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Pearl, “Givin It Up” is your latest single. You wrote this 70’s West Coast music inspired song together with your partner Michael Rault. Please tell us a little bit about the origin of the song.

Michael and I live together out in the Joshua Tree desert. Our home is also our studio, so we are constantly surrounded by instruments and recording equipment, just so we can be ready in case an idea strikes us at an unexpected moment. That is how “Givin’ It Up” was born. Michael woke up one morning and started playing a little ditty on the piano. When I asked him what it was, he told me it was the beginnings of an idea he had that he thought would be a good song for me. We quickly completed the lyrics and the other sections of the song together and the rest is history!

“Givin’ It Up” describes the journey of a partnership. Partnerships have always been the fuel for great art and creativity – just remember Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks or Richard and Linda Thompson. You met Rault halfway through making “Magic Mirror”. From your point of view, how did that influence the music on the album and your creative process?

Magic Mirror is a very autobiographical album, so meeting the creative and romantic partner that I had been seeking definitely informed the lyrical content of the second half of the record, not to mention Michael’s many musical contributions. Though some of the songs like “Sweet Sunshine Wine” and “As Long As You’re Mine” were actually written before Michael and I met, I felt like writing them was a way of manifesting the relationship and partner I wanted into my life. Another song on “Magic Mirror” that was written before I met Michael was “All The Way”, but he and I changed the lyrics of that song to make them apply more authentically to our situation.

How does the songwriting process work for you? Do you write the melody first or the lyrics? Is it more of a spontaneous process or do you follow a working routine?

There is no set process for me when it comes to songwriting. Every song has its own unique personality and identity and that is borne out in the way the songs come to me as well. I usually find the songs where the lyrics and melody come together at the same time to be the ones that really have that extra special magic to them, but I am constantly taking written and recorded notes of lyrical and musical ideas so I can be prepared to draw from that well whenever I want to get into the writing zone.

Pearl Charles and her partner Michael Rault on the set of her video for “Givin It Up”. Photo: Sarah Eiseman

Where do you draw your inspiration for your music?

I am constantly striving to make something as good as what I deem to be “the classics”, so I always look to the bands and artists I love so much for inspiration when it comes to musical direction. For lyrical ideas, I like to look to literature (Herman Hesse is my favorite author), as well as spiritual teachings, and just within my own everyday life to find inspiration for ideas and concepts.

You moved not too long ago from the hectic Los Angeles to a desert town near Joshua Tree. How has this new environment affected your songwriting?

The main change that I’ve noticed moving from out of the city to the country life is the ability to really get in the creative musical zone at any time or the day or night, whenever the inspiration may strike you. Back in LA I was relegated to practicing and playing music in a rehearsal space which is just a small, dingy room that I would have to travel to specifically at a pre-planned time to make music. In the desert our whole band comes out and stays with us for a few days at a time, we cook food and hang out under the stars and not only play music freely, but also take the time to flesh out the songs throughout the course of the trip. We’re in our own space so it feels comfortable and we can dig in as deeply as we want whenever we feel like it, which ultimately leads to a much more organic and less forced process.

Pearl, the Rolling Stone magazine wrote about “Magic Mirror” last year: “…like if ABBA and Gram Parsons had a baby” – a fitting description. On “Magic Mirror” you have ingeniously combined the lightness and catchiness of classic pop music with the dreaminess and yearning of cosmic country. What fascinates you about this music era of the 60’s and 70’s?

I have always felt that the 60’s and 70’s were the height of true artistry in the mainstream, not only in music, but also in film. For one thing, artists were very open to trying new things and mixing genres and sounds together in ways that hadn’t been done before, hence the birth of country-rock/cosmic country as you mentioned. There was also enough money in the industry at that time to take a chance on a small artist you believed in, whether or not you knew with 100% certainty that they would be able to sell the most records or tickets at the box office. We look back at that time and still hold these works of art in the highest regard and I just don’t personally feel that way about the albums and movies that are being presented to us by the mainstream media these days.

Are you also fascinated by the attitude to life at that time? And if so, what was special about it?

I just appreciate a time when art was made and driven by real artists, not algorithms. Sometimes that art may have been challenging and not easily digestible. These days everything is made to fit squarely in a box that can be easily defined and categorized. Those who make their art within these confines oftentimes can find success far more easily, while people who are pushing the limits in various ways or even just doing something that although maybe not revolutionary or groundbreaking, doesn’t quite fit the mold of what is expected from an artist today, are left on the outskirts, forever relegated to the underground. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love counter-culture, but it was nice to see a time when artists could make whatever they wanted and have a chance to share it widely with the world and possibly make a real difference by opening up people’s minds to new ideas.

Are there any artists from this era who are particularly close to your heart?

There’s no question for me that Fleetwood Mac is my ultimate number one, but aside from that it’s really hard to narrow it down. Whether it’s the pop production of ABBA or the songwriting of The Beatles solo projects, there are such a wide range of bands and artists from that time that really resonate with me deeply and to whom I am constantly looking to for inspiration.

Despite all the play with the sounds and genres of the past, your music, especially the lyrics, are clearly anchored in the here and now. How important is it for you to process personal experiences in the song lyrics?

I find songwriting to be a very therapeutic outlet, so although I’m trying to expand my horizons to write about experiences beyond my personal ones, that is definitely a huge part of my artistic expression.

Pearl, you had finished “Magic Mirror” just before the pandemic. Shortly after, the lockdown and COVID restrictions hit the creative industry hard. How have you experienced the last two years?

I had been looking forward to releasing the record in May of 2020 and hitting the road for extensive touring. Obviously things did not go as planned, so instead of focusing on what we were missing, I just started writing another album. Though this was already true, I think it definitely became more obvious to me, and probably everyone, that in this crazy, out of control world, the only thing we do have control over is ourselves, so I chose to turn inward and work on being the best artist and person I could be.

“I am constantly striving to make something as good as what I deem to be “the classics”, so I always look to the bands and artists I love so much for inspiration when it comes to musical direction.” Photo: Jenna Putnam

“Magic Mirror” turned out to be a favourite of critics and music lovers last year. The West Coast editorial team also nominated it as one of the Albums of 2021. How has your life changed since the album’s worldwide success?

The realization that all the big plans I had might not be possible or look the way I had imagined pre-covid definitely made me re-prioritize many things in my life. My personal biggest life change was moving to the desert and building a home studio with Michael, which probably wouldn’t have been able to happen if we had just hit the ground running with touring as had been planned. Since the vast majority of the positive response for the album has been exclusively on the internet, it doesn’t always feel tangible and perhaps if we’d had more of a chance to tour and really feel the effect the album has had on people in person, we would have been able to really experience that.  That being said, I am incredibly grateful for all the new fans and the support and can’t wait to get back out there so I can play these songs and even newer ones for everyone in person.

The course for a creative career was set for you early on. You come from a family that works in the film industry, you grew up near the creative centre of Laurel Canyon and started playing the piano at the age of five. Did you know early on that you wanted to become a professional musician?

My initial passion was actually musical theater, so I didn’t know early on that I would end up playing in rock bands. I was always passionate about music and being on stage though, so it wasn’t a huge leap that I ended up where I did.

What kind of records were playing in your parents’ house? Has this music influenced you?

My parents loved the quintessential singer/songwriters of the 60’s and 70’s, so I grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, The Beatles, John Prine, Frank Zappa, and the list goes on and on. Clearly these artists all made their impression in their own ways on me because I feel I do try to follow in their footsteps in so many ways with the work I’m making today!

When did you first start writing your own songs?

My parents encouraged me to explore songwriting when they could tell I was getting really serious about playing music. My piano teacher growing up was actually a professional songwriter, so I started writing with her when I was around 15, which gave me a great basis to work from when I branched out into writing alone in my later teens.

You took your first steps in the music business with the country duo Driftwood Singers together with Christian Lee Hutson, later you played as a drummer in a garage rock band. What made you decide to try your luck on your own and start a solo career? 

I was just finally ready to step out on my own and realize my vision with my own songs instead of helping other people with their own dreams which I had been doing since I started playing in bands. I wasn’t the songwriter in either of those projects, so they weren’t the environment I needed to be in to have my voice heard.

“Givin’ It Up” makes us want more. Can we expect a new album soon?

We are just about to go back into the studio to start work on a new album, so we will definitely have that finished sooner than later and I can’t wait to share it when it’s done!

Unfortunately, your concert dates in Europe were cancelled at short notice. Are replacement dates already planned?

Unfortunately, we were forced to cancel our European tour which was absolutely heartbreaking for the band and I, but I know we will be back as soon as we are possibly able!

Pearl, thank you very much for the interview!

Photos: Shawna Schiro