

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

I drove my Subaru Forester all over the country when I did my 10-month, 10-town tour. It’s not romantic, but it is very reliable! So I named it Ol’ Reliable.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

I’m big on eating healthy, so one of the most important things I do for myself is pack a cooler for the road. I bring healthy snacks and ingredients for making sandwiches or salads if I’m going to need a healthy meal when I’m driving through west Texas or somewhere more remote. Whenever I get to a city that has a health food store, I stock the cooler again. Oh, and I call ahead to hotels to make sure I can get a mini fridge in my room to re-freeze the ice packs and keep the food cool overnight.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

Some people are going to think this is terrible, but I NEVER willingly change my strings. I hate the sound of new strings. I’d say I break one maybe once every two years, and then I change them all. So, lucky for me, not a lot of my budget is spent there.

Where do you rehearse?

We rehearse a lot at my house in Austin. My dog Rufus is always around, and we’ve realized there are certain sounds he is really drawn to. Our guitar player Andre brought a cool little tube amp over one day and Rufus was totally fascinated by it, so much so that he was sniffing it and staring at it throughout the whole rehearsal.

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

The first song I ever wrote was called Last Kids In The Bar. It started “You and I, the last kids in the bar, two lights left up shining in a nighttime that was full of stars…” These days it’s hard to believe I was ever one of the last kids in any bar – but back then, I totally was.

Describe your first gig.

I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it – not my friends or family. It was in New York — I had just moved back there after I finished college. I was out at a bar one night and I randomly starting talking to this guy Kevin. He asked me what I did, and I answered, “I’m a musician,” which was honestly a real stretch at the time, but I felt cool saying it. Up until then I had really only played guitar in the safety of my own room. But he came back with, “Oh really? I book the bands here.” And he asked me to open for this guy Greg Garing, who later on became my musical mentor and singing partner. I was super nervous to get on stage. I’m sure I had a couple of drinks to give me some liquid courage. And it went alright. Not great, I’m sure – but the audience response was good enough to make me want to do it again.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

My last day job was as a music supervisor for an independent film called Windsor. It probably was my favorite day job I’ve ever had. I loved working with artists to find the right songs to fit the film, working with the director/producer to get him exactly the vibe he was going for in each scene, and then seeing the whole thing come together… It was a pretty amazing experience.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

That’s a tough one, because there are a lot of things I know now that really would have helped me then. I guess I’d say overall I wish I had known where to focus my energy better. I think I spent a lot of time worrying about things that didn’t really matter, and not enough on things that would have been really helpful for me in developing my career and just becoming a better musician. But honestly I don’t think I could have gotten to where I am now without all those years of fumbling through it. It was a necessary journey.

Charlie Faye & the Fayettes weren’t around during the ’60s, but this Austin trio are so good at building a groove rooted in that rich time, it’s as if they’re channelers. Actually, they are, but don’t think “nostalgia act”; both onstage and on their self-titled release, Charlie Faye & the Fayettes, they craft smart soul-pop that merges the swinging, swaying sound and style of ‘60s girl groups with a modern vibe that’s so current, they’re dancing to the forefront of a retro revival.

With the Fayettes, leader Charlie Faye has finally found the sonic sweet spot she started seeking even before her last album, 2013’s You Were Fine, You Weren’t Even Lonely, which became the chronicle of her breakup with producer Will Sexton as they recorded it. That one reached No. 16 on the Americana Music Association’s airplay chart and earned her a “Songwriter of the Week” designation from American Songwriter magazine’s website — not to mention an out-of-the-blue email from Grammy-winning artist and producer Peter Asher, who praised her work and added, “I look forward to … hearing what you do next.”

Fellow Austin-based singers BettySoo and Akina Adderley, both established artists in their own rights, join Faye in the Fayettes.  The trio’s shared height (they’re all within a half-inch of 5-foot-1) and distinct ethnicities (Jewish, Korean and African-American) just adds cute to their considerable charms.

Connect with Faye and the Fayettes online and on the road.