Charles E. Vermette
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Charles E. Vermette

Norwell, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Norwell, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
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"Behind the music: Norwell man places second in worldwide songwriting contest"

By Matt Dunning/
Thursday, June 8, 2006

Don't call it a comeback.

Having recently placed second in the March round of VH1's annual Song of the Year contest, Norwell native Charles "Chuck" Vermette, 48, is making waves once again in the music industry.

To hear Vermette tell it, though, his success is not so much the mark of a comeback, but rather another in a series of milestones that, when added up, chronicle a life spent making music.

Since establishing himself as a fixture of the New England folk-rock scene in the 1970s and 1980s,Vermette said he has spent the last half-decade quietly bolstering what was already a hefty volume of songs.

"I had been writing pretty much all along," Vermette said. "I really started writing earnestly again about five years ago. My priorities changed a bit in the 90s when I got married and had a son, but never really stopped writing music."

Vermette said when the opportunity to enter VH1's Song of the Year contest presented itself, he couldn't resist the temptation to enter, and wound up finishing second out of literally hundreds of entries in the Folk category. His song was titled "Till the Time is Right."

"Originally what drew me to the Songwriter of the Year contest wasn't so much prizes or recognition, but industry feedback from high-end people, and I wanted that feedback," Vermette said. "The real reason you do any of these kinds of contests is for the criticism and the industry exposure."

Vermette said the contests' judges, including multi-Grammy winner Norah Jones, told him his music was strong, and the production of his song was extremely well done, especially considering the fact Vermette mixed and mastered the song himself on his laptop.

"As I got back into writing music," Vermette said, "I started discovering all the marvelous technology, the home recording software, which is just absolutely phenomenal in terms of what it can do. There are things it can't do. It can't write the song for you. It's still all about good music and good writing. Musically, the trap of that kind of software is it can become a hall of mirrors."

Evocative of some of the Righteous Brothers' slower and more contemplative pieces, "Till the Time is Right" is warm and heavyhearted without being mournful. Vermette said the song is, more or less, the story of a woman he knew shortly before he met his wife, Teresa.

"There was a chance for us getting involved, but she had been really hurt by somebody and she had to get through it," Vermette said. "So there were a lot of things I couldn't say to her until the time was right. It's a song about giving people space, something you don't figure out when you're 18 or 19, and just stepping back and knowing there's a right time to act, a right time to say things, and right time to leave people alone with their pain. That's really what the song was about."

Vermette described his beginnings in the music business as typical of a 13-year-old boy in 1970, particularly so given an American musical landscape at the time dominated by the likes of John Lennon and Bob Dylan.

"To use a baseball analogy, there's a line, the last line actually, in a book by Jim Bouton called 'Ball Four' that goes, 'you think you spend your whole life holding a baseball, and then you realize it's the other way around,'" Vermette said. "It's just something that fits with me, it's a part of me. I started playing for the same reason millions of other kids did. I heard the Beatles, I heard Dylan, and I wanted to do the same thing."

In addition to placing second in the folk category, Vermette also earned an honorable mention in the contemporary Christian category with a song entitled "I've Seen the Lion Lay Down with the Lamb."

According to Vermette, folk and Christian music are just two of the vast array of musical styles that appeal to him.

"The reason I write is to get snapshots of certain images, certain things that hit me," Vermette said, adding the type of music he writes on any given day, whether it's folk, rock, Christian contemporary, country, or even jazz-fusion, depends greatly on his mood and the context of the image he happens to be trying to capture. Asked which of his many genres he's most fond of, Vermette said he typically leans toward the complex and often cacophonous realm of jazz-fusion, though he's learned through the years when to reign in his sonic meanderings.

"I like writing jazz-fusion things, things that are musically challenging," Vermette said. "I like reaching. I may not do it enough as time goes on. I used to do very, very avant-garde things, 10-minute pieces that would just go in all different directions ala Yes, Jefferson Airplane, Steely Dan. I used to love to do that, but I don't do it much anymore. Most of the things I do now are very short, most of them not longer than three minutes, simply because if I can't say it in three minutes, I'm not going to be able to say it in 10 minutes either."

For the near future, Vermette said he plans to continue entering songs in the monthly, round-robin-style Song of the Year contest, as well as the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Contest

"I've always seen myself as more of a recording artist than a performing artist," Vermette said, "but I'd love to get a three-piece band together and do it the way I used to do it, and just bang it out. Drum-bass-guitar, I did a lot of that, a lot of trios and really enjoyed it."

For more information on Chuck Vermette, visit his Web site at To learn more about the Song of the Year contest, visit
- Norwell (MA) Mariner


"Till the Time is Right" - March 2006 Finalist, Folk Category (

"To See Beyond the Veil" - BandRadio Live (

"Wandering Restless Feeling" - BandRadio Live (



Influences: Beatles, Dylan, Hendrix, Steely Dan, Steve Earle. Poets such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens. My lyrics are also laced with scriptural references.