The Austin Chronicle

ACL Fest Interview: Charley Crockett

Local country-soul man samples his wares on the BMI stage

By Doug Freeman, October 12, 2018, Music

Charley Crockett

Noon, BMI stage

Charley Crockett may be Austin's best kept secret. Despite living the past three years on the Eastside, the 34-year old troubadour rarely plays locally, even as his national profile has risen. The San Benito native spent over a decade traveling and busking across the U.S. and Europe, honing his suave roots blend of country, soul, honky-tonk, and blues.

"I played the streets for my entire 20s, so I feel I got a late start," he offers. "There was a moment where I got tired of sleeping on floors and squatting in warehouses. I really survived for years off the goodwill of other people, and I appreciate that. Up to a certain point, I was just imagining my talent being discovered by somebody who would change everything for me."

Crockett landed a management deal in New York, but balked at signing over his publishing, and instead retreated to Northern California to wait out his contract. When he re-emerged in Texas, he began a relentless recording streak that hearkened the yearly releases of classic country artists, unloading four albums in the past three years. Each LP showcased another side of the songsmith, from the soulful In the Night to last year's mix of covers Lil G.L.'s Honky Tonk Jubilee, and this year's four-star set of originals, Lonesome as a Shadow.

"I did the record deal stuff in my 20s where I didn't have creative control, and I wasn't ready for that," he admits. "The music business behaves in a way these days where they really want you to promote a record for two years, and there's an overemphasis on original material. I think it's really hard to reinvent the wheel. I write out of a traditional format.

"I learned that on the street: that the better handle I got on traditional music, the better I'd be able to express myself with the songs I'm trying to write."

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