Inspiration can come from unexpected places. For Oxford singer-songwriter Charlie Cunningham, it came from a two-year sojourn in Seville, where he picked up a Spanish guitar and found that it suited him pretty well indeed. He brought this experience back to the UK, and has said that his music is influenced by the flamenco tradition. You’d be forgiven for missing that upon a first listen to his sedate, restrained acoustic ballads – but there’s a fire stoked beneath the lilting melodies.
You can sense this in the performance he puts on at the UltraLounge, a multidiscipline arts space in Selfridges on Oxford Street. It’s the UK’s first permanent in-store venue and a unique platform on which to showcase new talent. There’s a 360-degree stage, which is surrounded by videos screens, which can be used in any way that the artist in question desires. In the video above, we see Charlie take a typically stripped-back approach, with shots of the singer and his guitar overlapping on one another – and the man himself. Like his music, it’s simple yet incredibly effective.
And it’s more than just a fantastic performance: the show is part of Music Matters, a series of shows intended to raise awareness of the fact that, according to the Music Venue Trust, 40% of the London’s grass-roots venues have closed in the past 10 years. The campaign will see a range of impressive talent – from R&B singer Tayla to London ambient duo Majik – take to the Ultralounge stage, with 20% of profits going to the Music venue Trust.
Last year, Charlie told music blog rocknfool.net that playing live is essential for honing his craft: “playing new songs live and getting it as far as possible, getting the character of the melody, or the delivery of them… it could be a good test of the song when you’re playing it [in a live] setting”. Without small, grass-roots venues, we might not have emerging talent such as Charlie Cunningham, which is why the Music Matters campaign is such an inspiration.