It’s not often in post-millennium times that an 11-year-old guitar player has his life changed through hearing an iconic 1960s soul song. Charlie Oxford was woodshedding on Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan CDs when he first heard Sam Cooke’s “That’s Where It’s At.” And that 1960s buttery soulfulness has become a main ingredient in Oxford’s home-cooked, modern soul-pop. His... more
It’s not often in post-millennium times that an 11-year-old guitar player has his life changed through hearing an iconic 1960s soul song. Charlie Oxford was woodshedding on Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan CDs when he first heard Sam Cooke’s “That’s Where It’s At.” And that 1960s buttery soulfulness has become a main ingredient in Oxford’s home-cooked, modern soul-pop. His self-titled debut is sweet and simmering. It’s comfort food for the modern listener, tracing a line from Sam Cooke to pop contemporaries like James Morrison and John Mayer.
In the fall of 2011, Oxford completed a Kickstarter campaign and raised an impressive $10,000 to fund his debut. The Nashville-based artist has grown his fan base organically through live performances and word-of-mouth exposure. A highlight for him was performing on the BMI Songwriter Stage at the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans, as well as performing twice at the annual BMI Key West Songwriters Festival. Oxford’s album was produced by Adam Smith (Jason Reeves, Jordin Sparks, Kara DioGuardi, Danny Gokey, L.E.D., Krystal Meyers, The Veronicas, Lovedrug, Megan & Liz, and Britt Nicole) and recorded at Welcome to 1979 Studios and the Evil 8-bit Robot Factory in Nashville. The album features a stunning array of Nashville’s finest musicians playing with sympathetic grace, imbuing each song with just the right dash of musical vitality.
Charlie Oxford is an album of love and self-discovery. “I write love songs and songs about finding yourself and getting up and doing something with your life,” Oxford explains. Though he showed promise early on as a gifted guitarist, it would be years before his creativity blossomed into singing and songwriting. “I remember being in Nashville thinking ‘Charlie what the hell are you doing with your life?!” he says with both earnestness and laughter. In a fevered burst of creativity, he penned 50 songs, many through collaborating with his ace producer Adam Smith. Oxford and Smith handpicked 10 of the finest tracks to comprise Charlie Oxford.
The album’s opener, “Waiting For,” cooks with poignancy and purposefulness. Oxford sings with honeyed urgency and plays searing blues guitar with authenticity and authority. The track grooves with pent-up but polished musicality, punctuated by a taut horn section and positively redemptive Hammond B3 organ playing. “This is song about seeking out what’s holding you back—be it a day job you hate or your lack of confidence—and freeing yourself to pursue your dreams,” Oxford says.
The goose-bump-inducing “Letting Go” begins with moony atmospherics and then swoops up to liberated love transcendence with a soaring chorus. “That’s about being humble and fighting selfishness to embrace love,” Oxford says. The quaint folk of “You & I” is about the flood of light that streams in when you knock down the walls obscuring true love. “It’s a letter about how afraid I am to lose love,” Oxford confides.
If Oxford’s writing is confessional, it’s because he discovered his singing and songwriting while in college when he was coming of age. “It was so therapeutic expressing myself in song, it was like conversations with my soul. That period helped define who I am,” he says. Charlie Oxford grew up in Dallas listening to the local oldies station with his dad. As a searching artist, Oxford explored classic 1960s soul and blues rock, the elastic pop-funk of Prince, and the refined modern sensibilities of aforementioned singer-songwriters James Morrison and John Mayer. From age 12, he began his journey, making aesthetic connections to tie these diverse but refreshingly complimentary influences into the distinct sound he’s developed on Charlie Oxford. His time spent in college in New Orleans—he was there when Katrina hit—was extremely influential on his musical self; both the city and the musicians there helped to shape Oxford.
“It wasn’t until college when I said, ‘Okay I can do this’ that music really become a calling,’” Oxford says thoughtfully. “To hold the CD in my hands justifies the process of growth. It feels so good to have done this record. I’m so proud of it, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone and show my gratitude for their support.”