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A Jazz Half Interview with Charlie Hunter

Charlie Hunter comes to Molly Malones in Covington, on Friday, June 17th.
Charlie Hunter comes to Molly Malones in Covington, on Friday, June 17th.
Courtesy: Margaret Pitcher

The Jazz Half talked with dynamic Guitarist Charlie Hunter via phone to chat about custom guitars, a pure music sound, and his latest release, Public Domain.

jh: For the benefit of Cincinnati getting to know Charlie Hunter, tell us a little about your earlier years; where you’re from, and how you were introduced to music.
ch: Well, I grew up in Berkeley, CA, and my mom repaired guitars so I was always around guitars. She listened to a lot of old blues music, that was always on the radio. I just grew up around a lot of musical people.

jh: You regularly play 6,7, and 8-string guitars that are custom built, right? When did you first consider a custom designed guitar, and does it contribute to your distinct sound?
ch: I played 6-string when I was younger. I’ve played the 7 and 8-strings for the last 20 years. And they’re custom-made for what I do. So it’s a whole different animal, and I’ve been practicing and working on it and the more I practice, the more I retool it and change the tuning, the farther and farther away it gets from being a bass or guitar.

jh: Tell me about your latest release, “Public Domain”. Most of these are tunes from an earlier time, correct?
ch: Oh yeah, some of these are 100 years old. I had my Grandfather pick these tunes. As a matter of fact, he’s going to be 100 in about 2 weeks. So it was pretty cool to involve him in that.

jh: I wanted to ask you this next question from an Independent Artist’ perspective. Do you feel that technology has increased the independent artists’ opportunity for success, and do you think the number of independent artists have increased as a result?
ch: Well, yeah, but anybody and their brother’s uncle can make a record in their basement, and everyone is an Artist, but the one thing that holds true today that’s held true for a long time, is the people with the most money are going to be the people who are the most successful, regardless of their talent. Because in our society, if you have money behind you, you can pretty much eclipse everyone else. In my day, it was either you had a lot of money, and you can just keep going and going with your money supply, or you got a “Sugar Daddy” in the form of a record company; and I had the record company sugar daddy to get me from point A to point B. But now that’s not really as big of a factor for someone like me, but generally, whoever has the most money, wins.

jh: Some of your projects (including Public Domain) have consisted of very little or no editing, and “Gentlemen, I regret to inform you…” was recorded in mono (?). While the sound can be enhanced with certain tools, is there some element in the purity of the sound that is robbed by these same tools? What are your thoughts?
ch: I just think it depends on the people wielding them, and what you want to get out of it. For me, I personally just like playing with a live band, in a studio, with as few really great mics as possible, live to tape. That’s my favorite sound for that. There are people who use ProTools, spend weeks mixing then come up with some really cool stuff that you can’t get recording the other way. So it just depends on the end result you want. Its just technology. Content is everything, and medium can only help you enhance the content.

jh: Complete this sentence: Jazz music may not be as popular as mainstream, but it continues to ___________ .
ch: Oh, I wouldn’t even start with that sentence (laughs). I think that sentence might have been germane 20, 30 years ago. Now, I don’t think it’s really germane at all. I think in place of “jazz” you would just say “music”; ‘cause we kinda live in a post-music society, where music is a very small part of a delivery system for a much larger pop-icon industry. There’s very little music behind it, if you listen to the stuff that’s out today. You know back in the day, your 14-18 market was always your biggest market. But now its pretty much the only market and the other markets are so tiny, as to almost be ignored. So its really music, its not just jazz music.

jh: Charlie, thanks so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
ch: And thank you for yours, I appreciate it as well.

Charlie Hunter will be performing at Molly Malones in Covington on Friday, June 17th at 8:30pm.

- jh

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