Charlie Mars on Coffeehouse

“I only went to the party cause I heard you might be there.” This is the lyric that pops up on the screen then fades away if you visit Charlie Mars’ website, and just that one line conveys a lot of what makes Mars important as an artist. Sure it’s simple, but it carries a meaningful and emotional weight to which listeners of any age can relate. Mars, an acoustic guitarist born and raised in Mississippi, writes beautiful melodies accompanied by lyrics that are dark but honest. He stopped by the WERS studio to play a handful of songs, including several off his latest album, Blackberry Light, which was released in August of this year by Rockingham Records.

Mars opened his set with “Pacific Oceans,” a quiet, reflective song which featured just him and a piano. He says that he wrote the song while visiting California and that it includes the same themes as the rest of the album. Mars explains his subject matter often revolves around finding a balance between vulnerability and protecting oneself. Lyrics such as, “I’m afraid you’re gonna wake up and wish I wasn’t there” highlight this common thread.

Next up was “How I Roll,” in which Mars played an upbeat and incredibly catchy guitar line while singing about making bad decisions, regretting them, but knowing that his actions won’t change. The song could be described as a rock ‘n roll version of the popular phrase “YOLO,” Mars’ personal “never say never” anthem.

Mars then played one of his most popular songs, “Listen to the Dark Side.” When asked what his inspiration was for this song, he laughed and said he was at home eating a banana popsicle and listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon when he felt the need to write a song. His lyrics are often influenced by real-life experiences, and he describes feeling an inherent need to write. “Usually what happens is I’ll make a record then when I take time off I’ll start feeling this weird, kind of antsy feeling that I can’t describe. And then the songs just start happening.” He makes it clear that his music doesn’t come too easily though. He says, “It happens naturally when you work hard.”

The last song of the set was “Nothing But the Rain,” Mars’ personal favorite off Blackberry Light. It describes a dream he had of himself on a snowy mountain, and the light guitar line seemed to mimic snowflakes gently falling. One might wonder how audiences as large as the ones Mars has been playing for on tour respond to such soft, minimalistic song. He enthusiastically explains, “It allows me to get the crowd into the show. I’ve been doing all these crazy things with my phone, where I go out on stage, teach the audience a bit of the song, and film thousands of people singing along to the song” (these videos can be found on Mars’ Facebook page). Opening for bands like Citizen Cope, Steve Earle, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band has allow him to play for some huge crowds and explore new cities.

Fans can rely on Mars to keep making great music. “In the future I want to continue to write songs that I’m proud of, playing in places that are enjoyable, and playing with people that I like musically.” Whether you listen to his album or see him live, Charlie Mars’ music will connect with you in a personal way that will have you wanting to hear more.

By Mary Kennedy
Photo by Sara Selevitch

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