We met up with music-industry veteran Chuck Ragan during his Europe tour with his band The Camaraderie. With over twenty-five years of experience, he has done it all: from raw punk to love-tinged folk music. Nevertheless, the artist remains hungry: ‘I never want to write the same record twice. What’s the point in that?’
You say writing music is a form of therapy; to rebel, speak your mind…
I write in different forms; some of it is storytelling, some of it is about something that happened, or something I read in a book or paper. There are so many aspects of songwriting I transfer into music. Having the freedom and opportunity to write about it is the beauty of making music.
How does that translate to performing on stage?
My only goal on stage is to try and give the audience an evening that will hopefully help them leave their troubles at the door. It is our privilege to play for an audience. To me it doesn’t matter whether I play for five or five thousand people. I am going to give them everything I’ve got. The fact that they are there and paying attention is a massive privilege.
Solo or with your band?
I love it both, having the diversity. Sometimes playing solo can be really inspiring and charge me. It can be very intimidating and scary to do. There is not a lot to hide behind, walking up on stage with just a voice and a guitar. But then, at the same time, walking up with this wall of sound that a band is can be completely liberating as well.
What was Chuck Ragan like as a young musician?
I had the same passion for music and I believed that it could be used for good rather than bad. I believed music was a solid tool to bring people together, to unite them. But I was a lot more reckless. Dangerous…ha ha ha.
Who were your great role models at a young age?
My grandfather was a key person in my life. He was the one responsible for me continuing to play music. At a young age, my parents wanted me to follow sports. I played soccer, golf, baseball. But when I found skateboarding, I knew that was what I wanted to do. And then music became even more important than skateboarding. To my parents, punk rock seemed like a dark path: bars and nightclubs, rough crowds. It was my grandfather who said one day: “If you love playing guitar, you’re a damn fool if you ever put it down. And don’t let anybody tell you different.” It changed my life and I remember it like it was yesterday.
What if you had never been given that advice, what would you be today?
Most probably a fly-fishing guide or a finish carpenter. Those are two other things I have just as much passion for as I have for music.
Looking back on the road you’ve taken, what did the hard work bring you?
It led me to my wife. I have made many mistakes, made a lot of sacrifices, put in a lot of hard work, but I can honestly say it is difficult for me to have any regrets, because I love where I am at. I am married to my best friend, we have a small modest little home with a garden. We grow food and I have a small recording studio. We live close to the outdoors, where I get to walk my dogs and go fly-fishing.
Punk, Folk, or Rock?
Rock. Rock can be punk and it can also be folk.
The process or the result?
The process. There is a saying: We don’t learn by doing things right. We all have these end-goals, but it is the process of getting there that makes us grow.
Red Wing boots in 3 words…
Timeless, sturdy, and rewarding. Chuck continues…
I did a lot of carpentry and construction as a young man, and I was always buying these cheap boots, because I didn’t understand the concept of ‘you get what you pay for’. When I was spending my own money, I would get exactly what I could afford, even if it was poorly made. I must have bought 7 to 10 pairs of these boots, before I bought my first pair of Red Wings. It was an old man who told me I needed to get myself a pair of Red Wings. He said: ‘Son, take care of your feet now, and they’ll take care of you later.’ Now, 17 years later, I understand what he meant.