Folk music has a long history of being a catalyst for cultural change. There’s something almost inherently human about the sound of the acoustic guitar; it’s familiar, warm, and poignant. And Providence, RI, band How’s About Charlie understands the simple power of acoustic instrumentation and powerful lyrics on their newest single “Coming Back.”
Consisting of Beth Killian (guitar/vocals), Amanda Centrella (ukulele, vocals) Nicole Gauthier (ukulele, guitar, vocals) and Aaron Bedard (drums/percussion), How’s About Charlie began in 2015 at a Providence community open mic called MADCAP. Originally conceived as just vocals, guitar, and ukulele, the band added percussion into the mix in 2018. Since then, the band has played all over Rhode Island and beyond – earning a following and growing in their ability as songwriters and players. As a group made up of queer women, the band seeks to write songs that dissect the power imbalances of American society.
Killian wrote “Coming Back” in 2019 after returning to Providence from Tanzania. Unfortunately, the song gathered some dust during the pandemic years. And now, the band views “Coming Back” differently. When asked about the significance of the song, they wrote:
“After everything that has happened in the past couple of years and the slow-down we experienced as a band — it makes so much sense to release it now. We are coming back. To ourselves, to each other, to our families. Our intention going forward is to continue to make music that is authentic to our hearts.”
There’s an urgency in this new single – from the acoustic drums to the psychedelic-tinged harmonies. This band knows how to find the right balance in a song, with the cajon and shakers providing a heartbeat while the vocals soar above this steady pounding. As an organ swirls in and out of focus, the song never forgets that its core is four friends in a room playing together. How’s About Charlie achieves that natural, human folk sound so effortlessly.
In today’s musical landscape, it’s easy to get lost in cults of personality. With “Coming Back,” How’s About Charlie proves they’re in it for the songs. They’re in it to share a bit of their existence with the world. And after all, isn’t that what music is all about?
Stream “Coming Back” below, and stick around for an exclusive interview with the band!
You talk about the meaning of this song shifting with time. Did you find this to be true with other songs written before the pandemic?
We feel that all of the songs we write have the potential to shift their meaning over time, according to whatever the listener is feeling and what their experience is. For us, we’ve talked about re-recording a song or two from our first album just to explore what it feels like to sing and arrange them now. It’s been 5 years and quite a bit has happened in that time. To revisit them feels like catching up with old friends.
What do you remember about the recording sessions for “Coming Back?” Was the arrangement already pretty solid beforehand, or did it change in the studio?
Beth wrote the song 10 years ago and has been playing it at gigs for years. So the rhythm and feel of the song have always been the same. To keep it true to that was the goal going into the studio. We added percussion, vocal harmonies and even the flourish of an organ at the final chorus. But the track still has the energy of a live performance, which is something we aim for as often as possible.
What is the folk scene like in Providence? I was there in 2019 for a night in between shows, and I wish we’d checked out more of the city but it was very cold!
The folk scene in Providence is very well taken care of, in the sense that both venue owners and audiences alike seem to have a massive appreciation for it. The amount of talent here in Rhode Island is inspiring. There’s always a great show happening at The Galactic Theatre in Warren, or Askew on Chestnut Street. There’s an open mic every Wednesday at The Parlour on North Main Street that is always packed with eager listeners and musicians looking to share new material.
Some really beautiful collaborations happen there. Every year there are festivals such as Warren Folk Fest, RI Folk Fest at Rose Larisa Park in Riverside and of course—Newport Folk Fest. We highly recommend attending smaller events and shows because there’s a lot of local acts and businesses worth supporting. Plus, there’s something really nice about popping into a venue on a random Tuesday. You don’t always know what to expect walking in but that’s the excitement of it.
What’s next for How’s About Charlie? Can we expect more music soon?
Yes! We’ve recorded some new songs that we love and we are very close to finishing another album. Our goal is to release a few more as singles by the end of this year. We also plan to release our first music video soon.
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