Photo: Charles Cain playing with the NIU Jazz Band. Courtesy Photo
by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—The Elburn-to-Nashville pipeline might not be thought of as a road to potential success and stardom, but it’s a path that suits Charles Cain just fine.
Cain, a former Elburn resident, 2009 Kaneland High School graduate and multi-instrumentalist, recently released his album “Civil Ghost,” an effort that took Cain a year to fund and two weeks to record. And in early May, he rang in his 21st birthday by playing a debut show in Nashville—the songwriting capital of the world, and the city where Cain currently resides.
Cain’s music is described as “rich, soulful indie music.” As for how he was bitten by the music bug, Cain’s mother Lora said it was probably due to the abundance of music that was played in their home during his childhood.
“We always had music on in the house, from the time he was little,” she said.
“My parents would play it loud, I remember that,” Charles said. “I’m told I would sing and dance to George Thorogood when I was 2, but mostly I remember my dad’s favorite: Van Morrison. He was always playing that. My older brother, Jonathan, studied piano, too, so music was all around. Always. In one form or another.”
Lora said the musical gene in Charlie’s family largely stems from his grandmother, Darlene Stoffa.
“She’s Elburn’s Betty White. She played piano while we kids all sang,” Lora said. “I learned to play piano, and I would play, and both our sons play piano. That’s Jonathan’s primary instrument, but he is also an aviator, so he is pursuing his career in business, often helping his little brother with music and finance decisions.”
As a young musician, Charles was involved in band and drumline. Following high school graduation, he attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts and studied jazz percussion. Charles said his attraction to percussion as a major was instinctive.
“(As a child) I told my mom I wanted drums for Christmas, and that Christmas she found a set of used drums at a used instrument store,” he said. “It’s my favorite Christmas memory. Drum set came very naturally to me even when I was really young.”
In terms of ensemble work, Charles cut his teeth in the group Bugs as Trees, which also featured keyboardist Alec Watson. Watson’s playing can be heard on several tracks on “Civil Ghost.”
“Alec is a world-class keyboard player. He studies at the Dave Brubeck Institute in California,” Lora said. “Alec literally travels the world performing. He wanted to play keyboards on Charles’ album, so we flew Alec to Nashville.”
Lora said songwriting is the next step in Charles’ career.
“Publishing is a great field for him. He’s a phenomenal musician and that’s his passion, but money is easier to attain in songwriting,” she said. “He is hoping to keep his music performance a passion and not the way to pay the mortgage.”
“(Songwriting) was always in me, but I didn’t share it until I was ready, which was in my mid-teens,” Charles said. “I’m always writing. It never ends. It’s in my head at all times. I never really sleep.”
“Civil Ghost” is available on iTunes, and can be heard on Spotify and www.artistsignal.com.