Chuck Charles is the AKA of Bigfellas co-founder Charlie Recksieck. Founded in 2002, Bigfellas is known for their bawdy tune “I Wish That I Were Gay” and their offbeat banjo cover of "Mr. Blue Sky" by Electric Light Orchestra.
A debut Chuck Charles album was released in October 2020, Hiya, featuring 14 new (or at least unrecorded) songs and a cover of the Killers “Read My Mind.” "Although the album format is dead or dying, there really is a progression from top to bottom. It starts off about what might seem like more trivial concerns, going from praising TV to shopping to travel, then graduates to talking about Bob Dylan, then government surveillance. The back half of the album are love, breakup songs. People always ask songwriters 'Who's this song about?' Strangely enough, the relationship songs are mostly made up, but the trivial stuff about loving my TV friends and having a beef with the Patriot Act are the more personal ones."
"This might be the only time I have a record with a couple of songs about relationships," says Recksieck. "Everybody writes about that all of the time, what new things am I gonna add? It's not like I'm gonna blow the lid off of love. But writing 11 verses about the nuances of Bob Dylan's career ['Like A Maggie's Positively Leopard-Skin Homesick Blues'], a trippy jam to Ludwig Wittgenstein philosophy ['Ugly Butterfly'], or defending schlock TV against intellectual snobs ['My TV Friends'], who else is gonna write those songs if not me?"
Some of the songs have been hanging around unrecorded for over ten years. "That was new to me, to be recording vocals on some tracks that I've performed live since 2005. No matter how well written a song is, when you're actually in front of the mic in a studio, you still have to figure out everything about phrasing, often on the fly, and that becomes the definitive version of the song. With ones like 'Key To A Door' and 'The Naked Truth,' where the rhymes, breathes, and meter is bananas, I could sing with more confidence."
“The album was recorded in a combination of my home studio and at Big Rock Studios with longtime producer Andy Machin, who played on a lot of this record,” he says. Though guest players from Bigfellas and Leaders in the Clubhouse appear, Hiya is entirely self-produced and self-released. “I’m doing all of the mailing, spreadsheets, envelope stuffing, contacts, schmooze, and small campaigns to give this album its day in court. Tiring and a little thankless, but I’d rather swing and miss than just be a musician with ten boxes of CDs, lamenting why don’t people discover me while doing nothing.”
(Photo: Pam Harrison)