Charlie Winston grew up, with his folk-musician parents and his musical siblings, in a Suffolk hotel through which passed an endless procession of itinerant artists, orchestras, actors and thespians. Such an environment had a great impact on Charlie giving him a deep love for the performing arts and entertainment whilst nurturing his musical talents.
At the age of eight he learned to play the drums, before turning his hand to the piano when he was ten and two years later writing his first songs. Aged seventeen Charlie relocated to London, studied music at Brunel (“I later realised that I got too caught up in the 'technicalities' of music, I had become engrossed in the world of Jazz and Minimalism”), subsequently leaving college penniless and piano-less. Living in Clapham with his brother (Tom Baxter) the only instrument he played was a beaten up bass found “just lying around”. So with Charlie now playing bass they formed the band 'Baxter', a period that lasted three years and that Charlie regards as his degree course - An Introduction To The Real World Of Music.
Charlie’s musical development continued - writing music for theatre productions (The Almeida, Sadler’s Wells, The Gate, The Unicorn and others) and writing and playing music for short films, dance productions, TV adverts as well as producing and recording records with various artists. “This was a fantastic training ground for me. I learned to write to a brief with a deadline. This became an invaluable discipline, and a very important part of my 'process'. A little pressure can produce a lot.”
Singing or playing with many different bands on either bass, piano or percussion, Charlie wrote and arranged music for brass and strings including the London Symphonietta and the BBC Concert Orchestra and came to the fore of the stage as lead singer in an eight piece reggae band “it brought out my strength as a front man”. In his early twenties he picked up the guitar for the first time “it helped me focus on the beauty and simplicity of songwriting and storytelling once again - the precise things that had drawn me into writing in the first place when I was in my teens.”
In 2003, when Charlie was recording bass for his brother Tom’s album at Real World Studios, he was introduced to Peter Gabriel and became friends with Peter’s daughter Mel. “Although I had a new EP that I was anxious to give him, I decided to wait until he knew me as a person first, before introducing him to my music. It turned out to be the right choice.” A year later, when he was babysitting for Peter’s son, Charlie finally gave him his EP – in return Peter gave him a recording contract, produced his first album ‘Make Way’ and invited Charlie to open for him on his European tour.
A Volkswagen television advert, in which Charlie was the voice of a dog who unleashed a mightily impressive rendition of the classic Spencer Davis Group song 'I'm a Man', became a global smash and is also now a YouTube classic.
Charlie’s story then moved to France where he had come to the attention of record label Atmosphériques who introduced him to Mark Plati (David Bowie, The Cure, Louise Attaque) with whom Charlie recorded his second album ‘Hobo’. The "Hobo" sessions took place primarily in Paris, at the Pigalle Studios, with brass and strings added in London and the finishing touches added at Plati’s New York studio. The core of the record sees Charlie on guitar, piano, and "vintage" keys (Wurlitzer-Celest-Hammond), Ben Edwards on his harmonicas, Daniel Marsala on the bass and Medi on the drums.
The resulting album is a collection of songs with soul inspired by the great ‘soul men’ - Ray Charles, Randy Newman, Richie Havens, Tom Waits. Thoughtful and captivating and musically witty the stories are at times serious, at others ironic but always profoundly human.
‘Hobo’ was released in France in January 2009. The single ‘Like A Hobo’ shot to number one in the iTunes chart within forty eight hours; the album followed suit within a week. ‘Like A Hobo was number one on all download charts for four weeks, a feat only ever achieved by four other artists. Certified platinum, the album CD has now been in the top ten of the physical charts since its launch in January and the single topped the French CD charts on its release.
Featured in all the main French press, Charlie has performed on the influential TV show Taratata an unprecedented three times and on Le Grand Journal in both Paris and at the show’s Cannes Film Festival opener. He is currently on an extensive sold out headline tour of France and has been invited to play at all the major summer festivals in France, Belgium and Switzerland. On stage Charlie the “song-singer” becomes Charlie the entertainer, one steeped in music, dance and theatre who puts on quite a show - “Because I am a songwriter with an album called ‘Hobo’ it can easily be misconstrued that I’ll just be on stage with a guitar or a harmonica. But I’m a performer and an entertainer and my experience with theatre and dance means that it’s more about being an artist than just a songwriter.”
Charlie Winston started his solo writing path playing all over Europe on a shoestring: Germany, France, Italy, Spain - he was out performing anywhere anytime. In the two years since his sophomore Hobo album, Charlie has refined his sound; a reaction to the music he’s hearing in 2014 - Alt-J, Lorde, Daft Punk. If Hobo was a romanticised sepia image of the troubadour and his second album Running Still was a punk and hip-hop influenced work referencing The Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik, then his new studio album Curio City is framed by electronica and futurism. Reflecting back the matured, deeper parts of his experience, Charlie Winston has created a new album that is as contemporary as it is undeniably his own.