Interview with Charlie Peacock

Not only is Charlie Peacock somewhat of a legend in the music industry, he is also responsible for signing Switchfoot to their first record deal over at Re:Think records. It’s entirely possible that if it wasn’t for Charlie Peacock, none of us would even know about Switchfoot. Now, Mr. Peacock is teaming with Switchfoot again, joining them in their work towards their new album and Jon’s EPs. We felt like an interview with Charlie Peackcock was definitely in order, so we joined with our friend Job over at the We’re Awakening blog and contacted Mr. Peacock for an interview… and here it is!

Land of Broken Hearts(LOBH) & We’re Awakening (WA): Thank you so much for doing this interview with us Mr. Peacock. It’s truely an honor! Now you’ve been with Switchfoot since their beginnings as a band. Can you share some of your first impressions of the band and their music?
Charlie Peacock: My first impression of the music was via a cassette tape. I thought the music was wonderfully inventive. Loved the lyrics too. Arrangements and parts were very clever and magnetic. Then I met them as people and was totally captured by their innocence and enthusiasm for life.

LOBH: What has it been like for you, watching Switchfoot’s progression over the past 10 years?
Charlie: One of my favorite collection of memories to be sure. Very proud to know these guys and have some small part in their trajectory of good. I love to hear fan’s responses to the music. I especially like stories of how the songs help people become one kind of person in the world and not another — how they shape people toward goodness and curiosity.

LOBH & WA: What was it like working with Switchfoot on the earlier albums? You were executive producer, and Jimmy Lee Sloas was the producer. Was it more of a watch-from-a-distance type of thing for you? Will it be different this time around?
Charlie: I was the executive producer on the first album because I was afraid that if I produced it I’d ruin their sound by trying to clean it up too much. I was very involved though. I chose the producer and engineer and studios and picked the songs. I also played on the recording and helped with arrangements. I am the executive producer on Jon’s EPs because Jon doesn’t really need a producer anymore. He just needs people who will tell him their honest opinion and I’ve always done that with Jon. I produced New Way To Be Human and half of Learning To Breathe and then was a co-producer with Fields and the guys on the single “Dare You To Move” on The Beautiful Letdown. I don’t want to say too much about the new recording because it’s really the band’s choice as to what they communicate about it. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve worked on it to some degree and that it will of course be the best Switchfoot album yet!

LOBH & WA: We heard your interview with CMCentral back in December, and you were talking about Switchfoot working with ATO Records in some sort of fashion? Is that true, or has it been confirmed? If so, to what capacity will they be helping the guys out with the record?
Charlie: Another question better answered in full by the band. For now, It’s no secret that Switchfoot is working with ATO and the good people at Red Light Management. Bruce Flohr at ATO is a great music person and he will serve the band well. There’s a reason both Switchfoot and Radiohead chose to partner with Bruce and his team. They are really good at what they do. Switchfoot is a smart band. They make good choices.

LOBH & WA: How close are you to the Switchfoot guys as friends?
Charlie: Well the original three are like sons — though they all have excellent parents so I’m not that needed. Romey and Drew are like best friends I’d hang out with in highschool, maybe play in a band with doing Cure, Smiths, and The Jesus and Mary Chain covers. All of them are high integrity fellas.

LOBH & WA: What was it like working with Jon Foreman on his solo stuff?
Charlie: I love the songs so it was very enjoyable. I also liked being able to help Jon sort through the mountain of songs he’s written over the last year or so. He’s very prolific you know. Songs are his oxygen. He let me play a few vintage keyboard parts too which was a nice bonus. Most of the time I just made him tea and biscuits and fetched his laundry.

LOBH & WA: How’s the new Switchfoot album coming along? Any new sounds we can look forward to? We hear there’s a bit of a focus on electronic and acoustic…?
Charlie: It wouldn’t be a mystery if I explained everything. But I know you’re curious so I’ll give out one tiny bit of information. There’s electronic and acoustic, and there’s rhythm and melody, but absolutely no harmony. That would be so 2004. I’m usually not this obtuse, I promise.

LOBH & WA: How long have you been making music? What got you interested in that field?
Charlie: I started getting serious about music when I was probably 8 or 9. I played snare drum first, then clarinet, then trumpet and I stuck with that for a long time until I taught myself guitar and piano when I was about 13. Next I learned music theory and then recording. My father was a musician and I learned a lot from him. I wanted to be a poet but I found out that being a poet is even harder than making it in music. I started writing songs. I signed a development deal with A&M Records early on and later made an album for them and one for Island Records. Then I got into producing because I loved experimenting in the studio. By all accounts I have lived a charmed life. To be anything but grateful would be an insult to grace and to God specifically.

LOBH & WA: We’ve heard that you personally have always wanted to make music and promote bands that make music for everyone… not just the CCM market. Is that still important to you, or have things changed?
Charlie: That’s correct. I started out in mainstream pop music as a very young Christian. I later worked with Sparrow and EMI because I believe that people of faith should be everywhere and in everything — including the church. I didn’t realize how much this choice would brand me or music I loved. To say that I dislike the branding of music by some genre description like CCM would be a massive understatement. I am a tireless worker for music and bands that take their music everywhere and believe for good things in the strangest of places and circumstances. Besides that, the whole concept of ccm is horribly dated and nearly faded from church culture.

LOBH & WA: How about yourself? Are you going to release a new record? Those songs on your myspace sound great!
Thank you. Yes, working on several things right now. First I have Arc of the Circle coming out in April. It’s a duets record with saxophonist Jeff Coffin from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. This is quirky improvisational music — something I call jazz/not jazz. We have some stellar guest including Marc Ribot, the iconoclastic guitarist featured on the new Robert Plant/Alison Krauss project. Then West Coast Diaries Vol. II is being reissued in June as a remixed and remastered version. It’s sort of like my version of Jon’s EPs but from 20 years ago of course. Then sometime after the first of 2009 I will have a new book and full-length out. I’m very interested in playing live again. I love that the changes in the music business are forcing musicians to be real musicians again and get out of the soul-killing studio life and record business.

LOBH & WA: Lastly, we have what call the LOBH Three, which we ask to all our interviewee’s:
1. What is one questions you’ve never been asked and the answer?
Charlie: Why do you sometimes write songs that don’t have separate verses or even choruses? Because I’m attempting to write in a cinematic style where a song has an emotional story arc to it, a beginning, middle and end. To repeat a section would destroy the integrity of the song’s journey and the listener’s experience of it.

LOBH & WA: 2. What is one song you wish you had written?
Charlie: Fountain of Sorrow by Jackson Browne.

LOBH & WA: 3. What is the best advice you’ve ever been given/heard?
Charlie: “Always confirm, never assume.” “Don’t worry about tomorrow, each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”

LOBH & WA: Mr. Peacock thank you so much for your time!
Charlie: Hope you like [the interview]!