Interview: Charlie Rauh

Charlie Rauh is a unique artist with a distinctive sound to his music, with his latest EP, Angels Of Annunciation, being based around classical guitar music. I was fascinated by his music and found myself eager to find out more, so decided to do an interview with him!

By Jane Howkins

You recently released an EP titled Angels Of Annunciation, which we reviewed. What can you tell us about the EP?

Yes, first of all thanks for your generous review! Angels Of Annunciation is a lullaby cycle inspired by the writing of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. My mother introduced me to Anne’s work – I immediately became immersed in her poetry, insights, and travel documentation. I wanted to take elements of Anne’s various works and create a sort of experiential musical offering, so I structured the EP very specifically with references to her poetry collections and two of her books – Gift From The Sea, and North To The Orient. In North To The Orient she documents a long survey flight with her husband Charles Lindbergh in which the two aviators plan air routes to Asia from America using northern travel paths. The interlude pieces on the EP – (Posn), (Nihl Hrd), and (Sorry pse rpt) take their names from short hand radio signals Anne used during this trip (position, I did not hear you, sorry please repeat). I interspersed these messages with lullabies written about various poems and personal accounts detailed by Anne. The combined time of the entire cycle, 8 minutes, equals the time allotted for each pilot to rest according to Anne’s documentation which notes that they would take turns flying while the other would sleep for 4 minutes.

Has the pandemic hindered your work much?

The pandemic obviously made touring, or any travel, impossible for quite a while – but instead of allowing that to hinder me, I leaned into composing and recording new music. I used the time to learn new skills, read new authors I’d been meaning to get to and attempt to find a deeper understanding of how to create relevant music. Music that is rooted in intention, openly personal and offered unconditionally.

Do you plan to release any singles from the EP in the near future?

I like the idea of these songs being experienced as a cycle, so I wont be releasing any of them as singles – but in the fall I am going to be releasing a feature of one of the songs in a larger context (stay tuned!)

Have you started writing for another EP or an album?

I have! Next year I will be releasing an album of lullabies for guitar, voice, and sound design inspired by the poems of Phillis Wheatley titled A Hymn To The Morning. The album is already finished, and I will start working on the release plan with Destiny Records toward the end of this year. A release date is not set yet, but fall of 2023 is likely.

Your music has a classical guitar sound. What/who influences you most as an artist? What have you been listening to recently?

I have no classical training or even understanding of the guitar in that way, but I think that element of my sound mostly comes from listening to a lot of choral music and early music. Since guitar is often not involved in these, my attempt to get at the sound on a solo guitar comes out this way. I love recordings of Hildegard Von Bingen’s music most of all. I honestly take most of my influence from literature – more than music that I listen to. I like to try to make music that sounds the way I feel when I read. As far as what I listen to, I often listen to artists that are completely different from the music I play. Some current favourites are SZA, Emily Haines, and Doja Cat. Listening to a wide variety of music, especially pop and r&b, provides a different window into the creative process for me. When I practice I don’t run scales, play standards in all 12 keys, etc. I figure out solo guitar arrangements of artists like Alina Baraz and build my tonal vocabulary that way.

You studied jazz guitar at Shenandoah Conservatory, which is quite different to the music on the EP! Why did you decide to change your sound? How was it studying there?

Ha, yeah. So I went to conservatory for jazz because I loved artists like Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday – fiercely original, and impossible to categorize. I wanted to study the approach of making music that way, which is how I still view jazz. I did not find this type of environment there. I was discouraged constantly by many of my professors (with some very notable exceptions who pushed me to explore my ideas). I liked music theory, and wanted to experiment with the ideas I was taught in the jazz context, and that did not fly well. So I dropped out after 2 years and started figuring out how to find the sound I needed. Learning as an intellectual pursuit has always been a central part of my life, but school wasn’t for me. I’m much happier doing my own research and surrounding myself with intellectually curious people who challenge me.

You’re based in New York City. What is the music scene like in your part of the world?

It’s very diverse here! I’ve lived here for 12 years and learned so much through my work as a session player recording on albums from pop, rock, folk, r&b and yes, jazz. I feel lucky to be here and to have access to so many amazing artists.

You’ve moved around quite a bit – from Alabama to Nashville, all the way to New York. Do you think the places you’ve lived have influenced your music and playing style? Do you ever miss the South?

Oh absolutely. Growing up in the South exposed me to space. I never lived in a rural area or anything like that, but the amount of open space in that part of the country has a sound. There’s a simplicity to open fields, mountains, long highways. That’s a sound that will always be part of me and my music. I love to visit my friends around the South, and always enjoy going back – but I do prefer the pace and action of NYC as a home base.

Do you have any tour dates lined up in the UK?

I do not so far! I would love to sometime soon though!

Any last words for the fans?

Thank you to everyone who has picked up the EP and/or streams my music! More on the way!