For the last seven years, singer-songwriter Charlie Worsham has devoted himself to honing his musical vision by collaborating with many of the most innovative musicians in Nashville today, working as both a session player and writer, while serving as a central member of a high-profile band of players. Now, the 27-year-old multi-instrumentalist is gearing up to release his debut album – Rubberband on August 20th via Warner Bros. Records – which not only reveals his refined musical talent, but announces Worsham as a country artist of uncommon ingenuity, substance, and soul. Joined by musicians carefully assembled through his years of dedication to the Nashville scene, as well as through his studies at Berklee College of Music, Worsham infuses each track on Rubberband with a reverence for country’s rich heritage while ultimately delivering a bold sound entirely his own.
“They say you’ve got your whole life to make your first record, and that couldn’t ring more true for me,” says Worsham of Rubberband, which he co-produced with Ryan Tyndell and recorded at engineer Eric Masse’s East Nashville studio. “On this album I took so many things I’d wanted to say in song form for years, and channeled them into lyrics and melodies and guitar solos in a way that shows my influences but also takes some crazy turns.” Worsham also draws immense inspiration from artists of remarkable longevity, such as Vince Gill and Marty Stuart (who once gave Worsham an autograph reading “Follow your heart”—a message Worsham later tattooed onto his arm).
Boundary-pushing but endlessly catchy, Rubberband offers a selection of songs that integrate elements of bluegrass, country, pop and rock and roll. The album also finds Worsham revamping classic country with intricate arrangements, left-of-center flourishes (including guest vocals by indie vocalist Madi Diaz), and deeply inventive riffs. On the album’s title track, “Rubberband,” for instance, Worsham sets the groove with a low-toned guitar lick created by the extremely-warped loose tuning of his E string. “Could It Be,” the album’s first single, opens with a shimmering, delicate tumble of notes achieved with an in-studio experiment playing slide on the mandolin, leading into soaring harmonies. An incurable self-proclaimed gear hound, Worsham favors playing his 1963 Martin D-28 through a pedal board and amplifying the guitar, resulting in a sound that’s a startling departure from traditional acoustic playing.
Along with creating the lushly textured soundscapes on the album, each of Worsham’s songs have a heart-on-your-sleeve emotionalism that showcases his natural storytelling ability. On “Trouble Is,” he weaves scorching electric guitar into delicate acoustic plucking while detailing an encounter with a dangerously irresistible object of affection (“I spend days building up walls/Just for you to tear down/With one touch of your hand”). And on “Mississippi in July,” Worsham spins a gorgeously rendered and regret-soaked tale of returning home for an old flame’s wedding (“My heart might as well be one of those cans tied to the back of your limousine/It was hanging by a thread so I went ahead and cut the string”).
As a songwriter, Worsham builds those varied moods and sounds by mining his expansive musical background and venturing into new sonic territory at the same time. According to Worsham, that sense of adventurousness is fueled by a passion for music that arose at a very early age. “One of my earliest memories of music is going to see my dad play in a local band—he’s a banker by trade, but a drummer at heart,” says Worsham, who grew up 100 miles south of Memphis in Grenada, Mississippi. “During sound check I sat in his lap and hit the drums, and that’s the first time I got the bug to make music.” Worsham began taking piano lessons in kindergarten, and in second grade caught a performance by bluegrass banjo player Mike Snider while visiting Opryland with his family. “When we got home my parents bought me a banjo and got me lessons. After that, I got into the habit of taking on a new instrument every year, including the guitar, mandolin and fiddle,” Worsham recalls. He won the Junior National Banjo Championship at age 12 and later that year, joined Snider on stage at the Grand Ole Opry.
In high school, Worsham scored his first electric guitar by busking in front of a guitar shop to raise the final hundred bucks on the price tag and joined a band. After graduating, he headed for Berklee, but left after two and a half years to move to Nashville to pursue music. Along with working as a writer—as well as a session musician for Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, and others artists—Worsham continued penning his own songs and recording demos, eventually landing a deal with Warner Music Nashville and opening on tour for the likes of Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert.
Considering Worsham’s musical history, it’s no wonder that Rubberband emerges as such a sophisticated yet refreshingly simple collection of songs. “For me, the best songwriting comes when you get out of your own way and let the lyrics and music happen together,” he says. “Those moments are pretty elusive—they kind of strike like lightning—but when it happens, it’s amazing.” And in the recording studio, he adds, a number of “beautiful accidents” went a long way in helping to shape the album’s sound. “It’s that sort of unplanned thing that happens when old friends and new friends get in a room and make music together,” Worsham explains.
That sense of community—and the creativity it breeds—is crucial to Worsham as he forges ahead with his musical career. “I feel really lucky to have been a part of the Nashville music scene for a while now and have worn all these different hats. I gained a broader perspective on the importance of surrounding yourself with other musicians you know and trust,” he says. “One of my main goals as a musician is to respect the past of country music as well as its future.” Worsham adds, “I hope that I can someday be one of those folks who represent the music in a greater sense, and carry it somewhere forward that’s different and exciting.”