By Molly Weybright
When Charlie Brown set out to record an album in his senior year at UNC, he was doing it to fulfill a dream, and hopefully have some fun along the way.
“It was really special to finish the project and to feel like it was authentic and it was true to how I had envisioned it,” he said. “I was really excited for people to listen to it.”
Around 150 people packed into Cat’s Cradle Back Room on May 8 to hear the 22-year-old folk/Americana singer’s debut album, “The Ruling Grade,” which currently has over 30,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
Charlie performed his new songs to a crowd of family and friends, and with each new song the crowd got louder, cheering his name and feeding off of his positivity. He said it was one of the happiest nights of his life, mostly because he was able to bring people together for a night of good music.
“The thing that was the most fun about it was it seemed like the people that were there had a really good time,” he said. “It was really cool to look out in the crowd and see a chronology of my college experience based on the people that I was close with in college.”
In fact, it was those people and the experiences they brought that fueled much of the album. Almost all of the songs were written in Chapel Hill and were influenced by the tumultuous and exciting time that is college. Transitioning from Charlie’s small hometown of Banner Elk, NC, to a large university spurred his creativity.
“The record has Orange County all over it,” he said. “All of the songs were written in Chapel Hill, with the exception of a few. It was highly influential.”
The influence doesn’t stop there. The album was recorded in Chapel Hill, at the Rubber Room, a studio well known among North Carolina’s musicians. The nine other musicians that played on the album were from Orange County and the surrounding areas. Even producer Alex Bingham is a member of the Chapel Hill band Look Homeward.
As for what’s next, Charlie Brown’s sticking around, living in Durham, and, of course, playing music, so Triangle residents should get used to seeing his name, and not just in a particular cartoon on Sundays.
And no matter what happens with his music in the future, Charlie said he feels extremely lucky to have fulfilled a lifelong dream and will always treasure this first album, calling it a time capsule of sorts.
“It’s really cool to know that I have this album finished and to know that if I have kids and they have kids and they have kids, those kids will get to hear it and know a little bit about who I am. There’s something really special about that.”