Charlie Faye is the lead vocalist of Charlie Faye and the Fayettes, who currently reside in Austin. Singers BettySoo and Adina Adderley complete the retro-styled girl group. The trio’s new single, “I Don’t Need No Baby,” will be available on September 6, and we recommend marking that date so you don’t miss it! In advance of the single and upcoming album, we spoke with Charlie about songwriting, performing live and Austin.
What is the best part of being in a musical group for you, as opposed to performing solo?
Charlie: Well, the best part is that you’re not just in it by yourself. I just think it’s so much more fun to play music with people, and that’s why I started doing it in the first place. I’m not someone who, the thing I love the most is playing guitar in my room by myself; I really love making music with people. Also just getting to travel with the girls and share that experience is really fun.
What’s your favorite part of traveling and performing in different areas and venues?
Charlie: Performing for great audiences is the best thing about playing live. You can really get so much from a great crowd. They can really feed you onstage and feed the performance, and inspire you to do things you haven’t done before and take new risks. Just that feeling of connection with the audience, I think, is one of the greatest things about being out there.
What would you say your writing process is like, when you’re trying to come up with songs?
Charlie: It varies; sometimes I write by myself and, in that case, a song can come very quickly, all at once. Or I can have an idea that I’m just kind of tossing around for a while, and refining and refining until it becomes its end result.
I’ll talk about my process with “I Don’t Need No Baby” because that was really different. I got a request to try to write a song for a certain character to sing in a certain TV show, and they wanted something that had a ’60s girl group vibe, but that felt more modern. They came to me because they know that’s something I do. I actually only had four days to write and demo that song and submit it. I started, of course, with inspirations from some of the classic ’60s girl group sounds, like that “Be My Baby” drum beat. Then, I wanted to kind of flip the script lyrically and try to take it from the perspective of, instead of ‘I need you, I need your love, be my baby,’ I wanted to do something that felt a little more like what a young girl now might say, which is ‘I don’t need no baby.’ So I worked from that perspective and, for that particular song, it was interesting because I wasn’t necessarily writing as me; I was writing for a character and that can be really freeing, when you’re writing from the perspective of somebody else.
So I wrote this song very quickly and demoed it up and it was done. By the time we were actually making our record, there were some things about the original demo that I wanted to edit. The song was a little too long and a little too repetitive, so we cut a verse. There was originally one more verse in the demo version. When it came time to make the record, we just wanted to refine it and kind of trim the fat, so to speak.
So that song was written for TV, and I know you’ve had other songs featured on TV shows before. How has that changed things for you?
Charlie: It’s definitely helped me reach a wider audience. The songs that we had on “Riverdale” originally, before it was a single, had under 1,000 plays on Spotify. Now, a year later, it has over 100,000 plays on Spotify, and that’s because people who are fans of the show are making playlists of all the songs from the show. That’s how they’re discovering our music. I think that’s really cool. We’re reaching a teenage audience by being part of this show that they’re into.
So the ’60s girl group sound is a pretty obvious inspiration for you, but are there any more modern musicians that inspire you?
Charlie: The newest stuff that I’m really into is the Nick Lowe/Elvis Costello camp. I love everything both of those guys do. They’re still putting out records and they’re still great!
On sort of a different note, I saw that you were part of a movement to preserve some of Austin’s historical real estate. Do you want to talk more about that?
Charlie: It’s a very long story. When I first moved to Austin, I was living in this cottage in this little community of cottages in South Austin that had cheap rent, a great location, and it was all musicians and artists. It was an incredible community, these 20 little cottages on Wilson Street. Then this developer came in and wanted to put in condos there. So I decided to spearhead a movement against the developer, and it was definitely a David and Goliath situation, but we were such a thorn in their side that they decided to negotiate with us. They would give us the money to move the cottages in exchange for us just leaving them alone, so we made a deal. Then there was the economic downturn in 2008, and they didn’t get their construction financing to do the project, so everything got delayed. In the years of waiting, the whole thing kind of fell apart.
There was so much support for the preservation of the cottages and the preservation of affordable housing for creatives in Austin. I think there’s still a lot of people in Austin who would like to see something happen to help preserve affordable housing for creatives in Austin because if we don’t, we’re going to lose that vibrant, creative community. You can see that happening in other cities, like where I grew up in New York. The East Village used to be full of artists and musicians and other creative types, and now most artists cannot afford to live in Manhattan. You kind of see that happening everywhere that’s growing. I’m not against Austin growing; I’m really happy to see Austin thriving, but I think it’s important for us to think about finding some ways to preserve affordable housing for creatives because that’s what makes Austin so vibrant and what makes people want to move to Austin.
So what are you looking forward to in promoting your sophomore album?
Charlie: I’m excited to just give people more of what they loved with the first album. I think with this stuff, we are adding in some more modern elements – I think you hear that in the intro of “I Don’t Need No Baby,” like that’s not what it would sound like in the ’60s. Also with this new stuff, I think we explore a little more outside the bounds of that ’60s girl group sound. We’re going to venture a little more into the ’70s, but I don’t want to say too much about it, because the album’s not coming out yet. I am really excited to give people more.
We’d like to thank Charlie Faye for taking the time to speak to us about “I Don’t Need No Baby” and the Fayettes’ other music.
Be sure to keep up with Charlie Faye and the Fayettes, including music and performance dates, by visiting their website at http://www.charliefayeandthefayettes.com.
Featured image credit: Courtesy of Charlie Faye and the Fayettes/YouTube