Charlie Daniels has enjoyed a career in music for the better part of six decades and the 82-year-old isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Ahead of a recent performance at Nashville’s Winners Bar & Grill to promote his latest album, “Beau Weevils – Songs in the Key of E,” the Country Music Hall of Famer with longtime friend and producer James Stroud sat down with One Country to discuss the evolution of their new project, career longevity and friendship.
Charlie and James first worked together in the ’80s, with James producing 1988’s “Homesick Heroes,” the 1989 Platinum-certified album “Simple Man,” and 1991’s “Renegade.” Throughout our conversation, both Charlie and James praise each other’s musical talents.
“He did the most successful country album we ever did and we had so much fun,” Charlie recalls with a smile. “It was a fun thing to do and we had always wanted to work together again but we had no vehicle, no music to play. So, I started writing some music.”
Fondly recalling their time working together in the ’80s, James admits that Charlie is “the most horrible practical joker.”
“Oh yeah, especially in the studio,” Charlie says with a chuckle.
“When I first wanted to work with Charlie Daniels [in the ’80s] I was blessed to have a few things that worked for me. Charlie called me and said, ‘I want to talk with you.’ He was literally interviewing all these producers so I went to work and studied his records, made my notes and stuff like that,” James recalls. “He waited and waited to have me out to his house. I told him, ‘I can’t wait to get out there.’ What I didn’t know was he was working on his road. I had an old Porsche . . . and he sent me through his river to get to his house. Water was coming through the car. The stuff he used to do!”
Charlie doesn’t deny his practical joke, but asserts that it was in fact a creek, not a river, on his property, as the two laugh about the experience. As Charlie explains, working with James again was a desire he had for many years and it’s easy to see why as the two old friends praise each other’s skills and work ethic among several laughs.
“We talked about the philosophy of how you want to cut a record,” James says of Charlie calling him and letting him know he’d begun writing songs for a collaboration. “We talked about the way we grew up, the way we learned our music, the way we played our music, then applied it back to when we first started. There was a bit of innocence to the whole thing. So, when we talked about it he had three songs. He said, ‘You want to play drums?’ He talked me into it and we had a great start to it which inspired him to keep going.”
Charlie chimes in, once again raving about the producer and drummer on the project. “He’s being very humble. He’s one of the finest drummers in town,” Charlie asserts.
“Beau Weevils – Songs in the Key of E” began with a song called “Mudcat” that Charlie wrote. He had the guitar riff for two years until he finally had an idea for the song, which was inspired by the late blues singer Robert Johnson.
“He became one of the best known blues singers. As he became known, they claim that the reason he got so good is because he sold his soul to the devil,” Charlie explains about the legend that Robert went to the railroad tracks in Mississippi around midnight and sold his soul. “That’s what the song’s about if you listen to it. That set the style for all the rest of the songs I wrote.”
“Mudcat” was written in the key of E and liking how the track sounded, Charlie decided to continue penning the remaining songs in the same key. James is from Louisiana and says his musical influence and upbringing helped them work towards more of a swamp attitude and Cajun feel on the project.
“He lays down a beat and lays down a feel. It’s a feel, that’s what we’ve lost in music — human feelings — and that’s what this album is. It’s very human,” Charlie explains. “There’s no loops. It’s just four guys going in the studio and making music.”
The one word James keeps using to describe the album is “innocent.” He says nothing was pre-planned as far as the album other than the lyrics. Once Charlie put the band together, they came in and jammed in the studio.
“What’s wonderful about Charlie is he allows you to be a musician. He allows you to express your music and then he has a way, without you knowing it, he corrals you and gets everything to a place that makes sense. It was inspiring,” James marvels.
Charlie is well versed at juggling multiple projects. As he releases his latest album, he has also revealed a new inspirational book called “Let’s All Make the Day Count: The Everyday Wisdom of Charlie Daniels.” The inspirational book, out now, offers life lessons and words of wisdom from Charlie himself.
“There’s 100 different writings in there and it talks about mistakes I’ve made that if somebody would listen they could avoid them. It’s a spiritual book,” he explains about the book that includes Bible verses.
A spiritual man, when asked his secret to longevity in the music business Charlie simply points above his head, motioning to God.
“Everything good we forget. The Bible says, ‘Every good gift comes from the Father of lights, the giver of light.’ I am 82 years old it’s a blessing from God that he helps you do what you want to do. A lot of people at 82 want to chase the bass around. I can’t do that. I want to do what I’m doing. I’m living and I want to play music,” he concedes. “I sincerely love what I do.”