Real, direct and straight to the heart.
It is how Charlie Major made his way in country music as a singer/songwriter right from the beginning, even if that start was a little rough.
“I know I wrote my absolute first song when I was 14 years old. It was a very bad song, very bad. Hopefully I have improved since then,” said Major in a phone interview from his acreage in Ottawa Valley.
There is plenty of evidence he has progressed. Five major Canadian Country Music Association Awards, Juno Awards as Country Male Vocalist of the Year for three years in a row, SOCAN songwriting honours, and a BMI Award in 1993 for Backroads as the Most Performed Song In America. To name a few.
“I would have never endeavoured to make a go of the music business if I didn’t write my own songs. From my personal view, I always thought I had an OK voice and I am an OK guitar player. To have to rely on those two things without having songwriting as a tool, I don’t think I would have had the success I had,” he said, followed with a laugh.
His songs, no less than 10 that went to No. 1 on the charts, include a feel-good collection and the ability to touch the heart because of their autobiographical element. Major has always been viewed as the blue-collar man of country rock. Growing up in a industrial worker town in Canada, he sings about what he knows. When he got a break in Nashville, signed by a major U.S. label, he was told his sound needed to change. They wanted him in a Stetson backed by fiddles and steel guitars to sell more albums. Major said he was not ready to sell out his career.
“It is a business. They have ideas of how they want things done, right or wrong, and they aren’t into change a whole lot. I didn’t want to stick to their formulas,” Major said. “I can’t be the next Alan Jackson. I’m not from Georgia. I sing and write about what I do. I am a northern boy.”
Over a decade later, Major said it was not a hard decision to leave that all and return to Canada. He still headlines his own tours and has paired up with ZZ Top, is touring with Kenny Rogers and has sold nearly 500,000 records in Canada alone. In September 2013 he released Best 20 of the Last 20: The Greatest Hits album.
The double-album features hits I’m Gonna Drive You Out of My Mind and I’m Feeling Kind of Lucky Tonight. He also made sure some of his favourites that didn’t get much radio play got another spin.
“One of my favourite songs is My Brother and Me. It wasn’t a big hit or anything, I just think the radio got it all wrong that is all. It has a great story to it and was something everyone in the world can identify with. Every time I play it in a show people just love it and it is almost like they are hearing it for the first time. The song is about one of my brothers and myself growing up in simpler times when you didn’t have any worries,” said Major.
While the Nashville direction wasn’t for him, Major said he continues to write and sing the songs that he loves. A humble guy, much like the people he represents in his music, Major continues to be embraced by his fans and slowly evolving his music to his own formula.
“As much as an old guy can,” he said, followed by a laugh.
Major is performing as the special guest at the Kenny Rogers concert in Penticton on June 12.
Tickets can be purchased at www.ValleyFirstTix.com, by phone at 1-877-763-2849 or in person at the Valley First Box Office at the SOEC and the Wine Country Visitor Centre.