What kind of music were you listening to growing up? I know you play a lot of jazz now. Were you listening to that as a kid?
Not much really, not at all actually. My mom was a big old time blues fan, and acoustic blues. That was on all the time in the house and she knew a lot of those players. She’d take me to see that music. And also a lot of what I listened to on the radio at the time which was a lot of soul music and the Beatles, rock and Jimi Hendrix as well.
When did the jazz start coming in?
When I was a teen I got into it. I got into it through Charlie Christian because I was really into playing all kinds of music. I was pretty good as a kid. I had gigs when I was in high school playing mostly blues and rockabilly and soul music. I wanted to take it to the next level and I felt like the only way to really do that was to explore other stuff and Charlie Christian eventually led to John Coltrane and Charlie Parker and all that stuff.
When did you start learning the guitar?
I think I was about 12 years old.
Why did you decide to pick up the guitar?
I didn’t want to learn the guitar because I grew up around guitar players. Everyone around me played guitar, I mean everybody including my mom, all her friends and all my friends. I was a drummer as a kid. We just got too many complaints from the neighbours and I decided it was time to play the guitar. I still play the drums. It’s my hobby. I’m an avid hobbiest but I do what I do.
You play a custom seven and eight string guitar now, when did you start playing that?
I’ve been doing this kind of thing about 20 something years now – 22 or 23 years – I enjoy it. I am really having a lot of fun with it.
I heard you played with Michael Franti for a while. What was that like?
We worked at the same guitar store. He repaired basses and I taught guitar. I was teaching guitar and playing gigs and moving furniture. You have to understand he’s not a musician and I think people tell me he knows a little bit about music now, but he knew nothing. He couldn’t play music at all. He was really just a poet. He got a record deal and he asked me to go on tour with him and they paid just a little bit more than I was playing as a furniture mover. It was okay. It was interesting. It definitely taught me what I didn’t want to do with my life which was being in anything associated with pop stardom. If I could just be in the studio and making the music but if you have to deal with that world and the people in it and the business, it’s not for human consumption. You really have to have some serious screws loose in your head. I have screws loose in my head but they’re different screws.
For the full interview visit nelsonstar.com.
Charlie Hunter plays the Royal on Monday night.