“Catching Up With” is a new interview series where we reconnect with an artist who has previously used the NoiseTrade platform and chat with them about what they’re doing now. This week we’re catching up with Charlie Faye and discussing The Whole Shebang, her forthcoming sophomore album (out February 8) with her retro-pop girl group trio Charlie Faye and the Fayettes.
You can pre-order The Whole Shebang before it’s February 8 release here: https://apple.co/2slobxi
NoiseTrade: With your new album The Whole Shebang coming out next month, tell us how the writing and recording of your second album as Charlie Faye & the Fayettes was shaped by everything you’ve experienced since the creation and release of your trio’s 2016 debut?
Charlie Faye: Most of the writing I did for our debut album actually preceded the idea of the band. I just found myself writing songs that sounded like ’60s pop and soul, and because of that, I decided to form a ’60s influenced girl group! This time, with the group established, I knew what I was going for, writing for the album. I wanted to give our audience more of what they loved on the first album, but also branch out a little.
Some of my favorite songs on the first album were songs I wrote with Bill Demain. Knowing how well we worked together, we planned a 3-day co-writing session to write for the new record, and got some great songs out of it.
A few members of the band had a huge part in the making of The Whole Shebang. Eric Holden, our bass player, did an amazing job producing the record and co-wrote two songs on it. Marcus Watkins, who had been playing guitar in our live band for a couple of years, played guitar on the record and brought so much to it. And the Fayettes, BettySoo and Akina Adderley, arranged all of their vocals for this record, and coached me through some of mine!
NT: While your classic girl group sound is heavily rooted in the ‘60s catalog of influences, The Whole Shebang seems to expand those sonic textures in the ‘70s as well. What drove this decision and what ‘70s artists and albums served as songwriting inspirations along the way?
Faye: My influences for this album ranged from girl groups to doo-wop to James Brown to The Cars to a totally modern drum loop. I did consciously want to branch out a little, and after the ’60s, the decade I probably listen to the most music from is the ’70s. I think our song “Night People” was probably influenced by the ’70s vibe of Marvin Gaye, and “You Gotta Give It Up (Party Song)” came from wanting to do something with a ’70s James Brown kind of groove. Of course, a handful of the great ’60s girl groups kept making music into the ’70s, so I figured, why couldn’t we?
NT: Your lead single “I Don’t Need No Baby” serves up a sharp “ode to independence” lyric wrapped in a sugary sweet triple harmony singalong. Even with the retro-pop musicality, the song feels very relevant and “of the moment.” What’s the story behind that song and what do you hope listeners pull from it?
Faye: I wanted to write a sort of answer song to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” from the perspective of a young woman today. Would she be begging some guy to be her baby? Maybe. But likely not. Young women today don’t need a man to make them feel complete. They have their work, their friends, and their lives, which can be very full without the presence of a relationship. So with “I Don’t Need No Baby” I wanted to give voice to that more modern female perspective.
NT: Tell us about your musical connection to drummer Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello and the Attractions) and what you’ve learned from playing with him live and having him record drums on The Whole Shebang?
Faye: Pete is very invested in whatever music he’s playing. He never phones it in. He’s incredibly talented and incredibly musical, but he also always shows up prepared, having done his homework, and he’s very present in the studio. Some talented people get lazy, or stop caring, but not Pete. I think I’ve been very lucky in getting to work with him in the studio, because we have a lot of musical tastes in common. Pete has a huge musical lexicon, way beyond mine, I’m sure, but he’s super familiar with all the stuff I love and he gets why it’s great. There would be instances in the studio when I would have to try to explain to the rest of the musicians what I was going for, but Pete would just intrinsically know. That’s invaluable.
NT: Finally, if you had to pick one song from the classic Motown/Spector/girl group era to have written yourself, what song would it be and why?
Faye: This is the most obvious answer, but it’s also the honest one: “Be My Baby.” That song is a masterpiece. That’s the song that made Brian Wilson pull his car over to the side of the road, wondering if he could ever top it. It’s a song that I’ve loved since I was a kid. Plus, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in the studio for that session!