Having graduated from the CMAA Junior Academy of Country Music in Tamworth, Year 9 O’Connor Catholic College student Charlie Fittler has some big dreams! Charlie’s no stranger to busking and also performs some gigs around the local area … you can see him next at the Armidale Relay for Life on September 29. Keep your eyes out for this rising Country Music star; he has his sights set on a Golden Guitar!
Hi Charlie. Please introduce yourself to our readers …
I’m currently in Year 9 at O’Connor Catholic College. I’m the youngest in the family – the oldest is Tom; he is 22 and he works together with my dad in his plumbing business. My sister, Madeline, is 20 and is a hairdresser living in Newcastle.
My mum is probably where I got my love of music. She runs our Bed and Breakfast and has a beautiful singing voice.
When I am not playing the guitar on weekends, I play polocrosse for Guyra on my horse “Socks”, or I am working on the farm with my dad.
How long has Armidale been your home – and what do you most like about living here?
I was born and bred in Armidale. We live on a Merino wool farm on the outskirts of town. The property has been in the Fittler family since 1880, and I am the fifth generation.
What I love about living in Armidale is that we have so many great teachers here on our doorstep.
Students from the Country Music Academy were telling me that they spend hours getting to their lessons every week.
You were exposed to music at an early age – I believe your siblings both went to NECOM – but what’s your earliest memory of attending a concert or gig?
There was definitely no escaping music in my house! Tom has had singing lessons from Jennifer Warnock from early in primary school until the end of high school, and both Maddi and Tom went through NECOM choirs from Mini-singers ‘til The New England Singers. Maddi was also involved in the Gondwana Choir and is also a performing artist.
My earliest memory of singing or performing would be randomly busking in Peel Street, not during the festival! I was probably aged five. I put my cowboy hat out, and a lady gave me two dollars.
When I eventually returned to Tamworth to busk in Peel Street when the festival was really on, I had such a great experience! I was hooked! I returned the following year and made it to the Busking Championships. Busking really helps you develop as a performer. It’s so raw; just you standing in front of people belting out your song. You soon get to know what works and what doesn’t.
Where did your interest in Country Music begin, and who are some of your favourite singers?
When I was given my first guitar is when my interest in Country Music began. I couldn’t play it – I just pretended to.
I like all Country Music, from traditional Australian to old school Country Rock. At the moment I like what Luke Combs is coming out with; his music tells a story and has a beat you can dance to.
You’ve been playing guitar since you were eight, under the guidance of teacher Stephen Tafra. How has Stephen helped you develop as an artist?
I have been lucky enough to have Stephen as my teacher and friend; he always imparts his little bits of wisdom: “Don’t be another ordinary guitarist! Play your mind, know your stuff, know your theory”.
One of the most exciting achievements must have been graduating from CMAA Junior Academy of Country Music in Tamworth. How were you selected for this opportunity?
I had previously applied for the Academy and was unsuccessful, so I decided to concentrate on my musicianship and my performance, and it paid off. There are a lot of talented kids out there wanting a place in the Academy; there is no other course for Country Music like it in Australia. It’s an intensive course, with most days being 12 hour ones.
What were some of the highlights of your time at the Academy?
Working with so many like-minded people and making lifelong friendships. There were so many great moments, but co-writing a song with Travis Collins is definitely high on the list!
There were only 23 kids selected from across Australia, and one even travelled from New Zealand! Being taken out of my comfort zone with Jayne Denham (my group leader and mentor) really worked.
Our timetable was very busy, with talks from Amber Lawrence, Lyn Bowtell and Aleyce Simmonds, just to name a few. Mum also got to attend the parents’ course, aimed to help parents understand the music industry.
And the final concert playing with the band was so cool.
What are your future goals and dreams?
I would like to play at more venues; I love the energy of a crowd and I enjoy playing with my talented friends, Jack on the acoustic and electric guitar, Billy on drums, and my next-door neighbour Banjo on the banjo.
I would like to write and record some of my own songs and maybe have a Golden Guitar of my own one day.
Whom would you like to thank for helping you on your journey so far?
Firstly, I would like to thank my family; they are so supportive. Tom and Dad work hard to ensure I am able to have great equipment and take time off work to drive me around and load and unload the car.
I would also like to thank the Armidale Decorative and Fine Arts and Rotary Club of Armidale for their generous grant to help support my enrolment to the Academy.
I started at Open Mic at the Grapevine when I was at primary school. Rick Cuthel, Brendan Mooney and James Cross were always encouraging me.
FOCUS, for the opportunity to tell my story so far.
And all the people who listen to my music and go to my gigs – thank you!
And … not forgetting my Grandma; she is always in the front row, cheering me on.
Where can we hear you play or find out more about you?
My next gig is at the Armidale Relay for Life on 29th September. You can go to my website: www.charliefittler.com.au and my Facebook page: Charlie Fittler Music.
Interview: Jo Robinson.
Photo top right courtesy of James Russell.