Don’t rush to draw parallels between two songs just because they both mention drug use.
That’s the message one gets from singer/songwriter Charlie Mars’ comments about “Listen to the Darkside” and “How I Roll,” two of his best (and best-known) tunes.
Both songs have lyrics about the use of mind-altering substances, yet Mars is quick to say this is a coincidental, not intentional, connection — and not indicative of his body of work.
“I have six albums, and I have two songs that have drug references in them,” Mars says. “So to me, it’s just one of 5,000 other things that [people can talk] about. It just happens to be something that’s illegal. Since rock ’n’ roll began, people have been fascinated by the subversive aspects of it.”
“Listen to the Darkside” contains the refrain “come over and get high,” so it comes as no surprise to hear Mars describe it as “a celebration of friendship and getting high with a friend on a couch and listening to music and hanging out, and how that can cure a lot of what ails ya.”
But “How I Roll,” which has references to marijuana and cocaine use early in the first verse, is much deeper and darker, Mars says.
“It’s about self-destruction, and it’s about how people get to a point where all they want to do is do something to feel better,” he explains. “You can try to do better, and you can try to be perfect in certain regards, but ultimately, you’re going to fall short of that.
“Me, I’ve spent a lot of years apologizing for things about myself that I got tired of apologizing for. I think there are darker aspects of human nature that are going to pop up that we all need help with, and sometimes you feel unapologetic about it, and that’s kinda what that song is about.”
Mars’ current tour is all about solo acoustic performances, and playing without a band has been “an unexpected avenue that I never really saw coming,” he says.
“It’s reinvigorated my love of performing,” Mars adds, “and a lot of times, you’re just walking the tightrope because it’s just you up there. It’s exciting; I like it. It’s really broadened my ability to entertain people in a way I probably didn’t do prior to maybe 2009.”
Right around that time is when Mars began what he calls “a successful run.” In ’09, he released Like a Bird, Like a Plane, which includes “Listen to the Darkside.” The song’s video, directed by noted photographer and occasional musician Danny Clinch, stars actress Mary-Louise Parker of Weeds fame.
Mars’ follow-up was 2012’s Blackberry Light, and the album’s “How I Roll” can also be found on the Weeds soundtrack for season eight.
His next full-length effort could be done by early next year.
“I’ve written pretty much a whole album’s worth of new material that I’m excited about,” says Mars, who will be performing some new songs at his shows this month. “So if I can get it all together, I’m ready to roll.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Charlie Mars on tour (schedule subject to change):
* June 1: Dakota Jazz Club — Minneapolis (two shows)
* June 2: Shank Hall — Milwaukee
* June 5: Birdy’s Bar and Grill — Indianapolis
* June 6: Molly Malone’s — Covington, Ky.
* June 7: Club Café — Pittsburgh
* June 8: The Linda/WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio — Albany, N.Y.
* June 9: Old Port Festival — Portland, Maine (free)
* June 10: The Outer Space — Hamden, Conn.
* June 11: Club Passim — Cambridge, Mass.
* June 12: The Saint — Asbury Park, N.J.
* June 13: The Cocoa Beanery — Hummelstown, Pa. (free)
* June 14: Rockwood Music Hall — New York
* June 15: Drew’s House — Ringwood, N.J.
* June 16: Tin Angel — Philadelphia
* June 18: The Pour House Music Hall — Raleigh, N.C.
* June 19: The Evening Muse — Charlotte, N.C.
* June 20: Eddie’s Attic — Decatur, Ga.
* June 21: Circular Church — Charleston, S.C.
Photo by Chris M. Junior