Charlie Mars

Charlie Mars

"I love the rare feeling of people in a room being connected without having to share any ideology or belief system or style or walk of life or class or anything – where they can all just melt in to something magical," says Charlie Mars. "I want to explore sonically what that is."

Those keeping score will mark this as Charlie Mars' fifth album, but upon first listen, Like A Bird, Like A Plane can best be described as a new debut.

Over 11 songs, Mars hits a groove that does not signify any specific genre but instead is hardwired to hearts and hips. This is an album that writhes through the headphones, which will ultimately be tossed in favor of a living room dance floor. Mars has sewn together tightly crafted songs with moods and melodies that pulse with sex, wonderment, and personal destruction – all themes that may clash on paper but in music suggest mysteries that are organic to us all.

Before Charlie heard the sound he wanted on Like A Bird, Like A Plane, he saw it and felt it. It moved along the insistent curves of a burlesque dancer he'd met at Los Angeles' 40 Deuce Club, it snaked through the bend of late night crowds in the music halls of New Orleans and it hung in the air of the blues filled juke joints of his native Mississippi. "I started to feel less inspired by traditional rock and pulled towards the snaky, sinewy, sensuality of groove," says Mars.

Under no direction but his own, Mars bee-lined to Austin, Texas, where he solicited players who understood how to form all four corners instead of facing straight ahead: Drummer J.J. Johnson (John Mayer), keyboardist John Ginty (Citizen Cope), bass players George Reiff (Jakob Dylan) and Dave Monzie (Fiona Apple) and producer and guitarist Billy Harvey. Parts evolved from happy accidents or group decisions; in many cases, the sweet spot was hit at first take.

The musicians played to the fragile introspection of the lyrics, but not for reverence: the Lanois meets Graceland rhythms underneath are more in league with electronic dance or hip-hop.

That Mars toured with childhood heroes R.E.M. or built up a following loyal to his instinctual left turns is an unlikely story. Born in El Dorado, Ark and raised in Laurel, MS, Mars was raised in a Methodist home, the eldest of three brothers. Church music whet his palette, which materialized into a bedroom obsession with radio hits – all the 1970's singer-songwriters received regular rotation – which later gave way to the holy trinity of underground rock: The Smiths, R.E.M. and the Pixies. The years of indulgence made its mark: Mars took up guitar in high school and never looked back.

At Southern Methodist University he turned entrepreneur. After borrowing money and selling a car, he recorded Broken Arrow (1996), his debut album, which eventually sold about 40,000 copies. He became the classic grassroots artist, establishing his name one stage at a time. Mars toured the Southeast college scene, playing an average of 150 dates a year. With two more albums under his belt – Born and Razed (1997) and End of Romance (1999) – Mars could have kept the momentum ablaze.

Instead it burned out. Alcohol and pills crippled his endurance; his next stop was rehab. Upon departure, Mars left the country for Sweden where he sought solace in anonymity: performing for lunch crowds beside the ocean, sleeping in a houseboat that doubled as a restaurant. He wrote the songs that would become his major label debut which, upon his return to the U.S., seemed like destiny: A one-night casino win netted him enough money to buy studio time – and after its completion, he was summoned to New York City where V2 Records (White Stripes, Moby) signed him to their roster. The immediacy of it all came as a big surprise.

"I had no manager, no band, I hadn't toured for about two years – I thought my career was done," he says now.

But it was just the beginning. Charlie Mars (2004) gave him what he always hoped for: a wider audience, critical accolades, nation radio play, major touring slots in the U.S. and Europe, videos, red carpet friends. Rolling Stone called it "big emotional rock from Mississippi" with "a knack for hooks, and the hooks here have real barbs: They tug at you and just might draw some blood."

In that three-year period between 2003-2006, Mars experienced the highs of the music business and lows felt when the business starts to overshadow the music.

"I felt a sense of panic that, 'oh my god, if all this slips away, I'm finished.' I was constantly trying to make everybody stay in love with me," he says. "It got to the point I was exhausted."

With V2 folded, its roster cut, Mars retraced his steps until they led once again to solid ground: I had a vision for what I wanted and I went to Austin to see if I could make it happen.

Like A Bird, Like A Plane is rooted in conflict; one that began for Mars in childhood, having grown up in the church.

"I think the message of Christianity is beautiful – love and compassion and tolerance. I feel close to that. But when people co-opt that and use it to have power over others through shame and fear, it becomes a problem. I felt guilt about things which were really just a natural part of being a precocious, confused kid who was sensitive and aware," he says. "It created an internal conflict which I still deal with all the time. It wasn't until I got a sense of humor about some of it that I started to feel better and come into my own."

Facing those conflicts evolved into the themes of Like A Bird, Like A Plane. Mars pushed the musicians to find unusual hooks and invent ways to get into the songs that were less direct, which inevitably layered music with imperfections that sound human and vulnerable.

Songs hit boiling points at unexpected moments; their melodies remain subtle but always present. Because they are so rhythmically textured, while at eh same time spacious, songs reveal new things upon each listen. Mars sets everything to a groove, so listening can mean disappearing inside the music and following the ride.

"If I have a vision for this record, it would be for me and my band and the music to be at the center of an experience that people have dancing around a giant bonfire. And every night, you can go and get on that wavelength where it can all just melt into something beautiful for a while. That sounds pretty damn cool to me," says Mars.

Zach Broocke

Zach Broocke, born in Milwaukee, WI, grew up listening to Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, Cat Stevens, and a lot of country tunes ala Willie Nelson, Don Williams, George Jones, Merle Haggard. Discovering he had a passion for songwriting Zach traveled to Boston to spend time compiling the songs that would make up his debut release, "Anywhere But Here Sessions" EP. He was greatly inspired by Simon and Garfunkel, coffee, Van Morrison, cigarettes, Greg Brown and Canadian beer.

Leaving Boston in the early fall of 2001 Zach headed for Nashville, where he recorded his first full length album "Be Somebody." This album was independently released by Suburban Sweetheart Productions, LLC, a production company/publishing house that Zach started in April of 2004. While in Nashville, Chad Brown, engineer/producer (Ryan Adams, Bob Seger, Steve Earle) introduced Zach to his writing partner Troy Johnson (Warner Chappell, Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban). The two of them penned many songs that were included on "Be Somebody" and Zach's latest release "Last Call" EP. For seven months Zach toured everywhere east of the Mississippi and filled rooms in Nashville such as Twelfth and Porter, Third and Lindsley and Exit/In, performing with great acts like Shawn Mullins, Carbon Leaf, Mack Starks, The Bees and Bob Schneider.

Zach left Tennessee in 2005 for California. In L.A. he formed a band with a new group of musicians including Lester Nuby/drums and bgvs, Jamie Wollam/drums and bgvs, Jared Leifert/bass, Joe Corcoran/guitars and bgvs. L.A. is where he finished writing and recorded "Last Call" EP. Zach has played many L.A. venues including The Hotel Cafe, The Troubadour, The Viper Room, and The Roxy and the El Rey Theatre splitting bills with Josh Radin, Tim Jones, Amos Lee and Todd Snider.

Still penning songs with Troy Johnson, Zach is also writing songs with Mike Busbee, Scott Bennett (Brian Wilson) and David Hodges (Kelly Clarkson, Evanesense, Chris Daughtry). Zach's song "Pullin up the Drive" from his "Be Somebody" album was featured in the motion picture "The Feast of Love" from Lakeshore Productions, released in 2007, starring Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear. Plus, "Why Can't You," which he wrote, recorded, and produced by himself in three days, was featured in the motion picture "Henry Poole is Here" also from Lakeshore Entertainment released in 2008, starring Luke Wilson and George Lopez. He has had songs featured in MTV's "The Real World", Oxygen Network's "Bad Girls" and an online television show "Port City P.D." Zach's song "Remember Me" from his "Last Call" EP was featured in the April 07 issue of Paste Magazine.

As for 2010, Zach's just completed his latest album, "WatchDogLookOuT." Contributers to WatchDogLooKOuT include producer/engineer Chad Brown (Ryan Adams, Faith Hill), percussionists Ken Coomer (Wilco, Steve Earle) and Fred Eltringham (The Wallflowers, Rivers Cuomo), upright bassist Frank Swart (Morphine, Norah Jones), keys guru Curt Perkins (Josh Rouse, J.J. Cale), guitarist Doug Lancio (Patty Griffin, John Hiatt), complete with the mastering being done by Andrew Mendelson (Van Morrison, Rolling Stones). With a half a dozen more ancillary players, the team's total discographies account for well in excess of 40 million records sold.

Lakeshore Records released Enjoy The Ride: Solo Writes 2001-12 on May 22, 2012. The album is a retrospective of Zach's solo writing skills and features the brand-new single, "Enjoy The Ride." Recorded and mixed in studios in Tennessee, Massachusetts, and California, this collection, written over a span of 11 years, showcases his personal and professional journey as a songwriter.

Zach's music is about all of the things we never say and wish we could have; all the times you let slip through your fingers; and being thankful for the moments where you then realize that maybe, just maybe, that's just the way it's supposed to go.

$10 online / $12 at the door


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