Following up the breakthrough of his 2009 album, 'Hobo', a No. 1 success in Europe and Canada, 'Running Still' finds Charlie Winston and his richly talented band in collaboration with producer Tony Berg (Aimee Mann, Michael Penn) to reach new emotional and sonic colours.
"My sole objective on the album was to be able to engage people's feet first and slowly rise to the mind," he says. "So by the time they get absorbed in the lyrics, they're fully engaged but realize there's something more going on."
Opener 'Hello Alone' makes for an inviting call, a shared solitude, if you will, that's at the root of the art experience. But the next song, 'Speak to Me', makes it clear that no one should limit Winston in terms of expectations, the all-vocal beat-boxed tour de force showing one of his many facets, with more to come. The snappy 'Happiness' offers soulful yearning, 'She Went Quietly' is a searching piano ballad (inspired by a heart-wrenching tale of separation involving his great aunt and, to lesser though crucial extent, the movie Million Dollar Baby). 'Until You're Satisfied' is '80s-referencing pop-funk celebrating Winston's Prince fandom. 'Lift Me Gently' is a stand out track for Peter Gabriel - "An amazing song, and possibly the best Charlie has ever written..". 'Wild Ones' is charging blues-rock, 'Rockin' in the Suburbs' is all vibrant energy . and that's just part of the picture. Not a surprise given that Winston also, with natural ease, refers to such diverse inspirations as Nick Cave, Steve Reich and Jacques Brel (and T.S. Eliot, Wim Wenders and Ingmar Bergman, for that matter) in discussing the album.
"It's near impossible for me to write in one style only," says singer/songwriter Charlie Winston. "And today in my generation of songwriting, there's a bit of a lack for me. People have forgotten the power of song, since the technology swept through, and how it carries. Coming from parents who are songwriters, that's my No. 1 thing, really."
That latter reference would be to the '60s English folk duo Jeff and Julie. And arguably, Running Still - Winston's third, following Hobo and his 2006 debut Make Way - is the album to which his whole life has been leading. Winston was raised by his parents in their small East Anglia 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. He says he was the "cheerful" one of the four children, responding to his father's coercion to entertain.
"He bribed me to learn how to juggle and ride unicycles and all that at eight years old!" he says. "My brothers Tom and Jo had their own band, so I was watching them do their thing. At 10 years old both my sister and I got piano lessons and my musical world started to be developed."
Charlie's teenage dream was to be an actor, but music pulled at him. His first band, when he was 15, had a brass section for which he got into writing parts. A love for all sorts of jazz intensified - complementing what had been a pre-teen obsession with hip-hop, through which he learned to beat-box, as heard on "Speak to Me", "Wild Ones" and "Hello Alone".
Listen to 'Lift Me Gently' here: