Charlie Hunter: Guitar wonder
Charlie Hunter. Guitar virtuoso. Having developed a style that allows him to play both guitar and bass on custom made seven- or eight-string guitars, Hunter is at the top of this list.
“I’m not sure how I got started playing that way, I guess I’m just wired for it,” Hunter said during a phone interview, about his unique style of playing. “It just slowly happened and soon that was the only way that made sense. I will say that it’s a hell of a lot more work than just playing a regular guitar.”
After busting onto the scene in the early 1990s, Hunter has built a career wowing fans and critics alike. Releasing more than 15 albums, Hunter is a workhorse and is always looking for that next idea or collaborator to come his way.
“As I get older I’ve discovered new music as well as rediscovering older stuff,” he said. “It’s important to have both new and old influences, as it keeps you moving forward in the creative process.”
Over the past few years, Hunter has collaborated with drummer Scott Amendola. The two worked on an album in 2012 entitled Not Getting Behind is The New Getting Ahead, which featured Hunter’s compositions. The album was a critical success, which led the duo to release Pucker. This time the pair focused on Amendola’s tunes.
“After 20 years of constant writing I figured it was time to take a break and explore the guitar again,” Hunter stated in a press release. “I told Scott, if you’ve got enough music together we could make a record of your tunes. What I like is that it really fits right into what we’ve been doing all along, simple music with a lot of space. Scott’s not burdened by trying to be jazzy. He’s a drummer who’s really listening to everything with big ears. He was already driving the bus.”
Hunter said working on the album was a total role reversal, but it was a challenge he was up for.
“We have a great sound playing together, but a different aesthetic about writing,” Hunter said. “Being a musician, you have to be flexible – one day you’re the boss and the next day someone else is the boss. So you try to find projects that fit best, which allows you to make the best contributions.”
Pucker won’t be the last collaboration between Hunter and Amendola. They are already working on a double album paying tribute to musical icons Hank Williams and Duke Ellington.
“I’m working on picking out songs now, but the idea is to have one album featuring Hank’s songs and one album featuring Duke’s songs,” he said. “They are really good tunes and we wanted to get them back out there for old fans and new fans to enjoy.”
The duo has been touring the past few years, supporting both of the albums. Hunter considers touring the lifeblood of being a musician.
“People love hearing the songs they love and we love playing them as they become an ever-revolving concept. Most people that come to see us know what they’re getting into, but it’s always great to see new fans’ reactions to the show.”
Hunter has played and contributed with a wide range of musicians, including Michael Franti, D’Angelo and Ben Goldberg, and has worked as a solo artist. He enjoys both aspects of the job.
“Playing a solo show gives you a solitary nature as you have control over the entire landscape,” he said. “But it’s a whole different vibe playing with other musicians and I like the give and take of playing with other people. I don’t generally like playing in gigantic situations, so I usually like to stick to performing with duos or trios.”
When Hunter and Amendola hit The Green Frog on Dec. 10, expect plenty of songs from Pucker as well as Not Getting Behind is The New Getting Ahead and a few surprises sprinkled in the set.
“We mix up a lot of songs because if you just keep playing the same thing over and over again you get tired of it,” Hunter said. “So we try to play a wide variety of everything from new songs to songs from the past.”
As Hunter continues touring to support Pucker, he also has another project with Omaha Diner (featuring Hunter, Skerik, Steven Bernstein and Bobby Previte), who will be doing some touring as well.
“You got to stay busy,” Hunter laughed.
“Being a musician is truly a calling,” he said. “If you don’t wake up everyday and get excited about playing music, then this isn’t the life for you. Fortunately for me, I still love playing music.”