Charlie Winston grew up, with his folk-musician parents and his musical siblings, in a Suffolk hotel which he describes as “Fawlty Towers, but with a family” -- with two bars and a ballroom, hosting a constant stream of musical, theatrical and comedy performers. Such an environment had a great impact on Charlie giving him a deep love for the performing arts and entertainment whilst nurturing his musical talents.
At the age of eight he learned to play the drums, before turning his hand to the piano when he was ten and two years later writing his first songs. Charlie’s teenage dream was to be an actor, but music pulled at him. At 16 he followed brother Tom to music studies in London amid a vast array of students, he being the youngest. The oldest? “An old Jamaican guy, 72, who was a terrible trumpeter!” he says. “For me it was like home, used to odd characters around the hotel. My complete goal at the time was to become the best jazz pianist in the world, which is a little high. But nonetheless, good to have that focus.”
Ambition, then, was not a deficit. The campus also sported a dance school and Winston made contacts there and wrote music for some programs. He also, not much later, wrote a “little trio piece” for the London Symphony and “realized my calling was in composition as opposed to improvisation. That became everything to me.”
Next came a three-year stint in Baxter, the band fronted by his brother Tom Baxter (Charlie, Tom and sister Vashti Anna all use their middle names as stage names), learning the ropes of the pop life. Approaching 21, though, he needed a break and traveled to India for a month alone, returning to London to concentrate on writing music for theater, but quickly sliding in to the dual role of performing music as well as composing for stage productions before his brother recruited him back, this time often giving Charlie the opening slots on his shows. It was while recording Baxter sessions at Real World Studios that Winston met Peter Gabriel and a bond formed. A publishing deal allowed Winston to record ‘Make Way’ (released 2009).
So he set to writing fresh material while continuing the promotion of ‘Hobo’, plus his travels and explorations - coming into the start of the new album process with a full 28 songs ready to go. That’s where producer Tony Berg (Beck, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Michael Penn, Aimee Mann, Ozomatli) and his expertise came in.
“I sat with him in pre-production week and went through everything. We talked about each song and it was very clear on most of them. We both understood that we striving for greatness. ‘The Great Conversation’ is the one that hooked him in, a whole commentary on what I’m striving for. As an artist if there’s one thing I’m obliged to do, one thing I have a duty to do, it’s create good work and at the right moment, produce work people can get excited about. If I can’t bring forward an album or even a couple of songs people can get excited about, there’s no point in even a discussion of making another record. Then I’m just wasting people’s time -- which is embarrassing to me, and for everybody else.”