Singer/songwriter Charlie Faye knows the importance of staying put as well as the potency of travel. These days she manages to do both -- while on tour. The competing notions came together for her last year when she decided to pack up her battered Gibson J-45 and live and perform in ten cities in ten months. Ten back-to-back musical residencies.
"I'd heard that if you want to give a new record the support it deserves, you should be on the road for about a year," she tells me from her August residency in the Brady Street neighborhood of Milwaukee. "But the thought of going from place-to-place, night-after night for a year was, well... I have this love-hate relationship with touring."
"I love travel, I love playing music, and I love meeting new people and having experiences I never would have had at home," she says. "But I hate moving every day, hate unpacking and re-packing the car, staying in hotel rooms and on couches, not having the time to really connect with anybody and moving around this country but never really getting to see it."
Among professional musicians, Faye's not alone in the challenge of coming to terms with the bittersweet work of an artist's life on the go. Her one-month-per-city tour is a unique, well developed solution. One that seems to suit her to a tee, artistically and financially.
"It's actually more economical, in a way, than traditional touring," she says. "I don't stay in hotels. In each town I sublet an apartment from someone who's out of town for the month. I've subletted from a yoga student who was studying yoga in India, a musician who was out of town making a record, a girl on a summer road trip... and living in these spaces gives you such a different experience than waking up in a non-descript hotel room every day. I wake up in my month-long home feeling like I actually live there."
It's no surprise that Faye's sense of place coats her music. The new record she'll showcase when she ventures to the Crystal Corner for a show on Thursday, August 19 is named after her hometown address: Austin's Wilson Street. Faye lives in one of a cluster of cottages there that have been homes for Austin musicians since the 1970s. The threat of development of the properties has turned the 29-year-old musician into an activist.
"When I found out that one of the biggest developers in town had plans to tear the place down, something happened in me." With help from neighbors, "I'll be moving the cottages to another location to create Austin's first affordable housing project for musicians -- a place that is meant to stay that way, to keep Austin artist-friendly."
If Lucinda Williams and Melissa Etheridge were roommates in one of those cottages, they'd be making Charlie Faye music. Wilson Street is a ten-song helping of music that swings from polished folk-pop, to the countrypolitan sounds of Nashville in 1977. While she'll appear solo at the Crystal, Faye is surrounded on the album by an eclectic group of players that includes fellow Austinites Gurf Morlix and Will Sexton.
The show is a terrific double bill that features Madison's country troubadour Josh Harty and his band. Faye first met and performed with Harty in Portland, Oregon. She was doing a month-residency. Harty was touring through the old-fashioned way. It'll be a cool, cracked reunion show for two deeply rooted artists at home wherever they play.