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When I last saw Charlie Law it was at the launch of his last EP at The Angel in Woodbridge back in July 2017. It was the first gig in a series he had planned to promote his EP but almost the very next day the tour had been cancelled… something was up.
Very shortly after that Charlie had left the country on a one way ticket – honestly, his music is not THAT bad! But life throws curved balls at us all, it is how we deal with life’s problems that make us who we are.
Creative people are very good at turning bad things into great songs so when we heard that Charlie, now living in Melbourne, Australia had recorded a new album we had to get in touch for a chat… and Grapevine became his UK/European distributor in the process!
Why did you leave the UK?
It was actually because of a break up. It knocked all the wind out of my sails and I didn’t feel confident performing anymore. It’s amazing how many other people I’ve met who left their home countries for the same reason and needed a change.
Why go to Bangkok?
I was having a coffee and thinking what the hell am I going to do now, and I just decided to book a one way ticket to a random place. I like Thai food. I called my album ‘Coffee Cup In Soho‘ after this spontaneous decision! Everything that’s happened since boils down to that moment.
Was there a World Tour plan?
No plan! I started in Thailand for a month. When my Visa was up I bought a motorbike in Vietnam and travelled north to south, Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh. I bought a guitar in Thailand (I lasted two days without one), and then bought a small busking rig in Vietnam as Hanoi was perfect for busking. I explored Cambodia for a month too before coming to Australia as I’d ran out of cash.
How was it busking in Vietnam? One assumes you didn’t learn the language?
It was crazy! I’d just be setting up my gear, and before I’d played a note there was a huge crowd of Asian people staring at me! In Vietnam, one pound is worth thirty thousand dong. It’s all notes, no coins. So I’d make a lot of paper that wasn’t really worth much. But technically, I was a millionaire. It was great throwing it all up in the air. It’s like another planet over there, you don’t need a permit for anything. You can fish wherever you like, drive without a license, drive drunk, generally do whatever you want. Not that I did any of those. OK I did fish. I didn’t learn the language and the English was surprisingly bad in Vietnam. Well not surprising really after the country was obliterated by America in the Vietnam war. I’m sure most of them had no clue what I was saying. Thankfully music is universal.
I heard you drank petrol in Vietnam!
Yeah it was left on the table next to my water bottle, in the same bottle. I was thirsty, opened my throat and took a big swig ten minutes before getting on a night bus. I’m panicking, I google whether you can die from drinking petrol and it says yes. So I go bring it all up in the bathroom and get on the night bus. I read further on google and it tells me I won’t die if I drink a little bit but whatever I do I shouldn’t throw up as some of it can get into your lungs and then you die. Now I’m really panicking. I wash it down with loads of water and I’ve never needed a wee so bad in my life. Possibly the petrol in my bladder, possibly just the water. I get off at the services… I’ve got red spots all over my face and I look like I’m going to die. In the end it was all fine and apparently that can happen if you throw up really hard.
Hilarious! Any other good stories?
In the same week I got trapped in a hotel room with a huge Brown Recluse spider (deadly). I was on my own as my bike had broken down twice that day so I’d lost the others. It was late at night and I was staying in a shady place, I was worried if I left then the bike mafia would come after me, shoot me and steal my stuff which happens in Vietnam. I asked reception to help through google translate but he just did an evil laugh and made a swatting motion with his hand. I chased it around the room with my flip flop and finally killed it but it’s babies went everywhere. I slept in the bathroom with the light on. I wake up, there’s baby spiders everywhere and I’ve been bitten. Thankfully it was all fine in the end.
Has it been difficult living so far from home?
Yeah it’s been pretty lonely at times, but I think it’s important to spend time being alone. You get to know yourself. I meet new people all the time now which is great for my confidence and each time I get to know someone I learn more about myself. I really miss all the old faces in England though, my family and the friends I grew up with. I’ve bumped into a few people from England randomly on various beaches! Living away from home has made me realise how much stuff I had in England that I don’t need. However much money I made there I’d always find ways to spend it on stuff I really didn’t need.
What has been the funniest moment on this adventure?
I had a brilliant time when I was invited to dinner after somebody saw me playing in Pai, Thailand. Around twenty others were invited. It started off well, then the host started banging a drum and we each in turn had to talk about ourselves and our idea of the moment. Then we were launched into a series of role playing games. Then we got the instruments out. The first song was about the evolution of a tadpole into a beautiful frog with people pretending to be the evolving tadpoles. Then we sung a song about the moon which involved chanting, and a lady saying stuff like “the moon has a power beyond our control, the moon sees all inside of us and we are inside the moon…”. I had a great time but didn’t stay for the orgy.
What has been the scariest?
The A&E in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. My friends foot was ran over so we spent six hours in there. Imagine a large village hall, and every centimetre is filled with a bed. Some people are chained to the bed, spitting and screaming trying to break free. Some are coughing up blood on the floor. Some look dead. One man came in with half his face sliced off. No nurse or doctor is doing anything about it. Instead of breathing machines they have a family member inflating and deflating the lungs with a pump. We felt silly in there with just a broken foot. I’ll never complain about the NHS again!
How does Woodbridge compare to Melbourne?
I love Woodbridge. It’s where I went to school and became who I am so it will always hold a special place in my heart. Woodbridge is much more pretty, with much older buildings and such a beautiful river. The town has a true magic to it. Melbourne is similar to Brighton, a London on the sea. It’s a great city and a melting pot for people from all over the world. There’s great bands every night, and you can walk down a small street and see ten bands there in a night. It’s a city where it’s easy to get a decent job, so everyone has plenty of money, but it’s easy to live cheaply if you know the right places. There’s so much art and collaboration here, graffiti and crazy buildings everywhere you look. There’s penguins in the wild, huge fruit bats and if you travel into the country there’s kangaroos everywhere mate.
Any regrets about leaving the UK?
Apart from missing my family and friends, no! I’ve experienced so much and got some great songs out of it which is the name of the game! I’ve got this new album coming out, and I’ve already got the next one written with four decent singles!
Tell us about the album, how difficult was it to record, produce, package and all of that?
Well, I had very limited resources for this album. No money left after Asia. I was working a bar job, teaching, busking and playing pub gigs to get enough. No laptop, it broke on my travels. I found a nice space to record the album and hired a mic. I borrowed a friend’s laptop to record. I hardly mixed it at all myself but sent it to a friend Pete Maher (Rolling Stones, U2) to finish in England. I was stunned at how good he made it sound. The artwork was designed by Daniel Swann (Burberry) using a photo taken of me busking in Vietnam. He’s a fashionable guy and he did an incredible job. I got a new album designed by Robin Henderson who I’ve been working with for a while now. It was looking difficult to release the album in Britain so thanks to Grapevine for helping me distribute the album!
Talk about the album, what are your favourites?
I’m biased but I’m seriously happy with all the songs on here! The best single is ‘Soup Kitchen’. ‘Fool’ and ‘Caroline’ are heartfelt break up songs whilst ‘Little Love’ and ‘Matching Raincoats’ are songs about how falling in love again can heal the heart. I wrote them in the misty mountains of Sapa and they have a real magic to them. I have a couple of live versions of songs from my last EP on there as they have a new meaning now. ‘Coffee Cup In Soho’ is about being too sad to say a final goodbye to friends, instead saying ‘see you there’. It’s about missing home.
Any plans to bring the Charlie Law World Tour back to Suffolk?
Definitely! I want to come back at least to visit for a few weeks in 2019 and play a gig at home. I think travelling America is on the cards one day if I can get the money together. Wherever the music wants to go, I’m going to follow it.