Acclaimed Chicago-based blues rocker Michael Charles will be hitting The Vat stage April 6th.
Charles’ musical pilgrimage started over five decades ago in his birthplace – Melbourne, Australia.
“I really don’t remember not playing,” he recalls of his early beginnings in exploring music. “My dad played guitar – he didn’t play as a professional, but he had a passion for music and he had a great ear.
“He could pretty much just pick up the guitar and figure things out.
“So that’s where it all started for me – there was always a guitar around the house, so as a child I would just pick up this guitar – and it would be bigger than me,” he added with a laugh. “He taught me all of my first chords, and all of that. I also remember as clear as day, when I was about seven or eight years old, the first time I was on a stage and playing in front of people.
“I got such a buzz out of doing that. And I remember it like it was yesterday – I looked up at my dad, and I said I’m going to do this for the rest of my life. He looked at me and said, ‘Good’!”
Charles has pretty much never looked back, and to date has recorded about 36 albums and enjoyed tremendous success both in his homeland and the United States, where he now resides.
“There are no regrets – I love what I do.”
Charles also recalls when he started getting older, he’d listen to the radio in the kitchen and try to mimic what he was hearing.
“Back then, it was people like The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, The Rolling Stones, Cream and all these guys who were all blues-based musicians. So I would be listening to the blues and mimicking these guys.
“As it evolved and I got older, I wanted to figure out who influenced these guys who were influencing me.”
He discovered the genre’s legendary masters and he was most certainly hooked.
“Although I do love all sorts of music – when we are travelling on the road, I put my iPod on, my music is all over the place. From blues, to rock to heavy metal to even opera,” he explains. “I love all kinds of music. But my choice of what I do on stage is blues with a touch of rock.”
Charles formed his first official band when he was about 16.
“I had no interest in sports, I had no interest in being at school. Music was all I wanted to do from such an early age, and I really feel blessed. I also don’t take it for granted. To be able to know what you really want to do at such an early age, and put yourself on track with that – I was so blessed and so lucky.”
As mentioned, it wasn’t long before Charles was causing quite the stir back home – enjoying a successful musical crusade of touring, recording and numerous television and radio appearances.
Eventually he landed an invitation from Buddy Guy’s management to appear at the infamous Legends in Chicago. And after many trips back and forth, Charles decided to make America his home.
He worked the Chicago blues circuit performing with Guy, Phil Guy, James Cotton, Eddy Clearwater, Junior Wells, George Baze as well as touring with blues legend Jimmy Dawkins.
Through the next 20 years, and now an eight time Grammy-elected artist, Charles enjoyed being featured in television and radio broadcasts and music magazines, along with gracing countless stages and pages including Chicago Blues Fest, Philadelphia Jazz and Blues Fest, Windy City Live Television, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times.
Although there was no ‘plan b’, his father did encourage him as a young fellow to have something to fall back on. So he did an apprenticeship as a mechanic. “That was my other love – I loved cars.
“And I’ll tell you what – it’s been really handy when we are out on the road touring,” he laughs. “It goes hand in hand with my job.”
In the meantime, he’s on the perfect path.
“I think for me, I call the blues genuine, real music. Most of the songs we listen to that blues performers play and write, it comes from their lives. I’ve been writing songs for so long, and I’d say 98 per cent of my songs are things that have happened to me in my life.
“I feel that when you write about something that you have experienced, or things that you know about, it just becomes a genuine song.”