With his album Rubberband finally set for release August 20, Mississippi native Charlie Worsham is excited.
“I’m dying for folks to hear it,” he says of the album. And for good reason: It’s his debut, and he’s been working on it for the past three years.
We’re sitting in the back lounge on Worsham’s tour bus that’s parked outside Joe’s Bar in Chicago, where Charlie is set to headline a Saturday night show. The bar is packed, but the show has been delayed due to an NHL playoff game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings that went into overtime.
Charlie, though, doesn’t seem bothered by the delay one bit. An easygoing guy with a friendly smile and a slight Southern drawl that’s as relaxed as his demeanor, he sits back and chats easily about his background, his lifelong love of music, and how he came to be one of Nashville’s most promising new artists.
If you’ve heard of Charlie, it could be because you saw him open for Miranda Lambert or Taylor Swift (the latter during her 2011 Speak Now Tour). Or because his new single “Could It Be” is gaining radio airplay and steadily climbing the charts.
“Could It Be” is well worth paying attention to. It’s a seamless blend of bluegrass-influenced elements with a smooth, country-rock melody — think Vince Gill meets Keith Urban. It’s fresh and wholly contemporary, and it gets in your head and sticks.
And it’s also unique. For instance, “the first thing you hear” in the song, according to Worsham, is a “slide mandolin.” It’s played by session vet Jedd Hughes, and it creates a sound that Worsham describes as “Ravi Shankar meets Bill Monroe.”
That mandolin part is also an example of why Worsham, who’s proficient in several instruments, chose not to go the Hunter Hayes route (writing, producing, and playing every instrument on every song on his debut) and, instead, bring in some studio players during the Rubberband sessions.
“I just know too many badasses that I love being on the playground with,” Worsham says. “I could have played mandolin on that song, but it wouldn’t have been that cool.”
If Vince Gill comes to mind when hearing Worsham’s music, that’s not coincidental. Gill was the person Worsham says he initially modeled himself after, “as a player, as a singer, and as a personality. ‘Liza Jane’ is still one of my go-to songs, when I need a reboot.”
You can hear shades of Gill’s tenor voice in Worsham’s vocals on “Could It Be.” And elsewhere on Rubberband, you can actually hear Gill himself. The Country Music Hall of Famer is a guest (along with another of Worsham’s heroes, Marty Stuart) on the song “Tools of the Trade.” “My mind was blown watching them [Gill and Stuart] record, because it was like seeing behind the curtain of my influences,” he says.
But more than that, it was a validating experience for Worsham. “As a musician, I have a long, long way to go,” he says, but seeing them play made him realize “I haven’t been walking down the wrong path.”
Worsham co-wrote all of the songs on Rubberband, including “Tools of the Trade” and “Could It Be,” and he co-produced the album with Ryan Tyndell. He met Tyndell through his publisher, ole’s Arthur Buenahora, and they became fast friends.
“He’s the big brother I never had,” Worsham says of Tyndell, who is probably best known as one of the writers behind Eric Church’s “Springsteen” and who also wrote a handful of songs for Dierks Bentley’s upcoming album Riser.
Rubberband, though, isn’t Worsham’s first rodeo.