Ayear ago, Austin-based singer-songwriter Charlie Faye spent a month living, writing and playing in Tucson. It was the start of a year-long project in which she did the same thing in nine other cities across the country.
In each town, she'd immerse herself in local color, embrace the culture and seek out the best musicians she could find, recording a song in each location. She's compiling those tunes into her latest album, Travels With Charlie, which should be released in the next few months.
Faye, who plays a blend of twangy rock and Americana, is in the process of editing a year's worth of journals into a book about her experiences, and is planning a similar month-long residency in Ireland this summer.
Faye now is re-visiting many of the cities in which she was a temporary resident last year. That includes a gig this Saturday, Jan. 29, at Club Congress in Tucson, where it all began, kind of. She played her first gig of 2010 at Congress and often could be found there while living in downtown Tucson last January.
"I got in (to Tucson) late at night on New Year's Day, and the first thing I probably did was go to the Food Conspiracy Co-op immediately," Faye says. "My first whole day there, I remember wandering around downtown and Fourth Avenue. I had a gig at Club Congress on the second day I was there."
She considers Tucson to be one of her favorite temporary homes and one of the most creatively rewarding. "It was honestly one of the best of the tour. Everything about the town felt good to me, and I really love the music in Tucson. I love the venues, and I love the people I played with. I tell Austin people that I think my time in Tucson was the closest I'll ever get to how Austin felt in the '70s."
While in the Old Pueblo, Faye played with a variety of local talent, from Courtney Robbins to Al Perry, from Gene Ruley to members of the Silver Thread Trio. The latter group will appear on the bill this Saturday.
She also met bandleader Sergio Mendoza, who took Faye into Wavelab Studio to produce her song "Broken Heart Maker." Wavelab's Chris Schultz engineered the session, and Craig Schumacher mixed it. Faye also enlisted Joey Burns and John Convertino of Calexico to play on the track.
Faye was born and raised in New York City, went to Oberlin College and lived for a while in Philadelphia before settling in Austin several years ago. The 29-year-old is still enthusiastic about her year living and playing in different cities, calling the experiment a success.
"First of all, I think this method of touring really does work—not in terms of money, though. But for me, actually spending real time in each place did allow me to develop an audience. I also put together a band in each place, and made it so that now there are people waiting for me to come back, and I can't wait to get back to those places. I feel like I have 10 little homes across the country where I am comfortable, and I feel homesick for each of them at different times. And when I go back to those places, I don't feel as much like an outsider."
Faye says she learned a lot about herself during her year in 10 different cities.
"One real important thing that I learned, and I don't think a lot of people know this, but it's really possible to arrive somewhere where you don't know anybody and build a life for yourself. I am definitely no longer afraid of changes—well, maybe that's not completely true, but I am not afraid of changes in my career."
Faye's also impressed with the way arts culture works in Tucson: "Everybody has their own practice and art spaces, with everyone walking into each other's spaces and sharing. I could walk from Wavelab to the Rialto to Congress and Fourth Avenue and into art studios. Tucson has a real progressive culture and good food. It's doesn't feel stuck or limited. It's always changing and evolving."
When she plays Tucson this time around, her backing band will include Mendoza, Ruley and Jack Sterbis.