“I’m on Highway 401 coming out of Trenton, which was a parking lot, and right now I’m doing about two kilometres per hour.” Canadian country icon Charlie Major is on the road providing a report on the traffic conditions that have already added about an hour to his travel time enroute to Toronto’s Budweiser Amphitheatre. He’s taking the stage to perform his new star-studded single, “It Can’t Happen To Me”, with the evening’s headliner Dean Brody, and Jess Moskaluke. The song’s first verse deals with the impact of drinking and driving so it was a natural choice for a new Mothers Against Drunk Driving campaign with all proceeds from the song going to MADD Canada. In addition to Brody and Moskaluke, the recording features such Canuck luminaries as Terri Clark and Johnny Reid, as well as a stable of new country talent including Tim Hicks, Brett Kissel and Bobby Wills. Rounding up this gang of vocalists was no problem for Charlie.
“I know them all and I was quite amazed and quite flattered that I didn’t have to coax them or ask them twice,” the Ottawa native says. “They all said yes right away because it’s for a good cause and I guess a lot of them have a certain amount of respect for me with what I’ve accomplished in my career. They all recorded their parts wherever they were in the world at the time.”
The original song went to number one in 1994 and appeared on Charlie’s major label debut album “The Other Side”. That album sprouted an additional five number one singles, a feat that remains unmatched for a debut record. The broad message in It Can’t Happen To Me is that no-one is bulletproof, but Charlie had a vision early on that it was a good fit for an anti-DUI missive.
“Yeah, I thought about getting that message out, how ridiculous you can be sometimes when you’re young and you think that you’re immortal. I knew I couldn’t re-release the song myself because I didn’t think they would play it on the radio so I came up with the idea of getting all sorts of different people to sing on it. Beyond it being used for an anti-drinking and driving campaign the song is relevant to other things in your life as you get older. I think the message changes a little bit because at my age I know better than to drink and drive. As you get older you’re thinking it can’t happen to me, I’m not going to be the one who has a heart attack or it’s not my house that’s going to burn down, but the fact of the matter is we’re not invincible.”
Over the years Charlie has been described as a blue collar champion, writing songs that can be embraced by all of the working stiffs out there. He’s written classic paeans to manual labour including “I’m Somebody”, “(I Do It) For The Money” and the pipe dream finally realized in “Someday I’m Gonna Ride In A Cadillac” (also covered by Matt Minglewood). You’ll find two of those songs on Charlie’s upcoming compilation “More of the Best: Greatest Hits Volume 2”, as well as the current single plus two new songs that he wrote for the project. In terms of song writing, Charlie cites Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Neil Young as influences. (“I also love story songs,” Charlie says. “One of my favourite songs of all time is “The Last Kiss” by J. Frank Wilson. I was pissed off that Eddie Vedder re-recorded it with Pearl Jam because I would have liked to have done it, but he did do a fine version.”) As far as contemporary performers go, Charlie Cites Kacey Musgraves as being ‘great’. Of course the music industry has shifted phenomenally and he is very much aware of the new digital reality.
“I’m not a social media guy but then if I was young again and had this technology at my disposal I’d probably be a lot more savvy. I bought my first computer in 1993 so I love playing around with computers and stuff like that but I’m not into the Facebook, Twitters and Instagrams of the world. If I was Brett Kissel’s age and starting out I’d probably be on social media all the time. My phone is just a phone. I might take the odd picture but that’s about it.”
The one question that remains unanswered is what Charlie has been doing since “On The Evening Side”, his last album which came out some seven years ago. Although he’s made a few public appearances hosting the Country Music Association of Ontario Awards show and performing at the Canadian Country Music Association’s ‘Legends’ show (he’s won a total of five CCMA’s), Charlie has been low key on the recording front.
“I’ve been spending time with my kids (three sons),” he begins. “It’s a young person’s game on the radio. After It Can’t happen To Me we’ll send the two new songs on the Greatest Hits package to radio and see what happens. I’m working on some stuff and I’ve been thinking about putting it out in a year or two, but in the meantime I’ll be touring in support of the album. We also just played a couple of dates with Alabama and it looks like we may be doing a cross country tour with them in 2019.”
But what about Charlie’s stellar song writing ability? If country radio is indeed a young person’s game, why doesn’t he channel his working class songs through some of the new voices? After a small pause Charlie responds with a laugh:
“It’s true I could still prosper as a writer, but I hate giving shit away.”
Port Colborne native Chelsea Crites is back with a terrific new single entitled “Ready For The Fight”. It’s a majestic ballad in which she makes it clear that she’s not scared about her relationship anymore, and then defiantly declares in the chorus that she’s ‘Here to stay’. We’re glad to hear it and can’t wait for an EP or album with more of this type of stellar material. The single is available on Spotify, Apple, Google and Amazon.
Hanover Ontario’s Jamie Warren has returned to radio with a new single “What’s The Worst”, featuring Beverley Mahood. Jamie’s first single “Drink Along Song” was followed up by the Father’s Day YouTube release of “Do You Think Of Me” which garnered close to 50,000 views. Currently Jamie is in the studio finishing his new album “All of the Above”, which should be released in early fall. In October, he will take to the road with his “Stories and Songs” tour featuring Mahood and Duane Steele with Jessie T opening the shows.
Country duo Sons of Daughters have hit the charts with a new song entitled ‘Ain’t Gonna Be Lonely Long” on the heels of their previous single “Can’t Find Love In A Bar”. The duo is comprised of Chrystal Leigh and Jimmy Thow, hailing from Vancouver, BC, now based in Nashville, Tennessee.
Since their move to Music City they have collaborated with numerous Grammy nominated hit song writers, and have showcased at the iconic Bluebird Café. https://www.facebook.com/roman.mitz