This month’s Localized, on April 18, will feature a mysterious hodgepodge of sincerity. Crook and the Bluff will start off the set with western-tinged psych-blues, after which blues crooning, working man rocking, badass motherfuckers Vincent Draper and the Dirty Thirty will sexy your face off. Following, mustachioed and chocolate-voiced singer-songwriter and strum-master Charles Ellsworth will finish things off. This delicious treat begins at 10 p.m. at Urban Lounge, $5 for those 21+. The night is hosted by Ischa B. and sponsored by Budweiser, Spilt Ink and KRCL 90.9FM.
Two blocks from the residence of Vincent Draper, I met with Charles Ellsworth. After smoking a few cigarettes on the porch, we proceeded inside, and in his trademark hilarious style, as soon as we sat down, Ellsworth says, “You should start the interview with me forcibly saying, ‘Sit down and take a hit of this bowl.’” Ellsworth, apparently, likes to keep up his deserved rock-star image, though the bowl was imaginary.
Charles’ career started at a young age after a chance encounter. “I was at the video store down the street from my house when I was 12 and I decided to buy The Song Remains the Same by Led Zeppelin because I had never listened to them before. The next day, I told my mom I wanted to play guitar,” Ellsworth says.
Much of Ellsworth’s career has been based around touring the country and spreading his music. “My most recent tour was a national tour with Shadow Puppet. For the most part, it was me and one of my best friends and his dog driving around the country together, playing music every night, drinking in dive bars and passing out in the van,” Ellsworth says. His life on the road has transformed the way he performs and writes. “When you play every night and your gas or food money is on the line, you eventually become a better performer overall. You not only get better at playing the music and executing the parts, but you improve at interacting with people and comfortably being onstage, which is something I used to struggle with a lot,” Ellsworth says. His songs have always incorporated some aspect of travel, and it is genuinely due to his abundant trekking experience.
When it comes to their album, Salt Lake City: A Love Story, not only are there two distinct styles featured, but the perspectives from Carson Wolfe, aka Vincent Draper, and Ellsworth are very different. “Carson has lived here his entire life and I’m a transplant. All of my songs on the record, except for the title track, refer to other places around the country or the world,” Ellsworth says. Their love of the City of Salt is also expressed in a markedly individual way. “It’s my way of saying you hate Salt Lake when you’re in the fishbowl, but when you get out and come back, you realize how special it really is,” Ellsworth says. Their outlook on relationships and lives in Utah provide an interesting picture of this place we call home. “[Carson]’s is different than mine, which is about heartbreak and relationships on the road, but his is about being in the same town, having to deal with running into a person you used to be with. It’s funny: The entire record is about breakups,” Ellsworth says.
On the subject of collaborating for Localized, Ellsworth hopes that there will be an interchange of artists for the performance. “[Carson] plays drums for me. Otherwise, I’m sure there will be some sort of changing of musicians. We definitely want to make it as unique an experience as possible, so I would like to collaborate onstage as much as possible,” Ellsworth says.
Wolfe and Ellsworth are not only partners in performance, but a pair of very good friends, allowing them to create an even closer musical bond. Ellsworth says, “My favorite part about playing with Carson is that he comes purely from a place of passion. Playing with [Carson] always brings that back for me. I want to play music with him forever, if it allows.” Like Saddle Creek Records, these two have created a network of artists who perform and record together. “I released an album about three years ago called Charles Ellsworth and the Dirty Thirty. The Dirty Thirty is a rotating cast of musicians who all play on each other’s records,” says Ellsworth. This group of young musicians work together to create a performance system of songwriting hulks.
Working together with another artist on a split forces a mashing of methods and, in this case, resulted in an unobtrusive approach. “We went into the studio with certain goals in mind. Our motto for this whole record was ‘less is more, but if you’re going to go with more, go with more Slayer.’ The whole thing was an exercise in minimalism,” says Ellsworth. Wolfe and Ellsworth recorded the rhythm section themselves, allowing them to look at their record from a different perspective. “[Carson] and I live-tracked all the drum and bass together. I think it was a way for the rhythm section to come together and have a natural, fun feel,” Ellsworth says.
In the end, as Ellsworth says, “You can spot a fraud from a mile away,” and that will never be a problem for the members of Vincent Draper and the Dirty Thirty or Charles Ellsworth. These men make music about what they know, crafting songs that go straight from their heartache to our ears, teaching us something about ourselves, and now, about the glorious Salt Lake City.