Thursday, March 21, 2013

Charlie Seymour talks about Songs for the Seine

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Charlie Seymour has fronted and played with numerous bands, including The Burial and, more recently, The Regal Kings. Over the years, he has played in several countries and several styles, but he is currently with us in Paris, France, where he leads the folk-rock band The Downtown Merrylegs. The Merrylegs' new album naturally caught the attention of this blogger with its title: Songs for the Seine.
In a recent review of the album, Nick Toczek of Rock'n'Reel called the songs "distinctly Gallic folk-rock 'chansons de la vie Parisienne.'" with "lyrics that are listenable and interesting, seldom slipping into songwriters' cliches." And I'm au Quai, You're au Quai's own resident culture critic, Jason Stoneking, says of Songs for the Seine, "The Downtown Merrylegs' brand of contemporary rock is richly infused with traditional folk elements and delicately layered with a diverse and well-mixed instrumentation. The songs are intimate, emotional, and even romantic, but never naive. This is music for grown-ups who have suffered their heartaches, those who have braved their lot in life and come out the other side looking for intelligent, historically informed musicianship and some strongly seasoned poetry to accompany their memories into the future."
Charlie has been on the road a bit recently, but this month we're lucky to have him back in Paris where he's playing some gigs with the Merrylegs and promoting the new release. You can catch them this coming Friday, the 22nd of March at La Cale Seche, and follow their facebook page to keep up with the schedule for upcoming shows.
But if you can't wait till Friday to get your fix, you're in luck! Charlie recently took some time to sit down with I'm au Quai, You're au Quai and talk to us about the new album. I asked him about what Paris means to him and how the Seine has inspired his music.
Here's what he had to say! 
From left to right: Martin Mayer (drums), Nico Roy (bass), Charlie Seymour (acoustic guitar and vocals), Kevin Kretsch (electric guitar and mandolin), Melissa Cox (violin and backing vocals).
Photo: Stacey Pederson
How did you first find yourself in Paris?

I first came to Paris when i was 18 years old, it being the easiest place to get to "abroad." You could buy a one way ticket on the night train from London Victoria to Paris for 17£50 back then. 1986, I believe. No real reason other than wanting to escape Thatcher's Britain, and to find a bit of adventure.

What is it that has attracted you to, and kept you in, the Paris music scene?

Paris from the very beginning has always been about the bars for me, really, and about all the colourful characters I've met in them. Playing in them, hanging out in them, and eventually working in them too. It's been a fun place to live, and the fact that you could play a few songs in a bar and get a bit of cash and some drinks has meant that life's been relatively easy really most of the time, so I guess that's one of the things that's kept me here so long.

The first song on the CD, "A Thousand Mandolins" is about the excitement you feel walking across the river on one of those hot summer evenings when the sunset in the west just blows your mind, you've got a clean shirt on and a few bob in your pocket, and you're going to meet your mates down the pub.
Can't beat it! :) 

Photo: Patrick Wong
Your new album is called "Songs for the Seine." What is it about the Seine that inspires your music?

I called the album "Songs For The Seine" for several reasons. First of all because the songs on the CD were written (along with many others) here in Paris, but also because I like the "half/play" on words with the English pronunciation of "Seine" being "Sane." Mostly though, because I thought that if no one likes the songs, then I can always chuck 'em in the river! Music is disposable, recyclable, ecological and also eternal. Thats what I like about it. 

You've played with many groups and line-ups. What specifically about the Downtown Merrylegs project connects it to your experience of Paris and the Seine?

I'd say that basically the connection with Paris and The DM's is that all the songs I play in this band, I've written while I've been living here. And so they are, in a way, an expression of my life in Paris.

If anything though, I'm hoping that The Downtown Merrylegs is a project that will liberate me from Paris and will enable me to travel and work in different places and with different people too. It's always been my intention to travel and play music while doing so. I was a busker for a long time and I travelled around Europe for several years before coming back to Paris the last time around 2O years ago.

They say "Life is what happens when your not looking," and for one reason and another I got stuck here longer than I'd expected. I tell a bit of that story in my song "Waiting For The Band" though it's very "tongue-in-cheek" with references to old friends and band mates, etc.

Are the other musicians people you met in Paris?

All the musicians who play on the CD are people I've met in Paris, yes. Kevin Kretsch (Electric guitar & amp; Mandolin), for example, I've been playing music with in some form or another for the last 15 years or so.

Your new single, "Kallithea Girl," is about a girl you dated when you were playing regularly at the Galway, right? Did the two of you pass any hours on the river together? Was that part of the setting for your love story? 

My song "Kallithea Girl" was written for my ex girlfriend Angeliki, whom I met while tending bar many years ago at "Le Galway" which is right on the Seine.

We spent many a night over the years admiring the beautiful buildings opposite the pub as the "Bateaux Mouches"  sailed by lighting them up, and it's a wonderful sight when you see their spotlights shining on the falling rain!
As I'm sure you know :)

Kallithea is the qaurtier of Athens where she comes from and when I visited her there, it made a lasting impression on me, as did Athens, Greece, and the Greek people in general, and I think it's a crying shame what they're going through at the moment, along with all the other poorer countries of the world.
"Power to the people!"

 Photo: Kate Clark
Do you have a particularly happy or sad quai-side memory you'd like to share?

Paris being a city distinctly lacking in greenery and parks has meant I've regularly taken my exercise pounding the Quais of the Seine. I've had to sleep down there from time to time and I've had lots of parties down there too, on many occassions, and it's also one of the best places to go and find some peace and quiet, along with Pere Lachaise I find, if you time it right. I have a song called "The Ghost" which mentions the river too, but you'll have to wait for the real album to come out for that :)                                                                                                      

Thanks for talking to us, Charlie!
Luckily for us, the album is out now and the wait is over!

Check out music from The Downtown Merrylegs on Reverb Nation:

And download the album, Songs for the Seine, on iTunes!

For more info, or just to send Charlie and the band all your big, wet sloppy kisses :), write to them directly at:



  1. Thanx for this ,enjoyed it. Having known Charlie for a while i thought I knew what to expect from this album but it surprised and delighted me and considering I hardly play CD's ,'Songs For The Seine' is favourite listening in my house. I know a fair few artists that left 'home' to travel and never returned, I'm one myself but unlike most of us Charlie hasnt compromised, he's the same guy I knew growing up in the North of England and still playing and writing his own music. If I get back to Paris one summer I'll be hopefully meeting up ( a few bob in my pocket) for a 'catch up' and here The Downtown Merrylegs playing live in a bar near the river, clean shirt already packed.

  2. I stumbled upon Charlie tending bar at the Green Linnet in Paris after cruising the markets and cafes. It was a highlight of my first trip to Europe. After serving me a well appreciated half and half we had a conversation about the band business when I noticed the PA system in the bar. I picked up two CDS Songs for the Seine and also a copy of the Regal Kings and thoroughly enjoyed both. The Songs for the Seine is classy and sweet. The Regal Kings are talented and fun to listen to. They set an impressive groove with the horn work as well. Here where I play on the Jersey Shore they would go over really good!I hope they get an opportunity to play here in the US especially the New York area!
    Bill Waldron The Jersey Surecats Band