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Tre. Charles holds a silver guitar.
Tre. Charles
Tre. Charles took up learning guitar playing more after a crash in 2019.

At Home on the Road with Tre. Charles

Singer-songwriter Tre. Charles describes himself as a nomad. He’s got roots in Richmond; Durham, North Carolina; and New York City, and his music is equally as well-traveled, with influences in the soulful expressions of indie-folk, neo-soul, and alternative rock. Ahead of a slate of summer shows across the East Coast, I caught up with him to learn more about life on the road and his recent EP, Currently.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Your EP ‘Currently.’ has a wide range of musical influences, including Hozier and Lauryn Hill. Tell me a little bit about your musical frame of reference.
My musical frame of reference is anyone that has a soulful expression. So Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo — Richmond’s own. And then you think about somebody like Hozier who builds out big notes, but I also think about people like Kurt Cobain, who have very different [sounds]. But it's still a soulful expression, that visceral feeling of just trying to get it out. That's kind of what I gravitate toward.


Who's your favorite artist right now?

Right now, honestly, I've been bumping a lot of Dom Fike. His new project, Sunburn, I really dig that. And Cautious Clay. Cautious is coming out with a jazz album, and I'm pretty excited about it.

I want to talk about the EP’s relationship with time. ‘Currently’ is grounded in this specific emotional moment, through the title as well as this theme “lately,” but there's a really reflective edge to it, too.


Yeah. The reflective edge is talking about [my] realization of wanting to be present and very active in doing my art. I got into a car crash — it was January 2019, and it was a very pivotal moment in my life. I was doing a job that I didn't necessarily love, and it was the very last day of training. And it kind of forced me to be still. It was like, a divine intervention where the universe saying just, stop for a second and be here, focus on what you want to do.


That’s so interesting — these moments in time really force you to reconsider how you've been spending the rest of it.

I had really damaged my knee. So I couldn't walk, I physically couldn't move. I had to sit still with my thoughts. And it kind of made me look inward. That’s when I started really playing guitar — I taught myself guitar and production. YouTube University was my friend. So it gave me a challenge that I enjoyed to be able to get the tools to express myself the way I wanted to express myself.

Your time in recovery was spent learning how to play music, learning how to play guitar. Had you played anything before that?



No, not really. I played some cowboy chords. Everybody thinks that they're John Mayer at some point. But no, I definitely wasn't anywhere near where I am now.



My next question was, “What was the writing process like?” I guess that kind of answers it.


Yeah. I mean, it was a compilation of things over time, like with the pandemic, and basically civil unrest and racism and bigotry and unknowingness. So it was just like, being stressed, stressing was the first one that came from that. And that was really just pretty self explanatory. I was just stressed out at the time, as a lot of people were and then from there, it kind of made me want to dive deeper into why I was stressed and like, try to not be stressed.

So I started doing more proactive steps toward mental health trying to figure out like, "Why am I going through this?" My girlfriend pushed me to do therapy, and then I started to learn different tools for that. And music really, again, came back in my life as far as like a therapeutic way of getting through situations.


That's such a such an important element of art — that transformative ability to help and nourish.


Right, exactly. It's a good processing tool for me, definitely. I could be feeling all these things, but then if I sing a song about feeling these things, it helps me get it out.


You're currently splitting your time between Richmond and Durham, right?


Kind of. I am a nomad. I'm always traveling up and down the East Coast, and I've been doing that since I am a nomad. I'm always traveling up and down the East Coast, and I've been doing that since I was a kid from my dad's job. Not necessarily knowing where we were going to be at, we kind of just bopped around a lot. That's the kind of lifestyle that I picked up.

I lived in Richmond back in 2017 — going through my service industry days, being a punk kid. So Richmond's always been a place that I feel like I really gravitated towards because it had more of the familiar roots of New York, to me. It's very engraved in the city, everything kind of courses through the city and has an ecosystem through the city. And similar to Durham, the Black music scene, especially how it thrives here and the Chitlin Circuit in general. That vein nourished these Black artists, and it kept evolving through the East Coast — which is why I think I love the East Coast so much.


You do describe yourself as a nomad, and you also describe your work as having nomadic roots. How does travel inform your music?


Basically just living these experiences and being able to process them. Because I’m not one who can just sit down and create a song out of nowhere. I have to have the experiences, and be inspired by that. And a big thing that inspires me is travel. New places and new people and new faces, that’s what I grew up on. So it's a home feeling for me.

I've talked about that before with other people: I gravitate toward communities more so than the actual place. The communities feel more like home than a location does, which inspires the writing too.


What comes to mind for me as well is the different genres that we talked about — traveling through these different influences that all have this core emotion.


I’m a very stoic person, I've been told. And I think it's easier for me to express emotions and have that vulnerability through music. So I think that's why I gravitate toward songs that have that emotional connection more so than bops — even though I love a good bop. But the emotional ones definitely get me going.

The videos for “Lately.” and “Stressin.” also seem preoccupied with place. The one for “Lately.” features a lot of cityscapes and navigating through them, and “Stressin.” is more grounded in natural imagery and existing in nature. Is that duality something that was on your mind?


Actually, it was more so just that “Stressin.” was a very isolated situation. And ironically, “Lately.” was too, but “Lately.” was post pandemic and in Brooklyn, while “Stressin.” was during the pandemic in Durham. So interestingly enough, the similarities between both of those are an expression of me wanting to express that out and not having the comfortability of wanting to do that around a big, massive audience.


You've got plenty of shows coming up. Do you want to tell us about them?


Aug. 2, I’m playing with the legendary Arrested Development at Ocean Front in Virginia Beach. It's a free show, it's going to start at 7 p.m.. And on Aug. 4, I'm going to be playing up in Charlottesville at The Garage, and then the next day I'm going to be playing at the Common House in Charlottesville.


I have a big festival coming up in October, down in the Carolinas. I'm gonna be playing with Superchunk and some other bigger names, so excited about that one as well.


Tre. Charles’ EP ‘Currently.’ is available now. More information about his summer tour schedule can be found online.