From The Joe Perry Project and FARRENHEIT, to FBI and Solo Work, Charlie Farren Continues to Heat Up the Northeast
Goldmine Magazine February, 2014
BOSTON - A versatile singer, songwriter, guitarist and record label owner, Charlie Farren found national success in the 80's with rock trio Farrenheit and in The Joe Perry Project, as sideman for the famed Aerosmith guitarist. Although Farren may not be a household name outside of the Northeast, he is a favored son of New England who enjoys great regional success and a loyal fan base spanning 40 years.
Photos: 1. Courtesy of Charlie Farren 2. Joe Perry Project circa 1981 3.Late 80's Charlie with FARRENHEIT 4. FARRENHEIT 2013, Charlie and David Hull(photo by Joe Milliken)
Today, Farren continues his solo career and various music projects, including a recent collaboration with Boston guitar legend Jon Butcher (Jon Butcher Axis, Barefoot Servants)and the release of his his latest CD titled Tuesday, which was inspired by his friend and singer of the band Boston, the late Brad Delp.
Farren's interest in music was sparked from exposure to different genres on the radio, his parent’s record collection and his older sister. "I’ve always lived around the Boston area and always had a love for music," Farren said. "When I was in eighth grade my older sister had a band with three of her friends... I would listen to them practicing and thought - I need to have my own band, but I need to learn how to play! The Beatles were a big early influence, but I also recall loving some of the great singers of the day that my parents listened to such as Sinatra, Bennett and Torme.
"The first 45-single I owned was "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" by The Electic Prunes and the first two albums I owned were Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and Paul Revere & the Raiders Greatest Hits. Then I bought Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix and the Bee Gees.”
Some of Charlie’s other early influences included Free, Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, early Led Zepplin, Yardbirds, Animals, The Who and Steely Dan, and he formed his first band before high school, as rock was becoming a greater influence on his music.
"My first band in high school was called the White Knights," Charlie recalls. "But we changed the name to The Internationals because we thought it was much cooler!
After high school Charlie was in a number of cover bands before starting a group with some guys he had seen play in Boston's Harvard Square, called Live Lobster. With Charlie on vocals and guitar, Live Lobster would steadily develop and gain regional success in the clubs throughout the Northeast.
"Live Lobster toured almost non-stop regionally, playing as much as 45 weeks a year – usually four to five nights a week and up to five sets per night,” Farren said. “That band is where I really learned to sing and although we mostly played cover songs we didn't play the hits, rather focusing on artists like Savoy Brown, Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck, with a few hits sprinkled in to keep us employable."
Farren and Lobster guitarist Ken Kilbashian then formed a band called Balloon, with the plan to begin writing and performing original material. Balloon worked hard to build a following and regularly filled the clubs in and around Boston including The Rat, The Channel and The Club.
"After doing some sessions in area studios, we got hold of a 4-track machine and set up in my house to record "Listen To The Rock" and "East Coast West Coast," both of which became regional hits for Balloon on several local stations including WAAF, WBCN and WCOZ.”
The Joe Perry Project
However, Charlie's big break finally camein 1980 when invited to team up with Aerosmith's Joe Perry for the guitar legend's second Joe Perry Project album titled I've Got the Rock 'N' Rolls Again. In search of a new singer after the release of his critically-acclaimed solo debut Let the Music Do the Talking, Perry hand-picked Farren after an audition at Boston's famed Orpheum Theatre.
"We listened to over a hundred audition tapes and picked Charlie," Perry stated in the 1997 Aerosmith autobiography Walk This Way. "He was a really good rhythm guitarist and singer, so we started rehearsing in my basement and came up with a few songs."
Farren co-wrote four tracks with Perry for the album, as well as bringing in the two songs from the Balloon days, "East Coast, West Coast" and "Listen To The Rock," both songs of which again, got airplay on Boston-area radio waves as Joe Perry Project songs.
"It's been a long time since I worked with Joe, so I know my songwriting style has morphed quite a bit over time, as I'm sure Joe's has as well,” Farren said. "But at the time, I was surprised that Joe was so open to ideas. He had a process around capturing those riffs for which he's famous - he'd play with tape rolling and then go back and sift out the cool parts - and we'd brainstorm around that to see if we could find a song. Joe was very open to my ideas and tireless."
The Joe Perry Project would open for some of the biggest rock acts of the day including Rush, Boston, ZZ Top, Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard, The Kinks and Heart. "One night on a three-band bill we opened for Ozzy," Farren added. "But Def Leppard opened for us, imagine that! I also remember meeting Randy Rhoads - who was a pretty innovative guy at the time - and having this little sound check moment with him backstage… it was all really cool."
The Rising Of FARRENHEIT
In 1986, when it was apparent that Perry was headed for a reunion with Aerosmith, Charlie, Project bassist David Hull and drummer John "Muzz" Muzzy formed FARRENHEIT, signing with Warner Bros. after industry legend Ahmet Ertugen of Atlantic Records showed interest in Charlie.
"Before I joined up with Joe, Atlantic Records were interested in some demos I had sent them, but when the chance to join Joe's band came along I took it," Farren said. "Then, after leaving Joe’s band, Atlantic was still interested in my material and Ahmet got involved by coming to see us play - he also visited another time to hang out with me in my Back Bay studio - and convinced me to sign as a solo artist with Atlantic.
"I worked for a year on songs and when nothing materialized, (getting to record in the studio) I felt I had waited too long. So, Ahmet let me walk - and very soon after, Dave Hull and I connected with Muzz, and got a deal with Warner Brothers for the FARRENHEIT album."
FARRENHEIT,/em> released their self-titled debut in 1987 and had instant success with the singles "Fool in Love" and "Lost in Loveland," with the former receiving regular video rotation on MTV. Although FARRENHEIT were indeed creating strong rock songs when bands such as Smithereens, The Del Fuegos and Tears For Fears were on the charts, once the so-called 80’s "hair band" and metal scene completely settled in, they no longer seemed a good fit for the masses.
"FARRENHEIT really never fit with the big hair and tattoo crowd that emerged shortly after our debut CD came out. It's probably why that CD still sounds fresh and the songs still work." FARRENHEIT would release two more albums, 1989's Raise the Roof and 1994's Farrenheit III Greasetown, (all now available on Farren's own label) before Charlie settled into cultivating his own solo career.
The F Man
"F Man Music started when I wanted to release Deja Blue [Charlie's first solo release] in 1999," Farren said. "When I decided that I wanted to sell my own CDs, F Man Music began as the business to release my own music." Farren would release three solo albums of new material (all recorded in his home studio, the F Mansion) within a five-year span, including the aforementioned Deja Blue in 1999, World Gone Wild in 2002 and 4 Letter Word in 2003.
After the release of three more live CDs including an early 80’s FM broadcast of Balloon, Charlie Farren Live At Club Passim and FARRENHEIT! Live at the Roxy, Charlie recorded his next solo effort - 2006’s Old & Young - over an 18-month period. "I remember starting to write songs for the Old & Young CD as I was mixing those live records, and just couldn't wait to get into the studio to begin sketching it all out."
Produced and recorded in his home studio, Old & Young featured 10 original tracks penned by Farren with guest appearances including a couple Boston music legends; the aforementioned Jon Butcher and another member of the band Boston, guitarist Barry Goodreau.
"Barry and I have been friends for years and I had always wanted to recruit him for one of my songs. We had recorded an album of demos together at his studio in the mid-1990's and one of those songs, 'Nobody's Somebody,’ still remains a cornerstone of my live solo show.”
In late 2009, Charlie re-connected with his old friend, Butcher, who in the 70’s and 80’s fueled such bands as The Jon Butcher Axis, Johana Wild and Barefoot Servants before moving to Los Angeles to write film and television scores. The two had been talking about connecting for years and the time was right to finally collaborate on a new project.
“When we finally sat face-to-face in a room with acoustic guitars and just played and talked, it became clear that there was a natural chemistry in our playing, singing and writing,” Jon Butcher said in an exclusive interview at the time.
Released in March of 2011, Farren Butcher, Inc. (or, of course, FBI) was released on F Man Music and featured nine co-written original tracks, plus remakes of the Farren’s solo songs “Deja Blue” and “East Coast West Coast” and Butcher’s “New Man” hit from his Butcher Axis days. The songs were a successful mix of blues and groovin’ rockers, but also a few lighter, more sophisticated textures sprinkled in that create a soulful, jazzy feel as well. FBI supported the new CD by performing shows in clubs and small theatres throughout New England over the following year.
Fast-forward to Farren’s latest release titled Tuesday, named for the title track written several years ago by his friend, the late-great Brad Delp. The concept of remaking his song excited many Boston-area fans of both Farren and Delp. In fact, Boston-area radio jock Lisa Garvey stated; “I honestly think the song ‘Tuesday’ could become the new ‘Yesterday. '”Charlie recently explained how he and Brad were once at a New Hampshire radio station (Rock 101, WGIR) together when Brad first played him the song.
“After a radio show we both participated in, Brad said ‘Come over to my car, I want to play you something I’ve been working on.’ The moment I heard it – I loved it, as it reminded me of the Beatles’ song “Yesterday.” Over the years I’ve heard several demos Brad had recorded of the song, but he never released it.“
Ironically, hearing “Yesterday” on the radio is what helped Charlie realize that Delp’s unreleased song could be the missing element for his new CD. “I was in my car listening to some of my songs-in-progress on a CD and after the last song finished, ‘Yesterday’ played on the radio, which reminded me of Brad’s song. So I wrote to his family and asked if they’d send me one of Brad’s demos.
“After I learned the song and tweaked it a bit, I really felt it would be a special edition to the set of songs I was considering for this record.” Farren then wrote back to Delp’s family and got their blessing in recording Brad’s song. “I asked them how they would feel about me recording a version and making it the title track… and they were all very supportive.”
After recording the guitars and vocals at his F Mansion studio, Charlie brought the tracks to renowned producer and friend Anthony J. Resta, who has worked with such artists as Elton John, Collective Soul, Duran Duran and Perry Farrell.
“I’m very excited with the results of the new CD and am psyched to be performing solo again,” Farren concluded. “Tuesday is my tenth studio record and that’s a lot of songs, therefore, my solo shows allow me to re-interpret many of my songs and put interesting combinations together for the fans.”
To learn more about Charlie Farren, F Man music and his new CD release Tuesday, visit www.charliefarren.com.