Though he’s spent his entire life in California, Charlie Overbey’s music is unapologetically steeped in deep Southern influence. Growing into the world of roots rock and alt-country at a young age, Overbey was raised in “the school and church of Johnny Cash” whilst living in an LA barrio called La Habra. All of this crafted the artist’s wide-spanning worldview, which absolutely seeps into his newest album, Broken Arrow. For Folk’s Sake recently spoke with Overbey on his upbringing, his goals, and the adventure so far.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?
I was born in Lynwood, CA–which is basically Compton–near where country music in Los Angeles really had its start with the “Compton Town Hall” which most people don’t know about. I grew up in a barrio called La Habra with predominantly Hispanic people which very much had a strong hand in shaping me and my respect for hard work, folk art, low-riders and tacos.
My mum is from Torquay, England & my old man was a hard-working, Johnny-Cash-lovin’, guitar-pickin hot rodder from Lamar, Arkansas. Growing up, I was surrounded by Benny Hill, Hee Haw, Guinness, Scotch and California, all of which which I grew up to have great love for. I started playing bass and drums at about 13 because I knew that’s where the chicks were. It was about the age of 15 while sitting in drug rehab that I knew I was always going to be a road dog musician and songwriter.
As an artist, how do you define success?
I think living and doing it long enough to know and truly understand what you are writing about rather than telling tall tales and making up bullshit stories claims success. A great song has got to mean something and bring out honest emotions in people–you can really only deliver those goods if you have lived it.
What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?
That’s a hard one because there are so many struggles on a daily basis. Dealing with all of the egos in the business can be tough and nobody is a tougher critic than the artist themselves. Having belief in one’s self can be very difficult at times. After doing it for so long and dealing with the constant struggles and minor successes, it can wear on you. It’s a long way to the middle of you wanna make music. Forget about the top because when you get there, there is nothing left but down.
What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist/band? What do you hope to achieve?
A realistic goal is to enjoy what you’re you doing and who you are doing it with, and I believe that applies to all aspects of this short mortal life we share. Especially with music–you can have goals but it’s always best to go in with no expectations. As for me myself, I simply hope to achieve acknowledgement as a songwriter and a dude that worked his ass off paving a road safe to be traveled.
Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?
I like livin’! I like most people, and I try be good to the people in my life. I write songs about experiences and relationships…the things we can all relate to. On the side I make hats for my line of hats called Lone Hawk Hats. When I am shaping and designing hats, I’m in a place where I’m free from all thoughts and struggles of the day-to-day and when I dive back into normalcy, I’m ready. There is nothing that contributes to creativity like living, touring, meeting new people, having new experiences and taking time to escape all of it every so often.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm (@jfrahm_)
Photo by: Chris Phelps