Interview: The Preservation of Humanity in Charlie Mars’ ‘Times Have Changed’

‘Occasions Have Modified’ is a portray of singer/songwriter Charlie Mars’ new life within the countryside with what he has realized about himself and his expression of music.
Stream: ‘Occasions Have Modified’ – Charlie Mars

There’s symmetry between a product and when its producer is human. It’ll have flaws and scuffs, but you prefer it. Why? As a result of it’s aged, and it’s imperfect, and it has humanity in it.

In the hills of rural Mississippi is Yalobusha County, a spot the place Charlie Mars now resides. The 49-year-old nation people artist has skilled many existence by all of the totally different locations he’s been in. From residing in Oxford, Mississippi for almost all of his grownup life then shifting south to Taylor, Mars slowly left the town till he got here to Yalobusha. Nonetheless, this transition from the town to the nation wasn’t as clear-cut because it appears. Actually, Mars even lived in Sweden for a while.

“I might say I’ve had a fairly cosmopolitan life. I lived in New York for 4 years, I lived in Sweden for some time, and I’ve traveled everywhere in the world.”

Times Have Changed - Charlie Mars
Occasions Have Modified – Charlie Mars

Mars describes how he grew up in a small city and wished to see the world. This album Occasions Have Modified is his ninth since his first studio album in 1996. With historical past within the business and life expertise Mars speaks by his album differently than earlier than.

“This album is about taking a look at the place I’m from, the individuals round me and settling in that exploration and celebration in a manner that I wouldn’t have once I was 20.”

The album options 10 songs on it with a mixture of wit and knowledge on Mar’s previous and new life in Yalobusha County. From an honorable point out to his canine Kudzu on “Silver Greenback” to a heartfelt reflection in “Gotta Lotta Love,” to a narrative involving Jimmy Buffet in “Tahitian Telephone”— Mars’ character shines by with a newfound intention.

Charlie Mars © David McClister
Charlie Mars © David McClister


He sums up the album by asking a easy query that holds a deeper that means:

“Would you reasonably get an e mail or a letter?”

Nearly all of individuals would need to obtain a letter. Why? It’s tangible — one thing you possibly can maintain onto reasonably than lose in digital reminiscence. Mars has an affinity for conserving this sense of humanity in his music.

“In case you don’t have some humanity related to the fabric world, then there’s a religious loss. I’m simply attempting to maintain that letter alive.”

With Atwood Journal, Charlie Mars provides considerate perception on his newest album Occasions Have Modified and the knowledge he’s gained by creating it.

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Times Have Changed - Charlie Mars

Atwood Journal: A whole lot of the album is impressed by your new residence in Yalobusha County and your canine Kudzu. May you paint an image of the place you’re presently residing?

Charlie Mars: Throughout the shutdown I acquired a canine, which turned out to be a extremely aggressive safety breed. I didn’t know if he must be in a group of individuals and my brother had seen this various housing possibility, which was a furnished-out Quonset hut on 40 acres. It’s the center of nowhere on a gravel highway in Yalobusha County and now Kudzu’s very glad. For me, I by no means lived within the nation and that’s been an adjustment from a university city to being right here. It’s been about two years and I’ve realized lots. I take pleasure in bodily labor and with it, you find yourself figuring out the individuals round you effectively. They’ve been serving to me discover ways to handle the land and alter to this new tempo of life.

Earlier than this, I did what any musician would do in a university city—I went out and noticed associates and other people on a regular basis—I lived proper in town sq.—a whole lot of it was a distraction. I imply, you possibly can name it what you need—distractions or issues to refill your time—however now they’re gone. It’s an attention-grabbing transition. This album is about taking a look at the place I’m from, the individuals round me and settling in that exploration and celebration in a manner that I wouldn’t have once I was 20.

These are nice beginning factors as a result of trying on the album you see a whole lot of gratitude mirrored in “Gotta Lotta Love” and “Nation House.” Even “Silver Greenback” talks about your neighbor serving to you and this group you’ve change into part of. May you construct inform me extra about this?

Charlie Mars: Whenever you transfer out into the nation, you’re residing the same life to everybody round you and so they’re all having to do some issues that it’s important to do. That isn’t essentially the case once you stay in an enormous metropolis. There’s a sure spirit amongst the folks that stay within the nation that you simply begin to have that in widespread with. If one thing goes unsuitable, you solely have just a few individuals that may enable you out and it’s good to have some individuals in your group, since you’re in it collectively. One my neighbors has chickens and so he provides me eggs, and I develop meals in my backyard, and I give him numerous tomatoes and peppers and squash. One thing about that may be very refreshing.

There’s no American Categorical transaction the place I’ve to enter a PIN code. Human beings lived that sure manner for, from what I perceive, hundreds of years, and it’s solely been within the final 100 years that every thing’s totally different. There’s a blood reminiscence once you begin doing sure issues, like you’ve this muscle that you simply’ve by no means exercised and once you begin to train it, you’re feeling rejuvenated, as a result of you understand, the muscle just isn’t in atrophy.


Charlie Mars © David McClister
Charlie Mars © David McClister

I actually like that perspective and I bear in mind you talked about needing to disconnect to reconnect together with your humanity. Now residing within the nation, how has this modified your perspective and religious journey? How does this play out all through the album, and even reflection in “Occasions Have Modified”?

Charlie Mars: I imply would you reasonably get a letter or an e mail?

A letter.

Charlie Mars: That’s form of the entire thing. In case you don’t have some humanity related to the fabric world, then there’s a religious loss the place every thing devolves right into a digital nothingness. I’m simply attempting to maintain that letter alive. There’s a DNA imprint that I really feel is being misplaced and it’s important to carry onto. It’s meta-physical. That’s the spirit of it, and to disclaim the spirit is to disclaim an intuition to protect worth by humanity. There’s symmetry between a product and when its producer is human. It’ll have flaws and scuffs. It’s like seeing a wall the place the paint is chipping off of it. And also you prefer it. Why? As a result of it’s aged, and it’s imperfect, and it has humanity to it. We’re imperfect and we’re growing older, and our ache is flaking off. There’s an expression of an individual once you get a letter and see somebody’s penmanship or once you maintain a vinyl file there’s one thing tangible that you may really feel—decisions of colours and design. There’s one thing spiritually unfulfilling about digital expertise and apps. All of us must discover ways to combine our lives with that evolution however in my view, we’re only a bunch of guinea pigs which have gotten off the trail after which in 50 years, there’ll be writing in regards to the bunch of squirrel brains we had been.

I really like that perception of conserving music timeless. Even in “Nation House” you mirror on unity and gratitude all through historical past in your private life. I really like the road the place you say, “My grandfather taught me about the best way, the reality, and the life.” Are you able to inform me extra about this forgiveness and beauty you sing about together with classes you’ve realized from a time earlier than expertise.

Charlie Mars: My grandparents embodied a whole lot of issues that we simply talked about. They grew up in small cities, one facet of my grandparents had been cattle farmers. They had been hard-working and sincere individuals who went to church on Sunday, and lived what they believed in forgiveness, kindness, placing others first and believing that there was one thing larger than themselves. Not getting too huge on your britches, staying rooted in the place you’re from, and honoring your elders. I used to be only a younger, rebellious punk in my teenagers and 20s. I positively put a few of it on the again burner and thought they had been simply quaint. More often than not that I made a decision to disregard their knowledge, I paid a worth that was painful. Why was it painful? As a result of it was unsuitable. I beloved my grandparents, and my dad and mom additionally and was simply humbled. Whenever you’re humbled, you’re prepared to hear. I altered my life in the direction of a narrower set of behaviors and in doing that, I skilled a wider, soulful expertise that was by no means detrimental.


Charlie Mars © David McClister
Charlie Mars © David McClister

Nicely, “Someplace on a Mountain” is an instance of this, and I loved studying your story? You bought fired from a breakfast place, proper?

Charlie Mars: I consider it was known as the “Home of Sourdough Pancakes”, and I received fired once I was 20. I used to be residing in Jackson Gap, and it was the summer season between my junior and senior yr of school. I lived in worker housing and the proprietor was all the time making enjoyable of my accent. I most likely wasn’t the most effective worker to start with. On the finish of the summer season, he fired me and I used to be reflecting on that lately once I was in Telluride, Colorado on a mountain. I used to be simply pondering how I had been out west a few years earlier than and misplaced a job. Now right here I used to be, sitting on this mountain in Colorado. And that’s form of how the tune took form.

The primary line says, “I used to be with my father/ He pulled over by the facet of the highway/He stated you don’t have to return/You’ll be able to simply hang around.” However you understand, I used to be younger and searching for one thing and searching for a mountain to climb.” I might have stayed near my household, or I might have stayed in sure relationships, or I might have stayed in among the issues that most likely would have introduced me a greater life. However I didn’t. There’s the prodigal journey and that was simply going out and tasting the fruits of timber and realizing that I received to return residence.


It’s superior how one can reconnect with your self and the folks that got here earlier than you and the values they’ve taught you. I additionally actually take pleasure in your items “Don’t You Need to Know Me,” “Chilly Shoulder,” and “Simply to See you Smile” since you discuss this human situation and all of the complexities that include it. I do know you collaborated with Dan Kaminsky and David Bourne – might you stroll me by these collaborations?

Charlie Mars: The Dan Kaminsky tune began after we met within the Bluebird Cafe. I had simply determined to begin writing songs with different individuals in Nashville. On the time, I used to be looking for a method to tour much less as a result of it was placing a pressure on my private life. Dan Kaminsky was the primary person who I ever wrote one other tune with, and we wrote that tune in a single sitting. I additionally know that Alison Krauss recorded it as a result of he performed in Union Station together with her. I by no means heard the model that she recorded so perhaps it’ll come out however that was actually cool.

“Don’t You Need to Know Me” is about having been in some relationships and simply commenting on what can occur for one to be good, and thru that truly figuring out any individual. That line, “I’m bored with residing in my head, I need to love you from my coronary heart as a substitute”. Anyone who’s ever been residing of their head, it by no means appears to be that nice for individuals. Dwelling from their coronary heart, it appears to deliver that success.


That want for vulnerability is damaged down very well. “To See you Smile” was written with David Bourne, right?

Charlie Mars: Sure, he was any individual that was part of a whole lot of the journey the final 5 years of my life. I slept on his sofa in Nashville. He ended up getting married and had a toddler, and I moved by some issues. I used to smoke pot lots and I gave that up. There have been a whole lot of issues I used to be doing to manage that I used to be capable of let go of. One of many issues that occurs once you clear up is you understand that there are individuals alongside the best way which can be gone now. You don’t know when somebody is leaving your life and that’s what the tune is about.


Listening to you discuss that actually brings the sense of humanness again to the tune. You sing “Jesus change this wretched coronary heart of mine” and acknowledging how issues change and other people with it. To shut, I need to go into your tales with “Fats Dad” and “My Tahitian Telephone” — are you able to inform me what lead you to those items and producing them?

Charlie Mars: Rising up within the South, I’ve recognized a whole lot of guys who’re like Tony Soprano meets Santa Claus. They received a whole lot of swag, they’re flexing arduous, and you like them for it. Each area and each cultural group can relate in a manner. I performed it for my Mexican good friend and the dad goes, “El jefe!” In case you’re Italian you’ve “The Godfather”, should you’re Mexican you’ve “El Jefe” and should you’re from the South you’ve “Fats Dad.” Whenever you see individuals with huge boats or flying planes it’s arduous to not be like “I want I had a ship or aircraft.” It’s not a painful envy however I feel “Fats Dad” and “Tahitian Telephone” are each like ‘I’m down right here and also you’re up there, and I want that I used to be up there.’ However as soon as once more, it’s figuring out that received’t deliver me happiness. It’s like a shiny object in entrance of a child, and also you wave it in entrance of him and he desires it. It’s figuring out that but additionally celebrating the truth that another person is there. Like I’m down with Jimmy Buffet or the “fats dad.” I didn’t need the album to be melancholy, so I needed to lighten it up.

Jimmy Buffet is from Mississippi and the forged of men that impressed “Fats Dad” from the folks that I do know. The man from the “Fats Dad” cowl is certainly one of my associates whose made it in life and he’s holding a fish on a ship. In life I need to succeed and try to be like these guys, however that’s not likely my final purpose. It’s to symbolize myself emotionally in tune after which hopefully make sufficient cash to maintain doing it once more.


The writing in “Fats Dad” is de facto satirical and I preferred trying on the writing.

Charlie Mars: It’s written from his daughter’s perspective; you understand they’re rolling with their fats dad and simply speaking about it. “Once we roll, we be bangin’ Lil Uzi/Headin’ to a city down in that SEC/Daddy’s received a field within the stadium/So mama might have a toilet and I might have a coloured TV.” In case you’re from Mississippi and the South everybody is aware of these characters.

That’s superior, I take pleasure in listening to in regards to the inspiration behind this. Going again to “My Tahitian Telephone,” might you go extra intimately in regards to the story behind that?

Charlie Mars: Nicely, I had obtained a name from Jimmy Buffet as a result of he had wished me to play him in his Broadway musical. He began with “Nicely I’m from Mississippi and also you’re from Mississippi, what else ya received?” and he was form of a bullet, and I admired that. In any case, he informed me to name him again on his Tahitian cellphone as a result of he was in Tahiti on the time. And I used to be pondering, ‘Nicely I want I had a Tahitian cellphone’. As a musician who seems to be as much as somebody like Jimmy Buffet who has tens of millions of {dollars}, I sing “Oh Jimmy, I do know it sounds humorous/However it’s a very good factor you possibly can’t see the opposite finish of this cellphone/’Trigger you’d end up a center aged man/Sleeping at the back of a van/Making an attempt to economize, begin a household, and discover a residence.” So, it’s that reflection on ‘Hey you’ve all this, need to spare some for me?”


That’s such a cool story and interplay. I really like how that impressed your tune. Nicely, if there’s the rest you’d like to speak about or future exhibits, be happy to!

Charlie Mars: Nope, you coated just about every thing.

Nicely, I loved chatting with you and studying extra in regards to the album. Thanks on your time, Charlie!

Charlie Mars: No downside, have a very good remainder of your day. Goodbye!

You too, goodbye.

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Times Have Changed - Charlie Mars

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