Clinton Charlton sets his own pace

If you speak with Saint John resident Clinton Charlton about his newest project entitled January Through December in which he writes, records and releases one song per month throughout 2011, you can quickly gather that it is not merely a lazy man’s way to compile material for a new record.

In actuality, Charlton has little reason to compose new music at such a relatively leisurely pace. The prolific musician has four prior releases to his name, is a multiple Saint John Music Award winner and had his track “A Place To Play A Song” commissioned by the City of Saint John and prominently featured in a commercial promoting tourism to the city.

Does the above sound like the work ethic of a lazy man?

I should think not.

For the minimal fee of $5, Charlton’s fans can sign up on the January Through December website where they are then given access to the songs that have been written for the year to date while also granting them access to the material that will be written over the remainder of the year.

Also included in the subscription fee are artwork, lyrics for each track and a blog about the song.

While he will be the first to admit that the idea for the project is not entirely an original one, Charlton tells The Times & Transcript that inspiration for January Through December came from a number of different sources.

“January Through December was more of my own take on a concept I learned about through writers such as Ari Hest, who had a project called 52, or Josh Rouse’s Bedroom Classics Archive,” he begins. “I had considered writing a song a week but I knew that with my day job, my membership in several bands and my already busy music schedule, the quality would suffer and so I settled on one song a month instead.”

By writing and recording one song per month, Charlton has actually freed himself of what some musicians might consider a primary constraint of making a full-length record: ensuring that there is a cohesiveness that ties the group of tracks together.

Though his songs stay close to Charlton’s folk-inspired roots, he does feel there is a certain liberty that goes along with writing songs for the project as opposed to writing for a new record.

“One of the most attractive things about the project was that it enabled me to stay creative while allowing myself the freedom to experiment without worrying about how the songs flowed from one track to the next.”

The album as an art form is far from dead as far as Charlton is concerned and does not mean to raise alarm bells to that effect by having undertaken this specific project.

It was simply a matter of being the right project for him at the right time. And though he has given some consideration to gathering the 12 songs that will comprise January Through December onto an album of their own, he also admits that he may be content to leave the songs stand on their own. But he’d like people to hear them in context.

“A few people have asked whether they think I will put these songs out as a release of their own and it has me thinking that maybe I should do so.

“But then again, I may be content just to let the project be what it is. I am definitely reserving the right to change my mind if I want to do so.”

“I certainly did not intend on making a record when I started the project, but the more time I spend with these songs, the more I want people to hear them. I did not expect the project to have the impact that it has had upon my writing. It has helped me to develop diversify writing and has also forced me to give up some of the preconceptions of what I think I should sound like.”

To learn more of Clinton Charlton’s January Through December project, visit www.januarythroughdecember.com.

Article featured in September 16, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript