Charles Theodore
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Charles Theodore

Band Folk Pop


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Bristol, Tennessee, USA

Bristol, Tennessee, USA


Bristol, Tennessee, USA

Bristol, Tennessee, USA


Bristol, Tennessee, USA

Bristol, Tennessee, USA

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Charles Zerner is a very well-rounded young man. Combining intimate folk rock ramblings, choruses that wouldn't sound out of place on Top 40 radio, Spanish inspired guitar fills and noticeably rhythmic bass and drum sections, his songwriting draws from a multitude of influences. Fortunately, this diversity sounds neither gimmicky nor gratuitously eclectic, and he succeeds in this ambitious endeavor because of his genuine, consistent honesty. Jetlagged longing, lost loves and moments of displaced loneliness are revisited track by track, memorable and every bit as fresh as they once must have felt. Still, Zerner never compromises his upfront lyrics for rhythm, catchy bittersweet melodies and an intricately arranged acoustic pop-rock sound; the album is a sincere and well-thought-out commentary on a twenty-something's life, not a sentimental confessional about what went wrong.

Zerner's songs range from straightforward guitar-based pieces to more complex and layered arrangements complete with soaring, playful synthesizers and perfectly timed bass lines. His voice is strongest when stripped bare, as heard on "Broke St Lullaby" and "You Were Right the First Time"; more layered vocal sections lose their sweetness and verge on generic, especially when he speaks/raps rather than sings. The production on the instruments, however, is irreproachably poppy - unusual for such an upfront record so strongly influenced by bare-bones folk rock. This smoothness works well more often than not and accentuates the care with which the songs were written: there isn't a sloppy moment on the whole record. But two slick, hip, upbeat tracks, "Andrea in Passing" and "The American Way" (a timely commentary on the current state of affairs) fall victim to their own neatness. Lyrics beg for a crack in Zerner's voice, some sign of vulnerability; the riffs build up but never distort or explode; the poetry is replaced by literalisms and the drums and synths feel heavy-handed. The songs sustain their hooks and are certainly memorable, but sound out of place next to the slower, deeper tracks.

"Bars and Parties," however, is produced in the same vein but pulls it off - the gorgeous melody and spot-on lyrics are enough to win even the most critical listener over, almost to the point of overshadowing the songs that come after. "Soft Lips and Champagne", "Broke St Lullaby" and "Moonlight on the Dotted Line" are more representative of his sound as a whole, with softly strummed guitar parts and wistful allegories. Weathered cynicism atop a lingering innocence characterizes the mood of the record - jaded, but still young and unwilling to give up on hope. A genuine sincerity ties the songs together, though never at the detriment of professionalism, originality, and technical skill. Combined with a talent to comment on, rather than fall into, cliché, and a heart-wrenching set of melodies that stick long after the songs end, Zerner has made a thoroughly meaningful and sensitive record.

- Atossa Abrahamian (rock-writer for Columbia spectator, splendid magazine, Flavorpill...)

A combination of electronics and plucky, acoustic folk make Charles Theodore an interesting and unique listen. ... A must for hippies of any stripe. - The Chattanooga Pulse

"What can I say? The world needs more songs like this." - WXPN Radio (Philadelphia)

By: Sean Phipps

Rarely do we get to meet such motivated musicians as Charles Theodore and Chris Volpe. Both got their start in music playing the subways in New York and became part of the much lauded ANTI-FOLK movement. Now, they both have solo records to promote. Recently they stopped by Studio ’99 to play a few songs and tell us what it’s like to perform in a crowded New York subway station.

Listen Here: - Chattanooga Times Free Press

Artist: Charles Theodore Zerner

CD: A Suitcase Life

Home: New York City

Style: Singer/Songwriter

Quote: "This CD is gentle and profound."

By Catherine L. Tully

I never liked Bob Dylan -- a fact that I don't advertise, since so many people think he is a complete genius. The simple fact is, I can't stand the sound of his voice, and even though his writing is tremendous I can't get past that sound. Why am I talking about this during my review of A Suitcase Life? Because Charles Theodore Zerner is very "Dylanesque," but with a voice I don't mind listening to. I enjoyed the lyrics, the sound and the feel of the CD in a way I never could have if it was good 'ol Bob.

This CD is gentle and profound. The music runs nice and easy throughout but it is the sentiment and feel of each track that really grips you. The intelligence of the lyrics should come as no surprise, since Zerner is a Harvard grad, but he does something that can be very difficult to do. He can rhyme lyrics without sounding campy. This is no simple task, and as someone who even avoids buying cards if they have a singsong feel to them, I must say that I am impressed by this fact alone.

Some songs have a very popular appeal to them, while others call to mind more of a "folk" feel, but overall I liked all that I heard here. I also find it funny that despite the fact that Zerner reminds me of someone I don't like and does things with lyrics that generally make me cringe, I would recommend this album to others. It just goes to show you that if things are done right, they work.

Indie-Music ProfileIndie-Music Profile

May 03, 2008
Artist Website: - Catherine L. Tully


A Suitcase Life Produced By Francis Lassus - 2007.

A free copy of A Suitcase Life is available upon request for Industry purposes, such as booking, terrestrial/satellite/internet radio, by emailing the artist at

Live on air performances have been recorded at WHRB Boston, WXPN Philadelphia, WBAI New York, WUTC Chattanooga and more...



Charles Theodore Zerner grew up in France and the US, graduated with honors from Harvard University, and moved to New York to sing in the subways.

After playing through a 3 month session with the producer of the Clash, touring the east coast, holding residencies in New York, carving his home in the antifolk scene, playing countless shows and cutting a record in France with the producer of Jacques Higelin, CT is finally selling something with his name on it. His first release, A Suitcase Life comes with a 10 page color booklet, and a long life-full of listening pleasure. It is available now at Itunes, CDbaby, and select retail outlets in the North East.

Keep your eyes open for more east coast tours, the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival, new live/studio recordings coming soon, and a possible European tour later this year.

Charles Theodore grew up shuffling between France and the US, wandering through hallowed churches and looking at paintings with his art historian parents. From Providence, to Santa Monica to Chicago to Boston, going to the local school in a tiny French town with more cows than people, to living in the carnival that is New York City, Charles-Theodore's bicoastal, trans-Atlantic upbringing has shaped his songwriting as much as his musical heroes.

CT played weddings and club gigs for his pocket money through high school. He continued to perform and cut a record with a jazz combo (at Boston's esteemed Regattabar), while working toward an honors diploma in French Literature at Harvard University. There, Rimbaud, Baudelaire and T.S. Eliot joined Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, The Velvet Underground, John Lennon, and Serge Gainsbourg as lasting lyrical influences.

It was after his graduation in 2002 that Charles Theodore really began to stick out. He turned down the straight jobs and spend his time singing in the damp underground of the New York subways, developing a distinctive acoustic sound.

It wasn't long before Charles-Theodore was invited to cut a record with the mythic producer Joe Blaney (The Clash, Keith Richards, etc…) in a rock outfit. Although an immensely enriching experience, soaking up musical lessons for 3 straight months, he quit the band after finishing the recording, realizing he needed to further develop his own material.

Charles-Theodore hit the NY club circuit: Pianos, The Living Room, CBGB's and Galapagos are just a few of the venues he still plays at regularly. CTZ also found a home in the Antifolk scene, considered worldwide for being the heart of the New York songwriter world today. After playing gigs along the east coast from Vermont to North Carolina, including World Café Live in Philadelphia, The Evening Muse in Charlotte NC, Langdon St. Café in Montpelier, VT, Southpaw in Brooklyn, playing 3 anti-folk festivals in NY, CT made his way back to France.

There he covered 120 dates in 2006 with his three piece band, building a following in Paris. He founded the Folk Underground biweekly residency/concert series at the chic Ile St. Louis club Le Franc Pinot. It was in France that he met producer Francis Lassus, with whom he made his debut release, A Suitcase Life.

Delve a little deeper, and you will find why his understanding of French and American mentalities - not to mention a talent for capturing the universals – resonate with audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, and beyond.

Charles-Theodore's first release is finally ready. Recordings began in late 2006, with drummer and producer Francis Lassus (producer of French pop star Jacques Higelin, and drummer for Claude Nougaro, African singer Ray Lema, Joe Zawinul amongst others) in the Pyrenées mountains near Pau, France. Charles-Theodore merges American folk-rock ramblings a la Dylan with
Baudelaire-inspired wordplay. Add bittersweet melodies, carefully layered keyboard, bass and drum sections, and irreproachably poppy production to his stripped down vocals and you have A Suitcase Life: an album that exudes professionalism and accessibility, but never at the detriment of a rawness, intelligence and sincerity. In an age of irony and prefabricated fluff, Charles-TheodoreZerner's Suitcase Life is a necessary and refreshing change.

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Charles Theodore est ne pres de Boston, une oreille formee aux rhythmes de l'Amerique, heritage de sa m�re, l�autre sensible � l'art hexagonale, cadeau de son pere. Brinquebale des son plus jeune age, entre la Cote est et la Cote ouest, entre les deux rives de l'Atlantique (Paris, et la province angevine), son apprentissage est d'emblee place sous le signe de l'art, de la route, de l'echange. Malgre un parcours universitaire flatteur (diplome avec Honors de l'universite d'Harvard en 2002) que certains imaginaient deboucher sur une carriere en costume- cravate, il repousse Wall Street pour le metro new-yorkais o