Hailing from Houston, Charlie and The Regrets bring a unique Gulf Coast flavor to their music, blending Country, Blues, and even infusing a some Cajun flair on their full-length debut Rivers in the Streets. The nine tracks feature songs about real life and real issues dealing with situations with heart, humor, and sincerity. Front man Charlie Harrison graciously too the time to speak about his roots, the album, his beloved Houston and more.
Before we dive into the record, how did you come to form Charlie and The Regrets? Was music something you have been pursuing for a long time?
I’ve been playing music a long time. My first gig was in high school, and later, I played in bar bands when I went to UT Austin. After graduation, I worked as a stock broker – and was just terrible at it (laughing). So I quit, went back to school, worked a corporate gig, and eventually moved to the DC area with my wife. I put the music down for a while, but it was such a part of me I realized I couldn’t keep it down. So, in DC, I started to play out with a buddy in our band, Charlie and the Contraband. We were doing really well and gaining a following, but my wife and I decided to move back to Houston in late 2013/early 2014.
When I moved back, my brother hooked me up with Willy, our lap steel player, and little by little we pieced together the band. It can be a difficult thing to find a group of guys who think the same musically and get along and I know that I’m really lucky to go out every night and play with these guys who are top notch musicians [Mark Riddell, bass; Matt Stinson and Isaias Gil drums; John Shelton guitar]. I tell everyone it’s great to be the least talented guy in the band - and it’s true. Playing with them is not only fun, but it makes you want to be a better songwriter and musician.
On February 24th, the band released their first full-length, Rivers in the Streets. The songs on the record tell stories of real life that are both humorous and dark. As a co-writer on all of the tracks, where do you draw from?
Every song has a kernel of me in it, but I also pull from other places and write from a perspective that often times many people don’t think about. “The Gavel” is pulled from two news stories, one in Waco where the DA was trying to make an example out of a kid caught selling pot brownies and the other was the death of Ken Lay and how his record was expunged when he died because they said if he had lived, he could have had successful appeals. I thought it was funny how we pick and choose who we throw the book at and so here I was trying to write this social justice song and it came out more as a funny song about pot (laughing).
The album contains new songs as well as fan favorites. Were the newer ones written since the EP  or were they ones you had in your pocket?
They’re a mix of both. “Houston Rain” was written after we were stuck in the house for a week due to some heavy rains. Our current single, “Time Moves Slow” was about a guy I met when I got in trouble when I was younger. I talked to him a lot and he told me that he felt like he was destined to be where he was at in life - that he was stuck - and to me that was sad. The idea for that song stuck with me for a long while. We kicked it around with different lyrics and melodies and as we worked on it, the song evolved from one I didn’t love, to a bluesy song I thought was really cool. And now, it’s one of the songs that goes over best when we play live.
Those are two of the more somber songs on the album, but you kick everything off with “Proud Man,” which too me is pretty humorous.
There is some darker stuff on the record, but I put that one forward to have a little fun and to juxtapose some of the less cheery stuff on the album. You know, sometimes people get caught up in songwriting and spend too much time in the darker stuff and that’s fine, but I like to write songs that are happy or have a happy beat. One band I really like is Shinyribs, who not only make good music, but have so much fun. I know I can write a sad song, but they made me realize I can write a song that you can dance to and makes you feel good. What they’re doing is awesome and if I can bring some of that to our music, then I’m happy.
I think you definitely do.
Rivers in the Streets is a line from “Houston Rain.” Why did you choose to use that as the album’s title?
“Houston Rain” touches on this idea that sometimes you look out and see the [proverbial] water rising and there’s nothing you can do - or at least you feel that way; you’re not going anywhere and you have to sit and ride it out. The feeling that we captured with that line is a theme I felt we touched on with some of the other songs as well, like “Time Moves Slow” and “No Good News” which made it a good title for a record.
Rivers in the Streets is the title, but the belt buckle with Houston on it takes center stage on the cover.
(Laughing) Derrick our producer will be happy you said that. He thinks everyone will see Houston on the cover and think that’s the name of the record. You know, I am proud of where I’m from and wanted to express that [The belt buckle is Harrison’s]. Houston has an amazing musical legacy that I think people outside, and even some inside the city, are not familiar with. Lightning Hopkins is from here, Townes, Robert Earl Keen and even ZZ Top. So many great artists come from here and I feel like that gets lost, so with Houston on the cover, I wanted to say, beyond that local pride, that ‘Hey, this is us.’ In our music, we bring in Country as well as the Gulf Coast Blues and Cajun flavors - all of which are a part of Houston. We’re proud to be from here and the music is definitely a reflection of that.
So if we were to visit Houston, where should we go to hear some live music or have a bite to eat?
Houston has some newer, larger music venues, but we love the Continental Club and the Big Top, where we play the first and third Thursday of every month. Besides music, Houston does food well. Tacos A Go Go is next to the Big Top, so I hang out there a lot. And I don’t want to put a finger down on the BBQ scale because I will undoubtedly upset people (laughing), but Papa Charles makes traditional BBQ while taking chances and trying new things.
Finally, what your plans for touring? Will you play regionally or expand?
We play regionally in Texas, with most of our time being split between Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Galveston. We hope the record gives us the opportunity to expand beyond that and play for more people who will be willing to give us a listen. I’m excited about the record, but my favorite way to connect with people is playing live.
For tour dates and more information visit their official website
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Purchase Rivers in the Streets HERE