Charlie Cunningham’s major-label debut combines the beauty of flamenco guitar with Jazzmasters

The London-via-Seville nylon-string player takes us on a more mature and introspective journey on Permanent Way, his first outing for a major label.

After accumulating over 100 million streams via the independent label Dumont Dumont, Charlie Cunningham has announced his follow-up album Permanent Way is – deservedly – to be released on Infectious/BMG.

His tactile and intricate guitar work is the result of a two-year-long sojourn in Seville where he studied flamenco guitar, separating his time between classes, rehearsing and playing small shows. Applying that new-found talent to his already burgeoning love of indie and folk has resulted in a melancholic and introspective body of work, alongside a deft ability at blending the lines of genre. Here, he tells us about mixing nylon-string guitars with synths, being wary of his Spanish association and adding a Jazzmaster to his six-string collection.

1Hundred Times

“It’s taken three EPs and two albums, but I’ve finally done a solo! It’s played on a Fender Jazzmaster through a Strymon El Capistan, which gave it a bit of tape warble, then into a Vox AC15. It sits on top of a load of guitar ambience which we made out of various pedals – fuzz (Z.Vex Mastotron), delay (the aforementioned Strymon), reverb (Empress) and a phaser (Red Witch). That all swells in and out using the guitar’s volume knob. I think it’s quite classic in its production style, despite all the pedals.”

2Interlude (Tango)

“This is a straight-up nod to flamenco music which has been a big influence on my playing. I’m wary of my flamenco association, as it’s a music steeped in tradition and for some communities it’s part of a much broader cultural identity, so it’s important that I’m respectful of that whilst still acknowledging the impact it has had on me. This is in a traditional tango form (flamenco tango, not the Argentinian kind). However, it opens up into something more in keeping with my wider musical tastes and it’s a direction I can see myself exploring more in the future.”

3Bite

“This is one of the darker songs on the album, the guitar and the lyrics are relatively weighty. I only use about four chords for most of the song, but there’s a drop-out in the middle where the guitar gets busier for a moment, and it’s just powerchords, really. if I sped it up and added distortion it’d sound pretty metal, I reckon! I listen to a lot of metal and punk music, so I’m glad that influence has found its way onto the record, if only for a moment.”

4Permanent Way

“This song is driven by the guitar and synth lines mimicking each other. I put the guitar part down first, then we doubled it up on a Deckard’s Dream synth (a modern recreation of the Yamaha CS-80). I like synths and electronics to sound integrated with the other instrumentation, so that they don’t sound tacked on or separate from the rest of the track.”

5Don’t Go Far

“This has a nice mix of right-hand techniques throughout the song, which were dictated by the movement of the melody, and it’s in 3/4, which is always nice! On all of my recordings to date I’ve used the same nylon-string flamenco guitar, made by Antonio Bernal in Seville. But in addition to that, on this album I used a Fender Jazzmaster throughout.”

Permanent Way by Charlie Cunningham is out now on Infectious/BMG.