Clinton Charlton just might be one of the busiest dudes in the vibrant Saint John, New Brunswick music scene. A multiple Saint John Music Award winner, Charlton’s latest venture, January Through December, has him writing, recording and mixing one song per month and offering the results via the project’s website. Charlton’s knack for cutting to the chase with his highly infectious folk-infused songs must surely looked upon with envy by other musicians.
Of course, January Through December is only one of numerous achievements for Charlton. With four other releases to his name, Charlton also has the distinction of having been commissioned by the City of Saint John to write the theme song for the city’s 225th birthday celebration. Charlton’s track “A Place To Play A Song” was featured in a tourism commercial for the city, helping raise Charlton’s already impressive profile higher.
Charlton recently took the time to discuss January Through December with The MusicNerd Chronicles:
How did you come up with the idea of writing a song per month?
It’s certainly not an original idea, more of my own spin 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. Saint John Native Christian Leblanc did a songwriting project called 52 Weeks, which also served as inspiration. I 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. So I settled on one song a month and the results have been gratifying thus far.
Do you plan on doing anything with these tracks after the fact – compiling them onto a proper release or are you content to let them stand as is?
I’m not sure yet. I’ve been asked that question a few times now and it has me thinking that maybe I should compile them into a proper release. I may be content to just let the project be what it is, but I reserve the right to change my mind. If I were to do a proper release of the material, I think I would want to package it with the blogs that accompany the music on the website since they provide the context for the material. I certainly didn’t 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.
Is it somewhat freeing to be able to undertake a project like this and not necessarily have to keep in mind that the songs are coherent month over month as if you were making a proper album?
Absolutely! One of the most attractive things about the project for me was that it enabled me to stay creative while allowing the freedom to experiment without worrying about flow from one track to the next. The initial idea behind the project was to stay busy and release some songs while I wrote a batch of new material that will become my next album proper. I didn’t expect the project to have the impact it has on my writing. I think it’s helped me to develop more diversity in my writing and give up some of the preconceptions of what I think I should sound like.
How prolific of a songwriter are you otherwise? Is writing a song a month a challenge in any respect or has it been a fairly easy task for you?
I wouldn’t call myself a prolific writer by any means. I have accumulated a good size repertoire of original material over the years, and my catalogue is certainly growing rapidly. With that said, I’m also a lazy writer. I have cassettes full of partial songs or unrealized ideas that I simply let lie. When I revisit this material I find lots of stuff that I know I should explore or work on but it’s just not a discipline that I’ve mastered yet. Deadlines are a good thing for me; this project has certainly helped me to focus. The trick right now is to start earlier in the month. Almost every song on this project has been born with only days left before it’s due. So on one hand, I guess it comes easy to me most times, but on the other, perhaps the songs could be more realized with more focus. I’m not beating myself up over it though, I intend to do this for as many years as I’m breathing. Songwriting is a lifelong pursuit; it’s a craft that has to be cultivated. I can’t wait to hear what my songs will sound like in 30 years from now. Hopefully I’ve learned lots.