With a documentary about his life set for release in 2018 and a spot in the Blues Hall of Fame, you’d think Michael Charles would be relaxing a bit.
Not the case for the Australian blues artist, known for his “outrageous guitar playing.”
“It just makes me work harder,” he said of his accomplishments. “Whatever you choose to do, if you don’t give 200 percent, it really doesn’t pan out.”
Charles will perform a free concert at 8 p.m. Jan. 12 at Olive Black Martini and Wine Lounge, 5607 Broadway Road, Richmond. The performance is one of numerous gigs planned for 2018. It’s technically a new tour, but it’s basically the same tour he started back in 1983, he said.
He was making music videos for MTV back then – “because you couldn’t sell records without videos back then” – while living in Australia. In 1990, the legendary blues artist Buddy Guy invited him to perform at his Chicago club, Buddy Guy’s Legends.
“I thought, ‘Here’s my opportunity,’ ” he remembered. “I grabbed the opportunity and took the bulls by the horn, as they say, and I never looked back. A two-week tour turned into six months and then a year and a couple of years, and, 29 years later, I’m still in the U.S. You just don’t know where life is going to take you. You go with the flow.”
For Charles, it took him to a 2015 induction into the Blues Hall of Fame, eight Grammy elections, numerous radio and television appearances and, most recently, the documentary – created by an Australian film producer who worked with Charles on those MTV videos years ago.
The DVD is expected to be released in the spring.
“There’s a bigger story here than another music video,” the filmmaker told Charles. “That’s how it all came to be.”
Charles has released 34 albums through the years, including a double CD, a 30-year anthology released in 2014 and the live CD, “Concert at the Nest,” released in the winter of 2015.
A singer/songwriter, Charles performs blues-based rock, ballads and more, inspired by his idols growing up in Australia, including Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and, of course, Buddy Guy.
“Everybody’s got to put everyone into some kind of genre,” he said. “I guess that’s human nature. I tell everybody it’s actually Michael Charles music. … I’m known for my extremes. I’ll go from playing something wild. Then I’ll pick up my acoustic guitar and play a soft ballad. People put me in that class of a blues player, which is not a bad thing. I love the blues.”
Still, he said, he’s always tried to take his music to another dimension and expand what the blues is all about. He works on his music daily, and doesn’t take it for granted, he said.
As for his fans?
“I’ve found they’re very passionate to what I do, especially when we play the smaller venues,” he said, adding he likes to mingle with the crowd after shows and become friends with his fans.
And he keeps up with them through social media, feeling fortunate to be able to make a living as a musical artist.
The accolades through the years, including the Blues Hall of Fame induction, are a bonus.
“I look at it as a really huge pat on the back,” he said.
“It’s one of those things that make you feel good about what you do and makes you feel the hard work does pay off.”