From being Young Tennessean of the year, to being the national spokesperson for Zero- The End of Prostate Cancer, to being on American Idol, Jimmy Charles has no shortage of admirable achievements.
In March of this year, Jimmy released his brand new album, “Hard Way to Go,” from Warner Brothers Studio. This is his second album of his career in addition to several highly viewed music videos. From his country roots, to his love for rock n’ roll, Jimmy has created an album with a little bit of everything for everyone. There are songs that tug at your heartstrings, and songs that are meant to be rocked out to while driving down the road with the windows down.
Aside from his musical passion, the Maryland native has made it his mission to fill thousands of cancer patients with hope through his songs and presence. He’s been a powerful advocate and supporter of the Zero- The End of Prostate Cancer organization, and aims to keep listeners both entertained as well as informed.
Jimmy has also experienced success with his music video, “‘Bout Summertime”, that was filmed in the Virgin Islands, as well as having much of his first album played on radio stations throughout the world. His songwriting is deeply human, and relatable and applicable to most everyone. The emotions that are expressed are emotions that have a way of hitting home.
In sitting down with Jimmy, we got to see a glimpse of what it is like to be a country artist that doubles as an ambassador of awareness for cancer patients.
Music Mecca: Your album, “Hard Way to Go” was just released a couple of months ago. What was your journey like in the process of recording that album?
Jimmy Charles: This album has been an emotional journey, but so much fun. I did not cut any corners as I’ve had to do in the past being an independent artist. I used Ocean Way, Warner Bros, and Royal Studios (Memphis), three amazing studios that have hosted some of the biggest musical geniuses with rich history. It was an honor to record in these studios knowing what magic has been created there before. I used some of Nashville’s best studio musicians and a great producer that I have worked with over the last few years. Having a producer that you connect well with to create a clear vision for each of your songs is critical. Each song is a piece of me, but all are different. It was amazing to watch each of these come to life. This is the first time I have participated in producing the album that I wrote and recorded.
MM: What was the inspiration for this album?
JC: There is a piece of me in every song. Each one represents a different part of my life. I wrote “Blue Spaces”, a rocking beach song in the Virgin Islands where I play frequently. I also shot a music video for a song on my last album down there. There are two songs that I wrote for my fiancé, “She’s Where I Belong” and “God and A Woman.” Those songs were the influence of a religious upbringing from my mom and the love I have for my fiancé. There are two cancer fighting songs that go along with what I do as the Zero the End of Prostate Cancer National Spokesman and my own Non-Profit ” I Am Not Alone.” “Rollin’ On” is about my long journey chasing my dreams and never giving up no matter how hard the road has been. Finally, “Hard Way to Go” is a song about addiction. My biological father was an alcoholic and I never met him due to his disease. Each song is a part of me. I actually considered naming the album “This is Me.”
MM: Your title track is “Hard Way To Go.” What made you decide to make this song the title track of the album?
JC: I mentioned the meaning behind the song for me. I know a lot of people that struggle with all types of addictions and I hope that it helps them to overcome their demons. The song is just so powerful, you hang on every word and I just love it. It is also a cool title that I think intrigues curiosity. “What is a Hard Way to Go?” is what I would think if I saw this from the outside. It also has a double meaning for me as my career choice has been a “Hard Way to Go” in this difficult business, but I am so proud of how far I have come.
MM: Who are some artists that inspire you/this album?
JC: Chris Stapleton, Tim McGraw, Jimmy Buffett, and Tom Petty.
MM: Do you typically perform solo or with a band? If with a band, what instruments do you like to have backing you up?
JC: I do both and I like both in their own right. I play with a 5 piece band with a rocking fiddle.*
MM: You have a successful music video entitled “‘Bout Summertime”, that was filmed in the Carribean. Can you tell us about that experience?
JC: I was on vacation in the Virgin Islands and I booked one show. I made the most of it and got the attention of some of the locals. Before the end of the evening, they asked me to headline a festival of 5000 attendees on the beach. I knew when I came back it was the perfect time to record the music video for my song “Bout Summertime.” The island loved it and honestly, it was the most fun I have ever had in my life. Jetblue sponsored the band and flew us all in. We played beach bars leading up to the concert and the video turned out awesome. The video plays on rotation still today in the Honky Tonks down on Broadway and all of the Margaritavilles across the world.
MM: I know you have been a part of “Zero the End of Prostate Cancer” for awhile. What made you decide to get involved in that organization, and what is your role in the organization as a country music artist?
JC: I have lost family and friends to cancer and I hate it. I was volunteering with Zero to help their cause and they asked me to write a song that would encourage men to get checked for prostate cancer. I wrote “Superman” with a cancer survivor after listening to his story. The foundation adopted the song as their anthem and we produced a video that premiered with CMT and GAC. I was then named the National Spokesman for Zero. For the past four years I have traveled the country singing my song to survivors at walks and runs, bringing awareness for early detection, raising funds, and making sure no survivor ever fights alone. It has been an absolute amazing journey that continues to get better with more and more life saving stories.
MM: You have recently started your own non-profit organization and have named it after one of your recently written songs, “I am Not Alone.” Can you tell us a bit more about that?
JC: Through my journey with Zero, I have talked to a lot of survivors and heard many stories. I created “I Am Not Alone” from these stories, especially one in particular. I received a message from the daughter of a Stage 4 cancer survivor saying that he ( Mark Smith) was depressed and giving up on his treatments. She said he listened to “Superman” every morning to get through tough times, and it was on his bucket list to see me perform live. I was moved by the story and decided to surprise him in his little hometown on the New York-Canadian border with his own concert, with all of his friends and family. I made him sign a contract saying that he would never give up the fight. His life and attitude has done a complete 180. He is now heavily involved as a Zero Cancer advocate and even went skydiving a few weeks ago. The non-profit is geared towards survivors and their mental well being. We want to make sure no one feels like Mark, and absolutely no one feels alone. We created a new contract that people can print out and have their own special moment for their survivor. We also have music nights at Hope Lodges in several cities to provide music to displaced survivors during treatments. We are continuing to expand, and I wrote a new song called “We Are Warriors”, that is being adopted by the American Cancer Society as their anthem song for their Relay for Life and Strides. My work has recently won me the National TOYA Award which stands for “Ten Outstanding Young Americans”. The honor has been awarded to past Presidents, Vice Presidents, War Heroes, and even Elvis Presley.
MM: As an artist, where do you see yourself in 5 years/what are some of your goals?
JC: My career has been on a steady rise the past couple of years. I see myself singing to thousands of survivors across the country even more than I do now. “We Are Warriors” is a huge song of inspiration for survivors and continues to get bigger. I plan on being on tour with another big artist or being a headliner myself touring the country and beyond.
MM: What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
JC: Being on American Idol, “Superman”, and now the TOYA Award. It’s difficult to put one above the other. But If I had to, due to the lives it has touched, the song and video for “Superman” feels like my greatest accomplishment.
MM: What are some upcoming events in your career that you are most excited about?
JC: I am excited about Accepting my TOYA Award, opening for Josh Turner a second time, Full Support of Joe Nichols concert, the release of “We Are Warriors” and singing it to 30,000 people at Titans Stadium for the Strides for Breast cancer walk, and most of all, changing more lives like that of Mark Smith.
For more info on Jimmy and his music, be sure to check out his website HERE.