Charlie’s waxing lyrical ahead of literary festival
SHE’S co-written a number one single for Jimmy Nail and acted opposite Game of Thrones star
SHE’S co-written a number one single for Jimmy Nail and acted opposite Game of Thrones star Jonathan Pryce — now singer-songwriter Charlie Dore is coming to Henley to discuss creativity with Dr Jenny Boyd.
The pair will be sharing a stage at the Henley Literary Festival on Wednesday, September 30, at 8.30pm.
Jenny, who gained a PhD in psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, is best known for her connections to the world of rock music.
The sister of Pattie Boyd, who was famously married to George Harrison and Eric Clapton, Jenny’s first marriage was to Mick Fleetwood, with whom she has two daughters.
But it is as the author of a book examining the creative process that she will be in conversation with Charlie.
Published by John Blake, It’s Not Only Rock ’n’ Roll saw Jenny interview 75 world-famous musicians about the source of their creativity.
Charlie, who lives in Wargrave, doesn’t feature in the book herself. Rather, as she explains, she and Jenny were brought together by the festival organisers.
"I didn’t know her [Jenny] before, but Tom Ryan suggested that we might pair up, if we liked each other, so we met up. It’s funny because I know several of the people that she knows, but we’d never met.
"One of my oldest friends is really close with Pattie, so she was always talking about Pattie. And Jenny is Pattie’s younger sister. I didn’t really know of her, but of course she was there, you know, she was there as part of it — and then she married Mick Fleetwood."
Did she say how she came to write her book?
"Jenny’s obviously a smart girl but she had led this lifestyle where she was, you know, accompanying Mick...
"She was the wife and mother, and I think after a while she just thought she’d like to do something creative herself. She didn’t just want to be trailing around in other people’s wake.
"So she decided to go to university and do a PhD. She did it in psychology. So her dissertation, she decided, would be on creativity.
"Because she found that fascinating — and at the time she didn’t have in mind a book, as such, she was just very interested in the process.
"She approaches it, obviously, from a sort of academic point of view, but she’s also a confidante for many of these people, you know?
"And so she probably gets a little bit more information than she would if she were just a very nice, clever academic going along."
Charlie and Jenny’s festival appearance will include an audience Q&A, with Charlie breaking off to perform a number of her hits, together with songs from her current album — the intriguingly titled Milk Roulette.
The album’s title track, Milk Roulette is a delightful vignette of the songwriter’s late father.
"He was a widower, and he was quite a young widower — my mum died when he was just 40.
"So my dad had a rather lived-in, slightly chaotic... you know, his kitchen was always terribly untidy. He was very personally kempt and clean and everything, but he lived in chaos and was untidy.
"The fridge would be there, and you know how they stamp the date on the proper milk bottles? On the foil lid. But if you get them mixed up, or if the lid comes off, which it often did with him... For some reason they would be at different stages of being drunk, quite often. So he would just [mimes drinking straight from the bottle]. Like that, you see?
"And I would say to him, and people generally would say, ’Why don’t you smell it?!’ And he would say, ’Because you can’t really tell by looking at something, or just even sniffing it — you have to really taste it.’
"It was kind of an analogy for how he approached life, which is that he was eternally optimistic — often disappointed — because he trusted that things would be okay, you know?"
For her part, Charlie was just 15 when her mother died. Her relationship with her parents is something she touches on in the song Looking Like My Mother, Acting Like My Dad, also on Milk Roulette.
It’s a song whose gestation offers a unique insight into her creative process.
"I had that title for ages. And I didn’t think it would be a song for me — I thought it sounded a bit like a country song, you know?
"But I kept it there, and then I was sitting in my studio — I’m quite perverse in the way I work. My thing is that usually, if I’m supposed to be doing something else, I will then escape into a sort of creative mode and an idea.
"I was supposed to be finishing something — another song for someone else. I think I was a bit in the mud with it.
"And I was just sort of playing and I found a tuning on my guitar — a different tuning — and I played a chord and I sang a version of a line that I’d read somewhere.
"I’d read this line — it was about a scientific view of falling in love. It said that we tend to think that love is sort of an emotional thing, but it’s actually triggered by pheromones, and we’re programmed to seek out opposite pheromones than we [ourselves] have.
"For instance, if you have a weak chest and bad eyes, then you will — your pheromones will — deduce that, and you’re looking for someone with great eyesight and strong lungs.
"On top of that, I’d also read this thing somewhere that said that the process of falling in love is that once your chemistry has decided that that’s the right person, it’s not a gradual process.
"It’s not an analogue process, it’s digital. So it’s like, it’s on or it’s off. It’s not like, ’So gradually, I..."
"I’d kind of been thinking about both those ideas and thinking, well, where could I put those together in a song?
"I’d just been kind of working on that in the back office, sort of thing, not doing anything with it. And then when I’m supposed to be doing something else I found this tuning, and I played a chord, and I sang: ’Love isn’t analogue, it’s digital ... it’s either going to be on, or it’s off.’
"And then I thought, hmmm, maybe I could shoehorn the Mum and Dad thing into that...
"Because they were not an entirely likely couple. She was older than him. She was for those days quite a bit older than him. Only seven years, but in those days it tended to be the other way around. Very much so.
"Anyway, so then I added: ’So when my mother met my dad, and all the chemistry kicked in, that was enough.’
"And then I’m thinking, ah yes, okay, I’ve got a knack now! I had that title for about, well over five years, maybe longer even."
Creativity seems to be a mystery whichever way you end up doing it?
"It is mysterious, yes, because you can theoretically have all the right components in place and it’s ... not a good song, just not a good song.
"I mean, Ralph McTell says he thinks people listen to things in a certain order when they’re hearing a song for the first time.
"They listen first of all to the general sound, and if that’s pleasing to them then they’re open, you know? Then they listen to the melody, then they listen to the lyrics — in that order.
"Of course, you know, a fantastic lyric can lift a song and make it fly. But if it’s a horrible melody, dull, badly produced, and a badly conceived melodic approach, a good lyric ain’t going to save it. It’s just not.
"Because, also, lyrics are different to poetry. I think it’s very different. Occasionally people set poetry to music and it works, but you have to make a lot of decisions as a lyricist that it’s going to be sung — and you have to.
"You can’t have something — sometimes something that looks fantastic on paper, you can’t sing it. A great line and, you know, it just kind of, it sounds lumpy. Or, worse, lumpen. It sounds like, you know, your English professor has written it. It doesn’t work as a song."
Charlie Dore and Jenny Boyd are at the town hall on Wednesday, September 30, at 8.30pm. Tickets are £9. To book, call (01491) 575948 or visit www.henleyliteraryfestival.co.uk