I think he’s kidding at first, but he says it all with a straight face — I’m the one laughing. He was performing around Paris and got in a car with two men on their way to Guinea. He found himself stranded at a North African embassy, got dropped off by a taxicab in the pouring rain, and was surrounded by candle-holding hooded figures emerging from the dark. The next morning, he woke up in the town of Tiznit, Morocco. And that was only a year and half in the life of blues singer Charley Crockett.
Crockett continued to live in Tiznit for six months with little more than the clothes on his back. His hitchhiking is driven by his love of playing music, which is all he has ever known. His mother encouraged him to sing and play from a young age, and that allowed him to fearlessly embrace music. Once he realized he could express himself through writing songs, Crockett never really tried to do anything else.
He’s been everywhere – New York City, Los Angeles, Perth – but finds a home in Texas. Crockett spent some time growing up in Dallas and became heavily influenced by the blues culture rooted in Deep Ellum.
“Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, T-Bone Walker – these were the most influential blues people in America, and many of them made most of their music in Dallas,” Crockett says. “People may be unaware of it, but that doesn’t mean that spirit’s not still here.”
In the Night, Crockett’s sophomore album, is a diary of his travels. His sound is a blend of country, swing, jazz, and the blues, taking you to the streets of Dallas, Memphis, and New Orleans.
Crockett says music is his own version of therapy, and he believes in the honesty of the blues. In the Night is heartbreakingly open, with tracks like “I Am Not Afraid,” an upbeat tune on the vulnerability in a relationship, and “I Ain’t Got No Time to Lose,” a minor Texas swing song about the powers of being purely human.
“I’m Workin’” is a deeply personal song dedicated to his family and life in South Texas. Crockett’s brother is in prison and his sister died last December just before she would have turned 40. Both of them have children.
“This song is autobiographical for me,” Crockett says. “I’m working for you. I’m doing this for you. I’m working, because what else can I do, you know? I have to move forward.”
Moving forward is all he ever does. Crockett says his restless spirit stems from his famous ancestor, frontiersman Davy Crockett. The legendary Davy Crockett was known for his love of Texas, and that still reigns true for the modern-day Crockett, who seems to cherish Texas and Dallas.
Crockett says national and European tours are in the works for the fall and he’ll soon be doing a residency at the Continental Club in Austin. He even has a publicist now, he says with a grin.
At the end of the day, Crockett is going to keep doing what he does best – wander endlessly through cities and make music with Southern charm.