He plays his songs at local cafes and street fairs around Northern Michigan, but his sound would be equally at home in a Hemingway-era pub in the 1920s, surrounded by a cloud of cigar smoke and Lost Generation peers.
Tracks like “Paperboy” and “Cardboard Box” feature both melodies and lyrics well beyond Millard’s years. And it’s that uniqueness that’s generating plenty of buzz for his music across the region.
KRISTI KATES FOR EXPRESS: Charlie, you and your live shows are probably best known so far in Petoskey. Is that your hometown, as well?
CHARLIE MILLARD: Well, I live in Alanson, just northeast of Petoskey, but I feel like a local in Alanson, Petoskey, and Indian River. They are all special places to me.
EXPRESS: How did you get started in music?
CM: I was first introduced to music through my father. He had his guitar setup in the kitchen, and was always playing something. I started out playing guitar, but changed over to piano at about age 11.
EXPRESS: And when did you start performing live?
CM: When I was 14, I started playing guitar at local farmers markets and selling my CD. I also walked into The Perry Hotel to see if I could play their beautiful black grand piano for their fine dining room. This will be my fourth summer playing there. I love it; I get to play all sorts of music, and I love the people there.
EXPRESS: In addition to performing cover songs, you of course also write your own music. What, or who, inspires you?
CM: I am a big fan of the legendary songwriters like Tom Waits, Greg Brown, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Van Morrison, George and Ira Gershwin, The Doors, Leon Russell, and Johnny Cash, but also artists like Patrick Watson, Conor Oberst, Feist, Vic Chestnutt, Jack White, Sparklehorse, and Ryan Adams. Ray Charles is right up there in my top five artists. There is so much great music to explore … I wouldn’t want to do anything else with my time.
EXPRESS: Some of that time was obviously spent working on your album, “Hattie Jane.” Would you tell us a little about it? Was it recorded locally?
CM: Yes, we recorded and produced “Hattie Jane” right here in our home studio on our own record label, Hattie Jane Records. It was released in July 2012, and we have sold more than 1,000 copies to date. All the songs are originals, and the album is available everywhere you can download music.
EXPRESS: Is there a theme, or a thread, to the album? Each song seems to have its own associated character or personality, from the title track onward.
CM: Each song does have a story behind it. But I like the fact that some people tell me their own personal interpretation of a song, what it means to them, or what they think it’s about, and it is completely different from what our original idea was, which is really cool. The song “Hattie Jane” was the last one we wrote and recorded for the album and really represents where we were heading with our songwriting.
EXPRESS: Now that “Hattie Jane” is finding its audience, what will your next step for your music be - another album, or a tour?
CM: The only thing that I am really planning is writing and recording songs. I am just hoping to put out quality music that will find an audience. And then, to enjoy playing it live. Throughout May, I’ll be performing at Cafe Santé, The Perry Hotel, and Red Sky Stage. This summer I’ll be at Blissfest, Petoskey’s Festival on the Bay, Crooked Tree Arts Center, and the Big Wood Show. And I’ll also be playing original music at Harbor Springs Street Musique, Petoskey Rocks, and Boyne’s Stroll the Streets. I am having a blast.
For more on Charlie Millard and his music, visit reverbnation.com/charliemillard or find him on Facebook.