I had the great opportunity to speak to Charlie Daniels of The Charlie Daniels Band this past Friday over the phone. The Charlie Daniels Band is on the road this fall and on this particular day they were ensconced in Ridgefield, Connecticut for the evening’s performance.
The next night’s show in Wilmington, North Carolina-Charlie Daniels’ birthplace-which brought the man full circle from the very early days of his career playing beer joints there in the late 1950s to returning as a honored musical son of the Port City in 2014.
Charlie Daniels: How are you today?
AndiHHM: I’m fantastic. Thank you so much for this interview. I am beyond privileged to speak with you.
Charlie Daniels: It’s a privilege to speak to you. Thank you, ma’am.
HHM: You’re welcome. My grandfather is from North Carolina, lived in Shallotte south of Wilmington.
CD: Yeah, I know right where that is. We’re playing Wilmington tomorrow night. We haven’t been there for a long time.
HHM: I was wondering about that, kind of having a homecoming of sorts. How does it feel to be going back to one of your hometowns?
CD: Yeah it is. Well, it’s the city of my birth actually. I left there in 1958, the summer of ‘58. Haven’t actually lived there since then, but it’s still the old hometown. It’s grown a lot since I’ve lived there.
HHM: Are you going to have some family attending your show?
CD: I have an aunt who is in her 90s, so I seriously doubt if she’s going to make it to the show. I will probably go by and see her for a few minutes.
HHM: You’ve hit so many milestones this year. The 25th Anniversary of Simple Man, the 40th Anniversary of Fire on the Mountain, the 40th Volunteer Jam, my goodness! And you and Miss Hazel have celebrated 50 years of marriage! That’s just fantastic.
CD: Of course I knew about the wedding anniversary. But a lot of this stuff I would not even think about if not for my son. He looks up these dates and keeps bringing this stuff up. I literally, honestly forget about it. I’m surprised about how many things have come into fruition all at the same time.
HHM: It’s been a year of big milestones for the Charlie Daniels Band and you personally. Happy Birthday early to you! (October 28th marks Charlie Daniels 78th birthday)
CD: Thank you, I appreciate that.
HHM: What’s the next milestone? You’ve hit all these other ones, do you have a goal that you have your sights set on now?
CD: You know I just don’t really have any one specific thing in mind that I want to do. I’ve always got music going in my mind. I’ve always got all different kinds of projects that I would really like to do. I’ve got to eventually, sometime in the near future decide which way I want to go with it and what kind of music I want to do and begin the recording process to do that.
I’ve got several different ways I could go: I could go traditional country; I could go a jazzy type album, a progressive type album. Just all kinds of different types of music that my band is capable of playing. We just haven’t decided yet.
HHM: I was curious as to what gospel song takes you back to your younger days?
CD: One of the first songs I ever remember singing as a kid, was “Kneel at the Cross”, which I finally got around to recording on a gospel album a few years ago. That was one of the very first songs that I remember singing when I was five or six years old.
HHM: What song, yours or someone else’s, carries you back to when you were just starting out in Wilmington when you decided to take that leap into playing music full-time?
CD: Not any particular one song. Elvis Presley was big at the time I got started, Carl Perkins and those guys. That particular era of music was very influential on me.
HHM: Ok. This new album, Off the Grid-Doin’ it Dylan, I couldn’t hardly believe that was your first acoustical album.
CD: First ALL acoustical album. We had done other acoustical things; we had just never done a whole album of it. It was a different sound for us so we decided to go for it. Where better to go for material than Bob Dylan; an endless well of material.
HHM: Honestly, he’s a great songwriter, but I’m not a huge fan of his delivery style. It’s wild hearing The Charlie Daniels Band do Dylan. I enjoyed how you’ve arranged these songs. I felt like “Times, They are A-Changin” that almost had an Irish/Celtic feel to it.
CD: You know, you’re right. I never really thought about that.
HHM: What has Bob said about the Off the Grid album? How has he responded to that?
CD: I spoke with him right after we did it. But I haven’t spoken with him since he’s heard it. So I don’t really know.
HHM: I’m sure he enjoyed it. I never knew, even as a fan, until I had listened to other interviews, that you had played with Bob Dylan back in the day. It’s like the circle coming back around.
CD: Yes, I did three albums with Bob; Nashville Skylines, Self Portrait and New Morning. Starting in ‘69 and the early 70s.
HHM: I heard that he gave you the impetus to try to continue on and be bigger than just a sessions player.
CD: It’s funny the things that encourage you. The kinds of things that keep you going and make you think that “Well, I am worth something after all”.
HHM: I think that you do encourage people via social media on FaceBook, Twitter, and your website. It’s very positive what you put forth, especially your encouragement to fans to “Let’s all make the day count”. I like that you’re on social media. Especially since you’re an older artist, you’ve been around forever. But you’ve really embraced it.
CD: My son’s kind of dragged me kicking and screaming into every kind of technology that I’ve gotten involved in because I come from a time of dial telephones. I was just not really up on this technology. He kept telling me what I needed to do, and I said. “No I don’t” and finally he talked me into it. I found it something that I can handle. I like the communication factor. Communicating instantly with people all over the world; getting their opinions, their thoughts.
HHM: Speaking of opinions, I know you’re very clear, no-nonsense; you don’t beat around the bush on how you feel about issues. I know that there are political stances that you take. Do you ever get heat for that Charlie?
CD: Oh yeah. But that’s my private life and has nothing to do with my musical life because I don’t go on stage and do that. I do it in a private sort of way. Yeah, I get people that just literally hate what I write. But you know the thing is I use a lot of common sense. Usually when I do get criticism, they’re not able to refute what I say they’re only able to criticize it. I just put things that are, to me, that are common sense: they just make sense.
Some of the positions that some of our politicians take that are indefensible. People still continually act as if they are right but they cannot refute what I say. They cannot prove that what I say is wrong; they can only call you an idiot or something like that. So I don’t pay any attention to that sort of stuff.
HHM: Well good, don’t. Keep doing what you do!
CD: Oh, I will.
HHM: I’m a big Alabama fan, but I notice that you wear the Tennessee Volunteers hat and that you’re a big Tennessee fan. Do you ever get a chance to attend any games during the season?
CD: Very, very rarely do I get a chance to attend a game. That’s our busy time of the year when they’re playing, so no, I don’t usually get a chance. I’m a Tennessee fan first, but a SEC fan later on. Whoever’s still standing in the SEC, I always pull for them. And a lot of the time that turns out to be Alabama.
HHM: I used to work for a guy who loved the Vols. I had to root for Tennessee, job security.
CD: That’s not bad. (Both laugh).
HHM: I watched some of the footage that Paula had sent me with the band in the studio recording Off the Grid. I’m amazed by how long you’ve been with your band. ( One member, Charlie Hayward, has been with the CDB for almost 40 years!) I think that’s just so wonderful and how you guys organically come together in the studio like you do.
CD: It’s just my way of making music. All six of us; me and all five of the other guys, who are all creative and all have ideas that all contribute to what we do. My approach to making records is to go in the studio with them, sit around, and let everybody bounce their ideas off each other. Then use the best ones; sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s somebody else. Doesn’t really matter as long as we use the best ideas. That’s what we gotta do.
HHM: That’s great. You just seem so humble. Like what you just said, there’s no ego, whether it’s your idea, somebody else’s idea. In this day of people having role models and saying we should look to this person, we should look to that person; I think you’re a positive role model. The way you carry yourself and the way you treat people; that shows out.
CD: I appreciate you saying that. I don’t really consider myself that. But if that’s the way it is, that’s the way it is and I do appreciate that.
HHM: You’re welcome. All my military and veteran friends want to thank you for all the things you’ve done for them.
CD: We can never repay the military for what they have done for us.
HHM: Absolutely! Well I don’t want to run over my time limit (which I already had). I really appreciate you taking my call.
CD: It was my pleasure ma’am. I hope you can come see us.
HHM: I sure will. Your promotions lady has taken care of us for your show here in Indiana after Thanksgiving. (November 30th-The Palladium-Carmel, IN) We’ll see you then.
CD: Looking forward to it. Thank you. God bless.
The Charlie Daniels Band with their cross-generational recognition and appeal has translated into over 2 million downloads for their signature song, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, alone. Not to mention the scores of other tunes from the CDB’s catalog from over 40 years blending Southern rock, country, bluegrass and whatever else this multi-talented band throws in the mix.
Check out The Charlie Daniels Band’s latest album, Off The Grid-Doin’ it Dylan, to hear a fresh take on classic Bob Dylan songs, CDB style.
The Charlie Daniels Band is on tour now with dates all across America this fall and winter. Check HERE for tour dates.
All pictures courtesy of The Charlie Daniels Band FaceBook page and Publicity.