It was a breakout year for Pearl Charles, making many end of year lists. As she was reaching the end of a tour opening for Liz Cooper, Americana Highways caught up with her in Davenport, Iowa.
The set was heavy on her new album Magic Mirror, released ahead of the pandemic on January 15, with seven of ten songs performed on November 19.
“Sleepless Dreamer,” the title song from her 2018 album started out the evening, followed by country-leaning “Slipping Away” from Magic Mirror and bookended by the second Sleepless Dreamer song on the set, “Beginner’s Luck.”
Pop-infused “Sweet Sunshine Wine” precedes another country leaner “Take Your Time” both from Magic Mirror with a new single release “Deja Vu” following.
The next two songs have rhythm and blues touches on the new album, “As Long As You’re Mine” and “Imposter,” with the twangy ”What I Need” next.
“Only For Tonite” closes out the set with trippy guitar effects and a thumping bass line. This song has brought comparisons of being Abba-esque.
Throughout Magic Mirror there a various 1960s and 1970s flourishes. On another listen, one of the songs not on the set, “All the Way” brings a reminder of The Carpenters.
We had a chance to sit down and chat with Pearl as well.
American Highways: What brought about your new single “Deja Vu”?
Pearl Charles: Magic Mirror dropped in January 2020. So I had an album in the can during the pandemic and spent a lot of time writing songs. “Deja Vu” was the first one I recorded and I have another one coming out in January 2022.
AH: You’ve been busy.
PC: I like to work, and, yes, I’m a workaholic. Just playing music and writing music is the best work you can do.
The song is kind of about how you feel like your path might be predestined at times, where you can’t get ahead. In the verses it’s talking about how its not predestined.
AH: How have you channeled your creativity and adjusted to the lockdown when it put the brakes on touring?
PC: We did a ton of livestreams. It was a really cool way to reach people. I did a lot of writing. When you are on the road a lot, that is not always a priority. I really do love writing and making records. But I also really like playing live. It was a weird situation but It was kind of nice in a way, but I missed touring too.
AH: You also moved, right?
PC: I moved to the desert and I love that. It’s a creative outlet being out in nature. Any time day or night you can get into the studio and start writing, play as loud as you want and not bother the neighbors. So you can tap that inspiration whenever it strikes you.
AH: Does it also help to swing back from being able to be out and about?
PC: Back to a quiet place? Yes, I love that. I’m excited. We’ve been on the road for a really long time now and I’m looking forward to being back in the desert. I’m sad for it to end but we haven’t been back for awhile. Michael was on tour with another band so we haven’t been back for an extended period of time.
We’ll miss the road. But then there are plans to be back in Europe next year
AH: What inspired the 1970s sounds on Magic Mirror?
PC: A lot of my favorite bands are from that time. I connect with that era. I feel like that was the height of songwriting and production. All of that was in the mainstream so it had financial backing for those artists to explore what they wanted to do. It’s hard to spend that much time in a studio like those bands, with engineers coming in at any hour.
AH: So you’ve previously mentioned somewhere about getting into a Gram Parsons state of mind. What led you there?
PC: My parents have had a place in Joshua Tree for a long time and it’s an area I feel connected to. It’s kind of a hippie, trippy thing. Parsons’ body was obviously brought out there [and burned on a funeral pyre, allegedly by a close friend against his family’s wishes].
I don’t know if it was his spirit pushing me towards classic country. And that’s kind of like my first band, The Driftwood Singers. It was classic country and I didn’t even know about it.
I’m southern California born and raised but also had the feeling of getting out to the country, getting out of town, getting out of LA. So there’s that draw to the desert.
AH: How did you wind up connecting with Poco’s music?
The song we covered, “Dallas” was originally a Steely Dan song which Poco recorded. Steely Dan was very self-critical so there’s a ton of unreleased tracks that are amazing but didn’t cut the mustard for their standards, which are excessively high in a way.
They denounced their first record which is amazing. It’s like pop classics. But they wanted to make their recordings more hi-fi which was a bit of a struggle with tape and analogue recording. The band wanted their music to be more advanced and jazzy. So they wrote this song “Dallas” which Poco covered. It’s this amazing, perfect country-pop, rock, folk-rock song of the 70s. But Steely Dan didn’t like putting it out for release so they put it on some Japanese compilation. But Poco could see what I see in it, a beautiful, amazing song.
Find Pearl Charles music here: https://pearlcharlesmusic.bandcamp.com/album/magic-mirror