Interview With Chaz Sharp

I blame all of this on potatoes. In particular, those tiny, delicious potatoes sold by the Nufer’s at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. Because of my devotion to these potatoes, my wife and I started to get to know Rusty and Sue Nufer, the hardworking couple responsible for these scrumptious tubers as well as a wide variety of equally delectable organic produce. So during one Saturday visit with the Nufer’s I learned that Sue has a son named Chaz Sharp who is a songwriter living in London, UK. Chaz fronts a band called The Red Fishes who have been recording this past year in different studios in both the UK and the US. One thing let to another, Sue told me that Chaz would be visiting this summer, and the next thing you know I was hooking up Chaz with a recordings studio here in town and also playing in an Arkansas edition of the Red Fishes featuring Michael Goodrich, Marcus Lowe, Chris Atwood, and Isaac Alexander. Before our second gig I recorded this quick Q&A with Chaz on a hand held recorder while driving from L Street Park to the White Water Tavern.

Ed note: Since this was recorded in a moving car, I thought I’d chop up the interview and post sections of it along the route we travelled to get to White Water Tavern. You can read this interview sequentially by clicking on the yellow Wayfaring note tags in the map. Each note tag corresponds roughly to a question I posed to Chaz. I fucked up the Wayfaring numbers so don’t pay them any mind.

Red Chuck: We’re driving to the gig. . . White Water. Um. You’ve been recording all day?

Chaz Sharp: I’ve been over at Jason Weinheimer’s Sellout Studios in Little Rock, AR.

RC: Right. And you are recording this here and you’ve been recording this. . .

CS: Some in London. Yeah, we did. . . analogue recording in London and we recorded a lot of drums, some guitars, some vocals. . .

RC: Uh-huh.

CS: And then. . . I brought it over here cause we didn’t finish off the mixes there and [I] wasn’t quite certain about ‘em yet. . . And then. . . came here to Arkansas, hooked up with you via. . . my Mom. . .

RC: Right.

CS: At the Rivermarket. . . And asked if anyone had a Pro Tools studio so we could get into the tracks. And. . . so be it. . . you. . .

RC: We made the connection.

CS: Yeah, you connected me to Jason Weinheimer and I connected into the Boondogs and seem to be connected right into the heart of the scene in Little Rock.

RC: Ha ha ha. . .

CS: Michael Goodrich.

RC: Michael Goodrich! You are definitely in the heart of the scene.

CS: The Parachute Woman.

RC: Um. Here’s the one. . . the main thing I’ll bet the Localist will want to know, is. . . what, first, is your connection to Arkansas?

CS: Oh, ok. Ahh. . . my Mom. Like, I grew up in Arkansas til I was 14.

RC: Uh huh.

CS: 13, 14. Then I went to high school in California, Southern California, did a little college in Los Angeles then moved to New York City. . . and. . . eventually made it over to London, but, yeah, I grew up in my teenage years in Arkansas. . .

RC: Right.

CS: So a lot of my roots are here, my Mom’s been here for 20. . . 30 years, probably.

RC: And you grew up in Jerusalem, Arkansas?

CS: Jerusalem. Yeah. Up in the mountains. . . like. . . way up.

RC: Uh-huh.

CS: Bunch of hippie families with farms. People who came back to the land in the 70s. . .

RC: Right.

CS: And started living amongst hillbilly people and being perceived as quite weird but then, sort of ingratiated themselves into that society and now they are part of the woodwork.

RC: Right. . . Um. So then what. . . how did you get from Jerusalem to London?

CS: Umm. From Jerusalem to London. Let’s see. Well, I ended up going. . . moving back to California, even though I was there when I was 4 or 5, I ended up moving back to California for high school, yeah, when I was 14, 15. Did 10th grade, 11th, 12th in San Diego then ended up moving up to Arkansas, My parents sort of split apart at that point. My mom, her heart was here in Arkansas, so she stayed on. My dad went back to the city, kind of. . . and he went back into sort of business and business ventures. He didn’t really want to be a farmer, so then, and they both re-married. . . with their common interests. And, um. . . that’s how I got to California. And then once I got to California. . . I started getting into all sorts of different things, I suppose. Well, I got up to Los Angeles. For a while I was interested in acting. And I went to USC for like a year and then I dropped out and I worked in restaurants as a busboy and a bar back and I was gradually starting to get into music. Music was sort of in my family. But then when I got to New York City and then I was studying acting and theatre stuff out there and then moved back to LA for awhile, I had a guitar at that point and started kind of getting. . . getting, ah. . . going towards song writing.

RC: Right.

CS: I don’t know, have I gotten off the point?

RC: No, no. Actually this is where we need to go.

CS: But that’s how I got there. Yeah.

RC: And so, what were you. . . were there certain influences, as a songwriter, that were from these areas, Los Angeles. . .

CS: Yeah, well sure. When I was growing up in Arkansas it was all top 40 music, right, cause that’s all you heard on the radio living up in Arkansas.

RC: Right.

CS: And we were talking about this the other night, when I came back, I was like “They’re still playing the same shit on top 40 here. . .”

RC Ha ha ha ha. . .

CS: Foreigner, Heart, stuff like that.

RC: Yeah.

CS: Yeah, so at first, I was into stuff like that. What I can remember that I liked from that era that I probably still like is stuff like the Doors. I remember hearing “Riders on the Storm” like in that sort of ambient. . . far out sound. . . Um. And then my parents were into stuff like The Band and Credence Clearwater. . . I mean, from the earliest memory was The Beatles so when I went to London I was like yeah, The Beatles man and The Rolling Stones. Those were central factors in my growing up. The Beatles, The Stones, there might have been some Crosby Stills & Nash records flying around.

RC: Um, you’re stuff has a real droning quality that reminds me of the Velvet Underground and some of your stuff reminds me of Nick Drake, a little. I mean are those valid influences?

CS: Definitely, definitely stuff I’ve picked up in the last 7, 6 or 7 years. Probably some of the first [Jeff] Buckley recordings I heard, “Live at Sine.” That got me going. And then by the time I was headed to London I was listening. . . that was about 5 or 6. . . 5 years ago. . . I was listening to the popular music that was coming out of there, which was becoming big here, stuff like Radiohead, Bjork. And then when I got over there, that stuff had already passed there and that was kind of my first impression of it there, but then I started getting into, actually, punk music and garage and I guess that whole new wave movement of garage and stuff, The White Stripes and. . . that’s what I thought was cool, I was like, “Aw, here’s. . . here’s blues and folk music blended with garage and punk” and then I kind of went, “Oh, I see that in the Beatles music, I see that in the Stones music,” but then I also like music that was kind of droney and out there, stuff like Bjork’s “Homogenic”. . . subtle electronics, I am not opposed to that.

RC: Hell yeah. Nothing wrong with that.

CS: Yeah.

RC: Ha ha.

CS: Yeah, a little bit of everything and so, I guess that London is a melting pot of all sorts of influences.

RC: Um. So what do you think of Little Rock music scene?

CS: I like it man. I’m really happy to be like. . .

RC: I mean as to compared to being in New York or London. . .

CS: Yeah yeah. I like it down here. There’s a rootsyness about the south that like. . . it goes all the way back into London and these places, supposedly the fashion centers. People that I know in London and New York City, there’s just the rootsiness of soul that comes from Arkansas or the southern states. It’s got a crack and a character to it and it’s great. It’s like. . . I like it! I like blues, yeah and like stuff like that, it’s got a lot of soul to it and country music. Some of the old like Hank Williams. . . they’re country singers. . . all those people are like soulful. It’s great stuff.

RC: That’s all from this part of the world.

CS: Yeah yeah. It’s great. Yeah. People in London love that too.

RC: Right.

CS: They wanna go to the South. They wanna go to Sun Studios. Yeah. They love it.

RC: Cool. All right. Thanks.