The purity of an artist’s vision can sometimes get lost in a minefield of opinions and strategy. And when that vision is blurred, it loses its original authenticity – the essence of what made it a true expression of the artist’s soul in the first place. So sometimes stripping back to basics is necessary. A return to one’s roots, you might say. Gamble For A Rose – the long awaited sophomore record from folk singer King Charles – is that, a return to his roots.
It is an honest reflection of Charles Costa’s curious and deep fascination with human affection and our yearning for love. Within these themes, Costa’s poetic nous bares deep profundity – fully consuming and wholly present – his ability to recount and describe matters of the heart in such vivid colour and with such breadth of sentiment is what makes his music so powerful and impossible to ignore.
I believe he is one of those storytellers and songwriters that will be revered and praised for his work long after he’s passed. Not many can get to the heart of what it means to be human like he does, and that in my opinion, is precious.
Charlotte, Bitter Sweet Symphonies: Thanks for taking the time to speak to me today.
King Charles: “My pleasure.”
I saw you earlier in the year for your ‘28 shows, 28 days’ tour. Would you consider doing something like that again?
“Yes, I want to do that – I feel like I’ve done it in England. I’ve done it twice in England now so I wanna do it elsewhere in other countries. Maybe around Europe.”
So you recently released the first single off your new album – ‘Gamble For A Rose’. Firstly I wanted to say, what an incredible song it is.
“Oh I’m glad you like it.”
Why was ‘Gamble For A Rose’ the right song to share first from the album?
“I think Gamble For A Rose sets a good tone. A change in direction that I felt was what I wanted to follow. It’s one of my favourite songs so it was a good one to start with.”
What resonates with you the most about ‘Gamble For A Rose’ as an album?
“Well I enjoyed the making of it a lot. I’m so happy to be releasing it, and having the release date. It’s a harder thing than you think, releasing music – making and releasing albums is harder than I think. And I’ve just really enjoyed this period of writing it, recording it, finishing it and promoting it, it’s just exciting to me.”
I see a few older tracks that have been previously released are on the tracklisting for the new album. How come you decided to revisit songs like ‘Coco Chitty’ and ‘St Peter’s Gate’?
“Well Coco Chitty, I love that song so much. I feel like I have a bond with that song, [in] that I want to keep recording it, until I feel like I’ve got it right. And I want it to keep changing with me, so we kind of grow old together and change through the times. And St. Peter’s Gate, I never really recorded a proper version of that either so I wanted to get a really solid recording down. I’m very happy with the way it sounds now.”
Did you know there’s a St. Peter’s Gate in Nottingham? A road named that?
“Oh really? Oh interesting, take a picture of it.”
I would have done when I was there but I missed my chance. Next time for sure.
“Maybe we can release it as a geographical tribute song.”
The new album is to be released on your own label ‘Buffalo Gang’ – a dedication to your fans. Do you feel more ownership of your work now that it’s solely under your own control?
“Yeah I do. It’s not solely Buffalo Gang’s, it’s Kobalt.”
Yeah it’s through Kobalt.
“It’s an amazing thing to be able to have the freedom, and choice, and independence in what I’m doing. It’s definitely more of a risk, but I’m keen to make this work and I think it will.”
Can you talk us through how you were feeling as the new album began to take shape?
“I said to Marcus [Mumford] ‘you know I wanna make the album that I should’ve made before Loveblood.’ This is the album that sounds like I would’ve wanted it to sound like back then and this is the roots of where I started as a songwriter, these are the sounds that really excited me. I think Marcus is great at staying true to that and we were both really loyal to that idea. We didn’t want to get carried away with production or anything [else].
It’s like bringing it back to the song.
Having browsed through the album’s tracklisting, a few of the track names spring to mind that are familiar such as ‘Carry Me Away’ and ‘Tomorrow’s Fool’, what are the origins of these songs?
“Well, Carry Me Away was the first song I ever wrote, I was at school and that was about escapism. I’d start to write songs in a wave about escaping a mindset or escaping whatever is going on in life, and that is kind of what the whole album is themed on. Escape.”
As this album signifies a return to your roots, will your tour possibly include your sister Wednesday as a special guest?
“Yeah I hope so. It’d be great if she came along.”
Yeah I’d love to see her perform.
“Yeah, she’s amazing. You should check her out at WednesdayMusic.”
Yeah I wrote a blog post about her, when she put out her first song.
“Oh great! Beautiful.”
Does being immersed within music constantly make you feel liberated from the anxiety hurdles and obstacles that come your way?
“Singing and playing music is an amazing escape.”
After gaining years of experience within the industry, do you feel more confident and assured with the business side of being an artist now?
“No I don’t think you can have any confidence until you’re the one calling the shots. I’m the one now calling a lot more of the shots, so I do have a confidence that I can make the moves that I want to make but at the same time, there’s a lot of shit that you don’t know about, that I don’t know about. You know, that just seems to loom – the rights that people have. It’s just hard to understand all the in’s and out’s of it, naturally I’ve no instinct to business. But you have to get savvy enough to make things work, so that you can keep being an artist.”
Your songs are very openly romantic, why do you think you find yourself drawn to the idea of love and longing?
“I like the idea of thinking and working and dwelling on the idea of love because it’s the yearning of the soul, other than the yearning of flesh, which is something [that] you’re bombarded with everyday. It gets exhausting.
There’s something higher that you feel your soul is looking for. Your soul seems to be looking for something deeper than your flesh. It’s a kind of hunger that I find really interesting and that’s what I like thinking about. It’s a constant risk and challenge, it’s always interesting.”
Collaboration was key to making this record come to life, you worked with a few members of Noah and the Whale and Mumford & Sons, but most notably Marcus Mumford produced this record. What did they each bring to the record?
“Marcus brought sound and perspective to the record. He played drums on a lot of the tunes, sang on them, he was very involved, engaged which was very cool.”
Finally, before I let you head off. For all us fans, what’s the song that we should be the most excited to hear from the record in your opinion?
“Well I think people will respond to different songs but my favourite song at the moment is Bright Thing, so look forward to that one. Play it with the windows down, driving along a motorway next to the beach.”
Will you be playing that on the tour?
King Charles new album ‘Gamble For A Rose’ is released on 22nd January 2016. Pre-order it here on digital and physical formats. He will also be touring the UK throughout February, for the full list of tour dates click here.