Texas was founded on the notion of being fiercely independent. Its settlers had to endure the hardest landscapes and conditions to claim their stake. One of the most famous pioneers of our state was the legendary Davy Crockett, and musician Charley Crockett no doubt carries his strong willed blood pumping through his veins.
There just aren’t many artists breaking through that are like Charley Crockett. The blue-eyed Texan is as hard to pigeonhole as they come. He can go from Hank Williams to Jimmy Reed in a heartbeat and possesses buckets of charisma. He will be making a stop in Houston to kick off the summer music series at Goodnight Charlie’s on June 15 presented by Vinyl Ranch.
His life has been nothing short of extraordinary, Crockett was born in the small Texas town of San Benito. He grew up in the area with his hard working single mother, who later decided to move the family to Dallas in hopes of a better future for her kids.
She dreamed of her youngest son being the first to go to college in the family but quickly saw this was not the path laid out for him. It was his mother who bought his first guitar at a pawn shop and encouraged him to pursue his dreams and ironically, it was she who recently became the first of the family to graduate from college.
At the young age of 17 Crockett took his guitar and thirst to perform on the road. “I feel I’m one of those people that this was kind of a profession of last resort. I really just had a lot of circumstances in my life that seemed like they were leading me to no place at all and because of that I got into traveling.” says Crockett in his deep Texan drawl.
His travels took him all over the United States. He spent time living in New Orleans, New York and even went overseas to Paris and Spain. Crockett took to the road as so many artists before him, to hop trains and rely on the kindness of strangers to be able to make it to the next day singing songs. “What people find frightening often
is actually freedom.” he says of his time busking.
“I never played any kind of real gig in New Orleans or New York. I just played on the street; I played music my way. If that meant playing on the street corners, subway platforms and stuff, if that's what I had to do to do it my way, then I was gonna do that.”
“I was definitely looking for something.” says Crockett of his traveling. “I just couldn’t accept in my heart the limits that society was placing on me; my place, my position, I just couldn’t accept it. I remember feeling at 18 or 19 really hopeless with my choices of life and then I just said ’I’m not gonna do any of this. I literally am just gonna walk out of town.’ and that’s what I did.”
Crockett has steadily gained a solid fan base in Texas and beyond. He credits Texas for giving him the opportunity to grow his career and has recently laid down roots in Austin. He doesn’t waiver from his sense of style and the lessons learned on the road.
“You gotta be smart about it, and I’m not saying I’m always smart, but what I do draw on is the street performing background. It’s no different than the street, you just perform for people and if they feel they pay you. Really it doesn’t change at any level because that’s why they buy tickets.”
"There's a lot of things I can't do musically. There's a billion people that play circles around me but I know who I am. This business will mix you up and spit you out in a way that you don't know who you are, I've seen it happen to people. What i do have in my background is a strong constitution." says Crockett.
Last year Crockett received a shock when doctors discovered he had a rare heart condition and while preparing to finally tend to a hernia was told he needed heart surgery. “It affects me really deeply, there's no doubt about it. I’m not going to act like it hasn’t changed me because it has. I have this visible scar anytime I look at myself, it doesn’t necessarily make me sad but it does make me very emotional.” he says.
“But really I’m very blessed because if not for other more minor medical situations that I was dealing with, I think I would have ended up having heart failure on a stage somewhere, so really I am as lucky as I can be.” He adds, “I’m not 100 percent but I’m close.”
Crockett rarely has slowed down and always fought to stay true to his vision. “I got a lot of people calling me these days offering me all kinds of stuff but I’m old enough and have been doing all this stuff on my own that I just don't really need what a lot of these people are offering me. You’ve got all these people that don’t know you trying to cultivate this image for you and it’s like ‘No, I’ve been doing that the whole time’.”
Crockett runs his own label, Son of Davy Records, and has put out five albums of original music and covers. He can wield the pen and write solid original tunes but he doesn’t fail to see the beauty and benefits of covering a classic. “Some songs are just so good that you feel like you have to play them just because it’s just so satisfying to play the damn song.”
“There’s really something to be said for singing the best song. Many a time an artist got known for a song that they didn’t write and the next thing you know people are looking at you for your whole body of work.” he says.
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Partnering with his girlfriend, Lyza Renee, Crockett has released a handful of videos that are dripping with his signature style and tell complete visual stories with an intact aesthetic. The video for “Lil Girls Name” hits close to home with the artists real life narrative of never backing down to the man. “I stay really involved in it because I just built it all up and at this point I think I know what I want.”
Crockett is set to release a new album this year titled The Valley and just wrapped up recording an album of old time field songs recorded on tape in a sheep pasture. He is looking forward to his Houston appearance, “I think it’ll be all filled up and wiley!”
Charley Crockett will perform with Croy and the Boys, June 15 at Goodnight Charlie's, 2531 Kuester, doors open at 7 p.m. Free