Loving life on the road
WHEN success doesn't come until late on in life, you've got to make the most of it and Charlie Landsborough certainly hasn't wasted any time doing just that.
This year marks the release of his 25th album, an even more remarkable feat considering he wasn't discovered until 1994, at the age of 53.
Charlie, who turns 71 later this month, has toured the UK and Ireland twice a year ever since, and his charismatic persona ensures he always gets a good crowd wherever he goes.
Here in Devon he has always enjoyed a loyal and supportive fan base, and on Sunday, October 28, Charlie will be stopping off at the Princess Theatre in Torquay.
"People must be sick to death of me by now," laughs Charlie. "A great friend of mine once said, 'You haven't got fans, you've got friends'. It's a nice way of putting it as I do feel like I've got a lot of friends here, there and everywhere.
"It's difficult not to tour because I'm doing the thing I've loved all my life."
Charlie's appreciation of finally being able to devote his life to music comes from his uphill struggle to get that elusive break in the music business.
Luckily Charlie is a patient man, because after almost three decades struggling for a break, and working as a teacher, success finally came in his 50s and, since his first big hit, What Colour Is the Wind, he has never looked back since.
Charlie is now a critically acclaimed musician, having won almost all the awards possible on the UK country music scene, and received a nomination for best global country artist at the prestigious CMA Awards in Nashville. He has also been inducted into the Hall of Fame of the British Country Music Hall.
But although he is grateful for all the awards and successes, Charlie doesn't like to be labelled as a country singer, or any other genre.
"A lot of people categorise me as country and western and certain songs of mine are, but I also do a lot of ballads with traces of blues, and I'm a bit folky," said Charlie.
"I love certain aspects of country music, but I don't like the modern stuff. What I do doesn't fit one genre and I think I have found my own identity.
"I've been in the Navy, a primary school teacher, postman, worked on the railways and in flour mills and so on, but the only constant thing was music.
"It is quite remarkable that I made it at the age I did, and it was wonderful when it did happen."
That break came when his track What Colour is the Wind, which tells the story of a young blind child's attempts to envision the world, was played on radio in Northern Ireland and came to the notice of TV chat show host Pat Kenny. He invited Charlie to perform on the Kenny Live show and a week later his album, also called What Colour is the Wind, was suddenly at number one in the Irish charts.
Charlie said: "A lot of people used to say I didn't push myself, but I'm not naturally a pushy person. It seemed that when all was lost my time came. If I'd had early success I would never have written anything, as songwriting came much later. Now it's a wonderful part of my life.
"Inspiration can come from a phrase someone says, when I see something happen or a situation around me which I put into my own words. For example, I had a succession of old bangers which my brother-in-law and I tried to fix, and the simple phrase I said, 'How Do You Do Those Things?', became a love song. It had nothing to do with old cars.
"I'd say 99 per cent of what I write is pretty mundane and awful. I've got six draws full of tapes with ideas on and two draws of lyrics. Out of all that rubbish is a tiny percentage that's pretty decent."
The singer-songwriter from Merseyside now has 25 albums to his credit. His last album, Love In A Song, is a collection of 17 classic love songs, and last month saw the release of a 36 track two CD compilation, The Very Best Of Charlie Landsborough.
With such an extensive back catalogue of songs to choose from, compiling a set list for a gig is never an easy task.
"It's a nice dilemma to have," says Charlie. "There's certain songs I will always sing like My Forever Friend and What Colour is the Wind, as that's what people know me for. If I didn't they would be disappointed, but within those I disperse a few covers and resurrect some old songs, and tell anecdotes and stories.
"Out of all the albums one of my favourites is Movin' On. It's all my own songs. Until recently I recorded my albums onto old tapes. I'm not technical at all. Then it's transformed into a wonderful arrangement so a lot of credit goes to my producers."
Performing has always been one of Charlie's biggest loves and life on the road is far from lonely.
"My wife and I travel around in a motor home when we're on tour, and we're surrounded by wonderful company and great friends so we have a great time," says Charlie. "It's a pleasure to go on the road. In the band there's now four instead of five, but the sound is almost like having six people on stage.
"My son Jamie plays rhythm guitar. It's nice him being in the band, but it doesn't show off his real ability. He's a better guitar player than I am, and he writes his own songs. He's been on the road for years and always drives me around when we're on tour. Back home I do all the running around.
"For me a good gig is primarily about the people. Whether you're playing in a wonderful place like Liverpool Philharmonic Hall or a tiny little venue, if you've got an enthusiastic crowd it's brilliant."
Despite now being in his 70s, Charlie has no plans to reduce the amount of gigs he does or to call it a day. He says: "I would not stick around and be an embarrassment to myself or anyone else, but while I'm enjoying it as much as I do and I've still got my health, I don't see the point in stopping. I won't retire. People will retire me by not turning up and I will get the message!"
Ticket information on 0844 871 7627 or visit www.atgtickets.com/torquay