Charles Connolly makes melodic pop songs for the masses, writing and producing all the music himself. He’s been making his music available for the world to hear this year, and we caught up with him to chat about ‘Never Said Goodbye’ and understand more about his influences.
My music is rather diverse, and even within one song can change style or feel multiple times, but never - I hope - feels awkward or disjointed.
First up, tell us about yourself - what got you into music?
I’m from London and have lived here all my life. No tragic upbringing, no broken family and nothing calamitous to mention. Music had always been the reigning factor throughout my life and still is to this day. I have been in and out of little jobs for years but I realised my music had to come first.
To be honest it started almost from birth. My parents had a huge wooden sound system from the 70s and so there was always music playing - mainly sixties stuff, and particularly The Beatles. I wanted to be a Beatle. Failing that, I wanted to be a rockstar. As time grew on, I wanted to write. I knew I had something in me that hadn’t yet bloomed but a gut instinct that it would. So I started writing. Years later, here I am with a vast back catalogue of songs, all fully produced, and only this year I am ready to start sharing with the world.
I seem to pick things up quite easily and I seem to absorb so much around me, in terms of music and observation. I’ve been singing my whole life and am self taught on the guitar, bass and piano (and a bit of sax). Drums was the only thing I was actually formally taught - and it was how I actually started - at the age of nine! The other instruments came soon after. And then eventually the writing took hold.
Were there any particular bands or artists you took inspiration from?
Always a difficult one with me because, as I said, I absorb so much. My music is rather diverse, and even within one song can change style or feel multiple times, but never - I hope - feels awkward or disjointed. Although it all started with The Beatles and McCartney, it really stems all the way from Fred Astaire and Gershwin and goes all the way to Disclosure and Years and Years…! And so much in between.
It usually all sticks within pop, but as we all know, pop can change rather a lot through the years - and even within one particular year pop is always so diverse. I do also go for ambient music like Brian Eno, and also folk, jazz, classical, heavy rock, UK garage. So I absorb from everywhere and it sort of amalgamates as a congealed mess of me! Well, I hope not a mess.
This year’s offerings though - I have only gone public this year and I started with four brand new tracks - have been more modern and electronic, but still keeping my old vibe in a weird way. I love real instruments and voices! But I love the snap and sparkle of electronic synths and beats - hence I love to blend them.
How would you describe your musical style?
Again, difficult and I have sort of attempted this in the previous question, but I suppose very vaguely it would have to be called ‘alternative pop’. It blends the old with the new. It is pop, but it is a little more surprising and maybe original than most pop. I do try to make things different. I say “try”, but really I don’t try at all - I just do. It is mostly subconscious or even unconscious.
I never really think of the style when I make a song. It is just me. People seem to say many different things when hearing it. I ask people these days to suggest what genre a particular song is, and they struggle and then almost always say different answers to the others. You should all listen and tell me!
If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be?
Ooooh!!! I like that. I am not one for collaborating. Half the artists I have spoken to online seem to want to “collab” with me, but I am generally happy as a I am and I think genuinely better on my own in terms of writing. BUT! Given that opportunity I think it would have to be Paul McCartney. Several people have said from my earlier songs that I am like a modern McCartney. I feel it would be like working with an uncle.
The only problem is, I would be so struck by it that I don’t think I could come up with a single note!! We might fight over melodies though! I think I would also love to work with Chris Martin - such a lovely chap.
Tell us about your latest release ‘Never Said Goodbye’. What’s it about?
‘Never Said Goodbye’ is a story about a man - the narrator - leaving a woman, but she doesn’t understand why. The waltz is crooked and unique, in style, vibe and voice. It is orchestrated with the utmost precision, taste and sensitivity (he says!) - complete with horns and choir - but with a consistent deep beat and scrawny vocal line. How’s that for a summing-up!
I wrote and recorded the music for this in about an hour or two in the living room of my little flat, one afternoon in February, the day my girlfriend was going back to her hometown of Warsaw in Poland - me being in London. We have an unusual relationship where we see each other about half the year round but basically live in different countries. The song is not about myself and her though - our love is solid and very stable. I suppose I felt weird and disjointed when I wrote it - this comes through in the whole sound of it, I think. It feels dodgy and devious; conniving, almost.
I wanted to write something that was both modern and my more mature style, all built into one. I put on a funny scrawny voice for the lead vocal - almost like a black Fagin. For the chorus I decided it had to be a girl singing, so I sang it in a weird way, messed around with it a bit, and made myself sound realistically like a girl.
When did you write it and where did you record it?
February this year. In my living room - as with all my music. No vocal chamber/booth, no isolation foam, no studio, no one else at all. That’s just the way I like to do things.
How does ‘Never Said Goodbye’ represent you?
No song of mine represents me - that’s the bugger about me. Each song I make is entirely different, and I do want it to stay that way - otherwise to me it’s just dull. I think of creating music in the same way I think of listening to music. I don’t want to listen to the same sound again and again, so why on earth would I want to make the same sound…?
The only way I would say this represents me, is that it is original, fond and familiar, yet modern and fresh, all at the same time. I hope to do that with all my music.
What are your hopes for ‘Never Said Goodbye’?
I am hoping for someone rather high up in the industry to hear it and for a clanging bell to ring in their head and realise its potential, so I can finally start my real career as a professional writer and producer for the big dudes and dudettes. That is what I hope, that is not what I expect. The music industry is one hell of a dark and gruesome place, a little like a labyrinth. Everyone is lost, but for the very few who make it, there are wonders never even dreamt of by common man.
What else have you got coming up this year?
Not entirely sure, but I think next might be a ballad. We’ll see. I am also hoping for a possible Christmas song later on too.
Finally, if you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, when would it be and what would you say?
“Get shit done, pronto!” I should have got on the music scene five or six years ago. The songs mounted up but no one heard them!