Posted On 29 Nov 2017
Charles Billingsley is a Grammy nominated vocalist with over 3,000 shows and 24 releases under his belt. He began his career the day after he graduated from college in Birmingham in 1992. After two years, he joined the Christian Contemporary Music group NewSong. In 1994, they released People Get Ready featuring “Arise My Love.” After two years with NewSong, Charles left to pursue a solo career, averaging 200 concerts a year.
He is an amazing singer who certainly captures the sparkle and class of the season with his newest single “Silver Bells” It can be found on his most recent Holiday album, “It’s Christmas Time Again” (Crest Music), to be released on CD, vinyl, and all digital platforms on October 13. The album has already debuted at #3 on the iTunes Top 5 Holiday Albums, and currently sits at the #5 position, alongside Frank Sinatra, Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton, and Fantasia.
“I hope you will love these nostalgic and beautiful arrangements, and that they compliment your Christmas season,” enthuses Billingsley.
Learn more about Charles Billingsley in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it? What music gets you instantly out of a bad mood? What is a song you are loving these days?
I’m in the San Diego airport about to fly to Chicago and begin a very long 4 weeks of singing Christmas shows. I’ll do a fundraiser in Ft. Wayne, IN tomorrow night, then a show in Staten Island, NY then I’m in Brooklyn and then a show Monday at Carnegie Hall…and on it goes. There is music playing in the background…it sounds like light jazz, but honestly I can’t tell cause the ESPN highlights on the tv near me are drowning it out.
I like what I call “feel good” music. It instantly makes me happy. The first song that comes to my mind is the old Bolton tune – “Love is a wonderful thing.” Such a happy groove and soaring melody. I’ve loved that song for years. Another one would be “All night Long” by Lionel Richie. Just fun, happy grooves and great melodies.
I like power music, so one song I’m totally digging right now is Imagine Dragons – Believer.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Was there a time where you thought of doing something completely different?
Not really. I always loved music, but never planned to do it for a living. But I was a junior in high school when a friend of mine challenged me to sing a song for our youth group in church. I took the challenge, and then it just felt natural once I got up there.
My earliest musical memories are from being in church all those nights growing up and hearing my mom sing and play the piano. I really had no idea what I was going to do for a living until the spring of my senior year in college when some very gracious people offered to pay for me to make a cd. One little Christian radio station in Birmingham picked up a song from that record called “The Sparrow.” That changed everything, and suddenly I was getting calls to go all over Alabama to sing that song. When I graduated a few months later from Samford University in Birmingham, I realized I didn’t have time to do anything but go on the road and sing. There have been times when I was worn out and discouraged, but I don’t think I’ve ever considered truly leaving this profession and doing something else.
Musically, did you approach this year any differently then you did last year? How has 2017 been treating you and your career? What are you most excited about for in 2018?
I usually approach each year with some idea of what I want to accomplish. IN fact, I spend all day every New Year’s Eve just writing my goals for the year. This year was fun because early on…like January, I was in talks with my producer Tim Davis about doing a Christmas record. Then to see how all the funding came about and how we ended up recording it all, it literally became a dream come true.
2018 should be exciting, as well, as I plan to record a live worship record with the team from my church in San Diego. Quite a departure from this Christmas project, but a ton of fun. I’m also
hoping to come on the heels of the Silver Bells radio release with a pop tune or two. We will see…
I always like to ask artists about where they came from and how that city or town has influenced them as an artist now. So how do you think your hometown has affected you and your music today?
I was born in Clovis, NM, but we didn’t stay there long. IT’s a small town, and I haven’t been back in years, so not much influence there, musically. However, I spent several years in Birmingham and Atlanta, and so those communities had a huge influence on me. Everything from country to R&B is prevalent in those towns, and I got a good dose of all of it. I’ve also spent a lot of time in churches in that region, so I been influenced by that, as well.
With all your experience in this business, I am curious to know if what drives you to continue making music has changed at all through the years? Do you think that you are constantly growing as
an artist year after year?
Sometimes I wish I was a prolific song writer like so many of my friends. But to be honest, I don’t write all of my songs, only some of them. I use my voice and the medium of music to communicate a very clear message of hope and love to audiences. I hope they love my songs, and I hope my voice is pleasing to them, but my major goal is to clearly communicate truth and love to anyone who is willing to listen. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed to have the use of my voice and some great songs along the way. It sure makes communicating to an audience easier.
Since my primary goal is clear communication of a particular message, I am constantly striving to improve the presentation of that message. I know I’m better than I used to be. But this is a marathon, not a sprint. So I hope I’m a long ways from peaking yet. Guys like Tony Bennett inspire me to keep on trucking. But, all I know to do is just work everyday to continue to improve as a vocalist, musician, and communicator.
What was it like making your soon to be released Holiday album, “It’s Christmas Time Again”? Why did you decide to make a Holiday collection? What is it about these songs that makes you really enjoy singing them? How did you go about selecting the songs that you would have on it?
I had more fun making this project than anything I’ve ever recorded. With everyone in the room at the same time, the energy and synergy is off the charts. We even had BGV singers in there, too. All of it is live at one time, and it turned out amazing thanks to a great producer in Tim Davis and
word-class engineering and mixing by Jorge Vivo.
It had been almost 11 years since I recorded a Christmas record. And I always swore to myself that if I did, it would be in done exactly like Sinatra did it years ago. So that’s what we did…and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.
I love singing these old songs because they bring back a lot of memories growing up and also because they are easy to sing. It’s a very laid back record, so I feel like I could sing them all day long. I set out to record the kind of Christmas record that I would want to have playing in the background as family gathers, and we are eating and opening presents.
Nothing on this project was written after like 1960 except one tune…Welcome to Our World. So all the tunes are pretty old and have that nostalgic feel to them. I wanted to go fairly legit on one tune, so we chose Panis Angelicus since it feels sort of holiday-ish.
Can you talk about being part of the non-profit organization and Christmas For A Refugee?
It’s been a real honor to do this project with WorldHelp. I know this organization well, and they really are changing the world. They do everything from digging wells to provide clean water in
Guatemala, to having orphanages in India to housing and feeding thousands of refugees around the world. It is the plight of those refugees that breaks my heart, and so all the proceeds from this project are going to help feed and clothe and put warm blankets and medicine in the hands of these many refugees around the globe, particularly the Middle East.
What is one of your all-time favorite Holiday albums?
I always loved the Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and the Carpenter’s Christmas albums. And I think in modern times, Michael Buble and David Foster absolutely knocked his Christmas record out of the park. I also love Harry Connick’s Christmas stuff.
Do you have plans to play out life this fall and winter in support of your Holiday collection?
Oh yes..that all kicks in right now, in fact…all the way through Dec. 18th. Then, I’ll do it all again next Christmas.
With the summer over now, what was something fun or new that you tried this summer?
I moved my entire family to San Diego! Just a minor change from Virginia, Ha! WE are adjusting to Southern California living and having a great time doing so.
We are living in a crazy and at times rough world right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? Do you think that new music being created today is
going to reflect these hard times?
I think new music always reflects the signs of the times because song writers typically write about what troubles them. There are many songs out right now that speak of modern day issues. Regardless of what side of the aisle you land on…whether democrat or republican…conservative or liberal…music of the day has a huge influence in how people think and respond. Music has always had a huge influence in pop culture and today is no different. For me, I find great joy in doing music that communicates a very clear message of God’s love. I want it to sound contemporary and not dated, yet maintain a timeless element, so that 10 years from now, the song still feels relevant, especially for a lyrical side. More importantly, when I get a letter or an email from someone who is hurting or lonely, or afraid, and my song has been used to bless them and even change their life, it inspires me to keep at this, to keep pushing forward with more concerts and more records. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m making a difference, and then about the time I get discouraged, someone’s life will be changed for the better, and it will spur me onward.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Phil Collins and Sting. I probably listened to more of them than anyone else. But I was also a Huey Lewis fan and a fan of Journey and Chicago. I got to sing “Don’t Stop Believin” with Jonathan Cain recently at an event in Nashville. He, of course, wrote that tune for his group Journey. That was a true honor and so much fun! I’ve been listening to that song since I was in middle School!
Now a days, I love Maroon 5, Train, Imagine Dragons, ColdPlay, and One Republic. I’m a fan of any artist with fantastic lyrics and melody lines. IN the Christian circles…Mercy Me is probably my favorite band. And I love this new artist named Zach Williams.
What do you hope fans continue to take away from your new and older music?
I want my listeners to continually here my heart. I want them to hear clearly the message of grace, hope, love and peace in every song. I want to go to my grave knowing I delivered that message to my generation as clearly as I possibly could.
What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about becoming a musician one day?
Stay true to yourself. Trust your writing and your heart. YOU have a message and a sound that is uniquely you. NO one else can do exactly what you do. In a world with 7 billion people, find a
niche that people respond to that fits who you are, and go for it. Don’t let discouraging sales or the opinion of an industry professional stop you from doing what you know you are supposed to do.
You have a message…sell it. You have a talent…exploit it. You have a desire…let nothing quench it.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself, your music or the show?
I would just tell readers if you’d like to get to know me more, feel free to contact me or send me a message on twitter – @cbillingsley. Maybe I’ll even be in concert in your area. Come on out. In the meantime, may God’s peace fill you and may you find the true meaning and joy of Christmas in your heart this year as you enjoy time with your family and friends.