By Marti Gacioch
Coastal living is far more than just a beach for singer-songwriter Charlie Imes. For him, it's an entire lifestyle - one he celebrates with the release of his first album, "On An Island."
Imes, a Del Mar resident, wrote the songs over a 30-year period, and the tunes serve as the soundtrack of his life.
"The album is autobiographical in a way because some of the songs were written 20 years ago and some more recently," Imes said. "All the different songs conjure up images of times in my life - different stories and different friends."
Growing up in Southern California coastal towns, Imes collected plenty of experiences to inspire his songs. He spent his youth at the beach and, by age 12, he'd learned guitar by playing along with records and with friends. He played in rock bands throughout high school and started writing his own songs by age 18. Many of his tunes were rock songs, but he also had a flair for folk music and began developing his own style.
Over the years, Imes has played at coffee houses and clubs with his musician-friends, the Hodad Surf Club, perhaps the only band without any definite, permanent members.
"It's whoever's playing with me on any given evening - it's my running joke," Imes said.
While he has many musical influences, Imes counts James Taylor and Jimmy Buffet among his favorite artists.
"Most good songs have a good story behind them and that's something I always liked with songwriters like James Taylor," Imes said.
Imes had a particular sound in mind when he wrote the songs for "On An Island" and it centered on the albums he cherished in the 1970s.
"You put on Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell or the Eagles and that's the music that made me feel happy," he said. "So when I set out to record this album, I wanted to try to capture that kind of sound and feel."
As he played music for the sheer joy of it, Imes always resisted pursuing a professional music career. Friends who made it big in the music business gave Imes a good look at all that experience entailed. What he saw convinced him not to seek a similar lifestyle.
"Everybody loved the camaraderie, but they seemed miserable with the business aspect," he said. "I decided that life was too short and I would make the album that I always wanted to hear. Now I have an album that I'm really proud of."
Imes had as much fun producing the album as he did writing the songs, and part of that fun was selecting 22 different musicians to play on the album.
"Jeff Berkley co-produced the record with me, and we talked about each song and the sound and the feel we were looking for and which musicians would be good," Imes said. "These are not just good musicians; they are really good people who are a lot of fun to work with."
The album's title song, "On An Island," has been Imes' signature tune among his friends and fans for many years.
"It's the song that people request the most," Imes said. "I was pleased to get Laurence Juber to play lead guitar on that track. He used to play with Paul McCartney's Wings."
"Worst Presnadent (sp) Ever," Imes's commentary on the George W. Bush years, may prove to be far more controversial than any other album cut.
"It was one of those gifts from God that just flowed out of me," Imes said, "but the tricky part was finding the person to do the voice of Bush."
He settled on James Adomian, who frequently imitates Bush on "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson." Imes performed the song at a recent Barack Obama rally, and he and Adomian plan to make a video the song for Imes' Web site.
To learn more about "On An Island," visit