INTERVIEW: Charlie Ballantine

On his new sextet album ‘Vonnegut’, Indianapolis-based guitarist/composer Charlie Ballantine conveys a sense of drama, distinct narrative threads and emotional depth, as he crafts an often disquieting, consistently resonant and thoughtful artistic tribute to seminal author Kurt Vonnegut. Song titles such as ‘Sympathy For Malachi Constant’, ‘Kilgore in Timequake,’ ‘Eloise Metzger’ and ‘Mind Of Dwayne Hoover’ let the listener know they’re in for a richly eclectic ride, as jazz/rock/folk artist Ballantine channels characters and themes from Vonnegut’s novels into his compositions. Finding the balance between the soulful and the literate, Ballantine and his sextet create a vibe that speaks volumes, without vocals. Ballantine and his band (which includes acclaimed saxophonist Rob Dixon of Charlie Hunter and Headhunters fame,) made an in-studio video for the album’s first single “Sympathy For Malachi Constant”.  Ballantine spoke to VENTS Magazine this week:

Hi Charlie, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi thanks for having me on for an interview! 

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Sympathy For Malachi Constant”?

“Sympathy for Malachi Constant” is the first track off of our new record and it was inspired by one of my favorite novels “Sirens of Titan” written by Kurt Vonnegut.  We knew this project was going to be a fun and involved process so we decided to have the studio process documented by some great videographers. Check out the video, here: 

The single comes off your new album Vonnegut – what’s the story behind this unique project?

Our new album Vonnegut is an homage to my favorite writer, Kurt Vonnegut.  I was rereading some of his novels about a year or two ago and decided to start writing songs based on the characters and themes in his novels.  With each novel I finished I would immediately pick up my guitar and start composing just to see what would come out instinctually.  

What role does Indianapolis play in your music and in your connection to Kurt Vonnegut?

Indianapolis has always played a huge role in my music and this record was definitely no exception.  With Vonnegut being from Indianapolis I think we all feel a deeper connection to him and his writing.  Like it’s something we can all relate to on a personal level. 

How did you balance your Jazz and Folk sounds on this album in particular?

I didn’t really have any particular genre or sounds in mind when writing this record so I can’t say that I consciously thought about that but I think that because it was inspired by literature it ended up being quite a bit different than anything I had written before.  

What aspects of Vonnegut were you surprised to explore on this record?

I didn’t expect to get as deep into his writing as I did.  I really enjoyed reading all of his novels back to back and really getting to explore the subtle nuances of his writing and personality.

What made you want to tackle this author?

He’s always been one of my favorite writers and he’s such a huge part of the history of Indianapolis.

What else is happening in Charlie Ballantine’s world?

Currently we are just trying to put together different concert series events, record music, and get back on track with everything musically after this long hiatus we have had.  

Fans can keep up to date at https://www.charlieballantine.com

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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