Interview Series: Pearl Charles

I’ve got a girl crush on Pearl Charles. I have since the first time I saw her in a recording studio in Costa Mesa, CA years ago. She’s walked out of a different era and brought with her the most lovely music and an iconic fashion sense. Her doe eyes are heartwarming and on stage she has this attitude, a vibe, that I want to somehow bottle and take home with me. This girl is constantly touring, ever evolving, and a true force on the rise. Her new self titled EP is out now on Burger Records, six songs you might let play all day long. Based out of Southern California her music is influenced by surf culture, but seems to hold hands with a few undeniable folk influences. It is mesmerizing, a perfect chance encounter on a beautiful autumn day. I had the chance to talk with her on music, love, and how she manages to perfectly nail that look of hers.

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LF: Who/what is Pearl Charles?

PC: It’s funny because as the project begins to take on more life it does extend beyond just my own identity as Pearl Charles. I am so lucky to have a kick-ass band and an amazing team working with me behind the scenes and this project is the culmination of all the hard work put in by myself and everyone else I mentioned.

LF: How did you find yourself in music and what was instrumental to the project you have going these days?

PC: Both my parents are artists and they always encouraged me to explore all aspects of the arts so I’ve dipped my toe into many mediums but I’ve always been drawn to music. I started piano lessons when I was five, voice lessons when I was nine and guitar lessons when I was twelve, all the while being a part of various musical theater productions. Eventually my love for music overtook my love for acting and the other aspects of musical theater and I really honed in on the songwriting and live performance aspect of things.

LF: You seem to always be in another reach of this world. Are you living mostly on the road these days? What are the current tour plans?

PC: We’ve been doing a lot of regional touring lately which gets me out of town pretty much every week but still leaves me a good amount of time at home in LA where I was born and raised. I really can’t stay still for very long though so I am constantly taking road trips to wherever is within reach (and sometimes beyond)! I hit the road next week for Austin to do a photoshoot, then jet up to Vegas to open for Portugal. The Man before we take a little performance break during which I’ll be in Dallas writing and recording and then we’re back on the road in November touring with the band Broncho.

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LF: Your style is so on point, favorite go to brands and must-have’s in the suitcase for tour?

PC: Thank you! Lately I’ve had the fabulous Catherine Fulmer dress me for shows so I’ve been wearing amazing gold sparkly jumpsuits and the like but typically if I’m going to shop I like to buy vintage and if not vintage than definitely vintage inspired, the designs and styles are just more up my alley and I love having pieces that are one-of-a-kind.

LF: Your new EP just came out, what can you tell us about putting that together, and how would you describe the sound for the newbies?

PC: In a sense the EP really came together on its own with a lot of help from some of the most talented musicians and producers I know who I was lucky enough to get to work with me on it. I initially went into the studio with a certain group of songs in mind and at the time I wasn’t sure if it was going to turn into an album or an EP. I had a lot of other songs but chose to focus on a specific group that had a particular sound (the EP definitely leans in a surfy-garage direction while I have songs that are much more country and folk influenced as well though it does all start to run together) and from there did a bunch of other one-off sessions with various friends, producers and writers around town just trying to get more of those types of songs recorded. It was really amazing to see how each session, though each had been gone into individually, actually ended up working together so when the time came to pick a track listing there was a cohesive sound and I was able pick the best tracks from everything I had recorded and not just what I had to make what we ended up releasing which I feel is an EP that really exhibited my strengths at the time.

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LF: If you could play music with anyone, dead or alive, who would be in the room?

PC: This is might be the toughest question yet! There are so many amazing musicians dead and alive I would LOVE to jam with and even more specifically co-write with. Off the top of my head I have to say Gene Clark, Gram Parsons, Christine McVie (and any other member of Fleetwood Mac), Doug Sahm, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris and anyone involved with any of the projects I mentioned, but seriously this list could go on for days so I’ll just end it there and say if I was around in Laurel Canyon in the late 60s/early 70s I would have been hopping from house to house getting as many jam sessions in as possible.

LF: What causes your highest and lowest moments in this kind of life?

PC: It’s funny because some of the lowest moments in life can produce the inspiration for the highest moments. I feel that as a songwriter some of my best inspiration has come from the lowest moments of loneliness and heartbreak but when I am able to turn that into a new piece of material to record or have my band perform that high is so high that it is completely worth the pain of the low it took to inspire it.

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LF: What are your thoughts on the idea of home?

PC: I recently moved out of my childhood home that I spent 15+ years growing up in, an experience which definitely forced me to rethink the idea of home. Just like the idea that our body is just a house for our soul, I believe that home is less of a physical place and really lies wherever the heart is. That being said I think it’s important to have your own space where you can slow down and be zen and I am so lucky to have that with my family home in Joshua Tree. It’s built into the boulder out there and my mom is constantly changing and adding to it so it really is its own living and breathing piece of art and I’ve always felt strongly connected to the landscape and myself/my own creativity when I’m out there.

LF: Ideas on love and heartbreak, what kind of roles do they serve for you creatively?

PC: I think both heartbreak and love are central to songwriting. So many of the great songs that have ever been written have been about heartbreak in some way or another whether it be breaking someone else’s heart or having your heart broken and though those periods are the oftentimes the most productive and creative for me personally it can be limiting in the sense that all your output will often be focused around that particular emotion. When I find myself not in a period of heartbreak, be it in a happy relationship or just enjoying my independence, I am forced to expand my horizons and explore other topics to write about which is exciting for me as an artist because I want to always continue to grow.

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LF: Where, what, whom do you draw inspiration from?

PC: It’s no surprise that having been involved in music in Los Angeles for so long I look around and find myself casually surrounded by so much talent that at times it can be overwhelming. At the same time though it feels natural since I’ve always found inspiration sonically. Lately, as I mentioned above, I have been wanting to get pushed out of my comfort zone because I have found that that takes the creative output to such a higher level. Recently I have been getting more into to my dreams and looking at films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, spiritual teachings like Be Here Now by Ram Dass and nature to find inspiration.

LF: How fast do you live?

PC: I am a total workaholic so I love pushing the limits of how much I can do and constantly keeping myself busy in both business and creativity. I think part of living fast is slowing down at times and so that we can appreciate the beauty of everything around us with the free time we do have and again turn that back into inspiration for music and art.

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