Raleigh, N.C. — Charly Lowry of Dark Water Rising, talks about her time on American Idol, her life as a Triangle musician and her advice for others who want to make a living in music.
Making art pay
This story is part of a series profiling working artists as they try to make a living in the Triangle. We’ll talk to musicians, dancers, performers, painters and poets about the state of the Triangle arts scene and the possibilities for its future.
Touring is a way of life
It wasn’t easy getting ahold of Charly Lowry for an interview. When we finally did get in touch via cell phone Friday night, it sounded like she was on the move.
“I’m getting ready to get in the van with my bandmates,” she warned. “I was hoping to avoid this, but I don’t think there’s any way, so I’m going to talk to you in front of people.”
Charly and her band, Dark Water Rising, had just finished packing up and were on their way to play a gig in Fayetteville. This was after already performing at the Got to Be NC Festival at the State Fairgrounds earlier in the day. And there was more to go before they’d sleep, with shows lined up Saturday and Sunday as well.
“We really don’t ever stop playing,” Charly says. “Since we really started traveling in 2010, we play most Thursdays through Sundays. We average 90 to 100 shows a year.”
She says it very matter-of-factly -- this is just a way of life for DWR.
They have been operating as a non-stop touring unit for much of the last 7 years -- working during the week, touring during the weekend.
Charly (vocals/guitar), as well as Aaron Locklear (drums/keyboard) and Corey Locklear (guitar), all grew up in Southeastern North Carolina in and around Robeson and Hoke Counties.
They started their band in 2008 and moved up to the Triangle four years ago to be closer to other musicians, venues and potential fans. Once here, they picked up bassist Zack Hargett and guitarist/vocalist Emily Musolino.
If Charly looks familiar, it’s probably because she had a brief stint on the third season of American Idol -- the same season won by fellow North Carolinian Fantasia Barrino.
She got on the show thanks to a powerfully soulful voice, which would later become the foundation of DWR’s “rocky soul” sound. After getting knocked out in the third round, Charly returned to North Carolina determined to keep working on music.
“I’ve learned to be very persistent over the years,” she says. “You just keep plugging away, and hopefully you’ll find that niche of people who will appreciate your music and will support you.”
For Dark Water Rising, finding that niche is made at once easier and more complicated by their cultural background. “Dark water” is a reference to the Lumber River, and Charly and her bandmates are, like most people from the Pembroke area, Lumbee/Tuscarora Indians.
Charly says that having connections in the native music scene can certainly be helpful. They were able to travel to Palm Springs, CA, for example, to play a show as part of a fundraiser for the Cahuilla tribe. It just so happened that someone who worked with the Cahuilla was a Lumbee/Tuscarora and a fan of DWR.
That said, Charly is quick to point out that they are not a “Lumbee” band, per se. They have their own sound that defies categorization, and they don’t want to be pigeon-holed.
“A lot of people have misconceptions or preconceived notions about our band,” she says. “As soon as they read that there are natives in the band, I guess they expect big pow-wow drums and flutes. But we play rock and roll. We’re musicians and we just happen to be native.”
If she had one piece of advice for people who are trying to make it as musicians or artists in the Triangle it would be this:
“Always be professional. Don’t burn bridges and treat everyone with respect. Everyone from the doorman, to the production crews, to the sound engineer, the booking agent, the talent buyers. Because you never know when they’ll be able to connect you with another gig down the road.
So yes. Always be professional.”
And with that, she was off again to finish out the weekend tour before heading back to Chapel Hill on Sunday -- and then doing it all again next week.
Dark Water Rising’s next performance in the Triangle will be Thursday at the Pour House as part of their Local Beers, Local Bands series. For more info about the band, go here.
This post was originally published on the blog Raleigh & Company.