Rock’s newest nymphet, Pearl Charles, spent a day in our Melrose store gettin’ her Americana goddess on.
After her self-titled album hit last year, we were instantly smitten with Pearl Charles. With a smoky voice that coos over dreamy blues chords and perfectly tousled tendrils à la Michelle Phillips, Charles is the freshest face in psychedelic rock. This week marks the beginning of her southwest tour, and with more than a few SXSW performances in the mix, we wanted to get the Americana vixen into our Melrose store for a personalized styling sesh that would have her one hundred percent spotlight-ready (and chat her up while we were at it!). Read on to find out which high school boys she’s taking style cues from, why Hollywood is at the center of her sound, and how musical theater prepped her for a leading role… as herself.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Hollywood, right next to Laurel Canyon. We moved to the west side [of Los Angeles] when I was younger, and I went to high school in the [San Fernando] Valley, so I’ve lived all over L.A. I live in Hollywood again now; I ended up right back where I was born all these years later.
Being from L.A., do you think there was a regional influence on your music?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but growing up in California impacted my music a lot. I love that Laurel Canyon, ’70s sound. Hollywood is a really special place. L.A. is a city of constant change and fluctuation, but Hollywood is one of the parts of L.A. that’s been preserved. That’s especially true in terms of its musical history–those ’60s and ’70s roots are still a huge aspect of Hollywood’s energy today.
Who are some L.A. musicians who have influenced your sound?
I’d say the top two are Gram Parsons and Gene Clark–they were both in The Byrds at different times and they both spearheaded the psychedelic folk rock music scene. Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell, The Mamas and the Papas–those are all my absolute favorites. I’m getting ready to go to SXSW, so I’ve also been thinking about Doug Sahm and Janis Joplin. They were both from Texas, but they moved to San Francisco. There’s a cosmic Texas/California Americana music connection, and that’s had a huge influence on me, too.
How did you get into music?
My parents are both artists. My dad’s a filmmaker and writer, and my mom is a visual artist. They always encouraged me to try every type of art; when I was young I did musical theater, so I learned to combine acting and music. But the issue with acting for me was that I didn’t feel like I had my own voice because I was portraying a character. As I got older, I got into rock ‘n roll–playing guitar and writing songs–and that gave me so much more agency for my self-expression. As a musician, there’s a certain degree of playing a character, but I’m the one creating the role.
Who would you say your character is as a musician?
It’s still me, but there’s an aspect of putting on a show when you get on stage. As a songwriter, I write a song in a moment and it captures that moment. When I go to perform it later, I’m not in that same space necessarily; I have to go back to that place in order to communicate the original feeling. A lot of songs are about past relationships, so in a way you do have to keep dredging up your past and reliving the “character” of who you were at that moment in time. It can be intense.
What does your songwriting process look like?
It’s nice to let inspiration strike you, but if you really want to be able to say that you’re a songwriter and not just a person who writes songs, you have to put in the extra work of sitting down every day and writing. Sometimes it comes out purely as stream-of-consciousness, but when you’re sitting there doing it, all of a sudden an idea will come. I think Bob Dylan would say that he’s a conduit. A lot of people theorize that all the ideas are already out there, and you just have to open yourself up to grab them. You have to allow inspiration to come into your life.
Are there certain tools that facilitate that?
Yeah, there’s a great book, The Artist’s Way. It says you have to wake up every morning and write three pages of stream-of-consciousness before you do anything else to get whatever mental blocks you’re carrying out of the way first thing.
Who do you look to for style inspiration?
A lot of the same people I look to for musical inspiration–both men and women. Anyone from The Rolling Stones to Gram Parsons–I love all the Nudie suits. I’m somewhere between a ’70s high school boy and a hippie in fringe. That probably explains my obsession with Gene Clark. He was the original lead singer of The Byrds; he wrote a lot of great songs and had AMAZING fashion sense. The idea of being the whole package is super inspirational to me. I want to see someone who has cool style, has something to stay, has a great voice–all those things. The music is the most important part, but it’s so nice when all the elements come together.
Who are you stoked on for SXSW?
Well, Obama is the keynote speaker, so that’s going to be insane. Also this guy Emmit Rose is going to be there. He was basically the American version of Paul McCartney, but he only ever put out one album that he recorded himself in Hawthorne, CA–which is the where the Beach Boys are from–and then he fell off the map. Burger Records just released his new album, his first album in 40 years! I’m SO excited to see him in Austin.
Wanna get your own personal styling sesh with our muses? You can! Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll set you up with an appointment.
Photos: Brittney Christie
Styling: Liza Ovakimyan