CharlestheFirst is the prodigy vision of Charles Ingalls. Born, raised, and deeply inspired in the Sierra Nevada mountains since 1996, he has illuminated evolving patterns and growth through poetry and music production. A profound storyteller and composer, he amalgamates chill beats with hip hop roots and composes smooth and experimental electronic soundscapes. Charles has a promising future and will share his passions with the world.
Expressive nature, mystery, psychedelia, and melodies create awe-inspiring atmospheres on his latest release, Running Through the Forest (5/3/16). The following interview offers insight into the inspiration behind the new release and the creative process.
You’re a storyteller. Share what initially triggered seemingly limitless inspiration into music production at such a young age! What was your upbringing like?
I was raised by my mom, who is a lover of music and an all around incredible person. Both her and my two older brothers were super encouraging to me. I was never held back from expressing myself and that is something I feel blessed about. The first time I really started making music was with some of my brothers good friends when I was about 14. They were all much older than me, and we used to write lyrics together in a group called “undertheabove.” Our good family friend Joey was behind a lot of the production and lyrics of that music. I started writing beats because of him, it seemed like a limitless art. When he passed it definitely ignited something in me and I started writing music all day everyday, and fell in love with producing!
Running Through the Forest marks your 4th self-release since August 2014; it’s your third release since May 2015! Can you tell us about the overall concept of Running Through the Forest?
Running Through the Forest came to life over the course of about four months in the winter/spring this year. I went in many new directions, but I still feel like it is a cohesive next chapter from my last EP Roots. The title pretty much sums it up. I wanted listening to this project to be like running through a forest. A very magical and enigmatic one though…
You’re also a poet and a lyricist – there is spoken word throughout this release on various tracks. How does this blend help further the overall vision/message?
I love tying spoken word into music, especially when it is mainly an instrumental experience. It gives it that intention without giving away too much, so the message is still up to the listener. I had my friend Sequoyah recite a poem of mine from a few years back, which you can hear sprinkled throughout this album. One of the snip its pretty much sums up the feeling I wanted to create for this project. “The euphoria of being lost in a beautiful place and saying ignorance is bliss, even though I wanted to know everything.”
Photograph by Ali Pfirrman
You grew up in The Sierra Nevada Mountains. How has nature influenced you?
Nature has helped me survive some of the hardest times in my life and is, for me, one of the most potent sources of inspiration when it comes to art. There is an endless amount of mystery to it. I have learned more in the wilderness than I probably ever did in school.
Your signature style is lush melodies and soothing ambiance through innovative composition and chill beats. This release features a heavier approach intertwined with mysterious and nature-esque themes. It’s an intriguing and deep exploration into existence. What inspired this vision?
A big theme of my musical journey recently has been venturing into more mysterious and experimental territory. I remember being extremely inspired on a hike in the middle of this winter when I was starting to write the album. I went much further into the wilderness on donner summit than I had intended to go, and a big storm was rolling in. I was with my dog Kirra and it felt like such a mysterious adventure, like around the next turn there was going to be a hidden city or cave into another world. It started dumping snow and we found a few really beautiful hidden areas that at the time, felt other worldly. I wanted to capture that feeling with these songs.
“Miuris Cave” is one of my favorites and the other tracks are impressive as well, big ups! What is your creative process like?
Thank you! My creative process is always changing, I get hit with waves of inspiration. Sometimes it’s hard for me to get my ideas out, and sometimes I don’t want to leave the studio for a couple days. I almost always build my melodies and ambience first, and don’t usually add drums in until I feel like the structure is already there. I just moved into my first house by myself this summer, and my creativity has been flowing really well since I set up my studio here. I have also been field recording like crazy recently, which is a nice way to gather inspiration away from my computer.
What is your studio and live set-up like? Favorite tools?
My studio is super simple – it’s in my bedroom so I can pretty much roll out of bed and start writing music. My keyboard is the most important part of the creative process for me, I just have a simple 49 key. I also have a shakuhachi bamboo flute and a native american flute, and lots of percussions to mess with. Rokit 5’s for studio monitors.
You use your field recorder to capture organic sounds. What is your favorite part about the experience? What are your favorite sounds to record and favorite locations to discover?
I feel like since I got my field recorder, it has turned everyday adventures into a chance to capture the ambience of life. Whether it goes in a song or you just keep the recording, it still captured that moment in time. I love going into the wilderness and trying to get cool bird calls, as well as water sounds and percussive hits. I love the affect it has on music, because nobody else has put that moment into a song before, so it adds a whole new level of personality and feel.
There is one collaboration in Running Through the Forest – tell us about your connection to SourceActive.
Sourceactive is one of my close homies Spencer, who I met a little over a year ago. He is now mainly focused on his project called “friend.”, which is in my opinion some of the dopest music coming out of California right now. We have been trying to make tunes for a while now, and this is actually the first one we finished. It was a really fluid process! It will be one of the first collaborations I have released ever. I’m pretty solitary when it comes to production. Stoked to make more music with him, and definitely go check out his soundcloud for the vibes: https://soundcloud.com/friend_music
Do you have any daily rituals? What keeps you balanced?
On any given day I try and get some solid time in nature, which is essential for me to not go crazy. I try and make music as much as possible. Those are the two main things that keep me balanced. I spend a lot of time setting up tour dates and marketing myself since I do all of my own booking and managing. I’m also trying to get back into writing at the moment, which as I’m sure you know is very therapeutic. 🙂
Which festival(s) experience has been the most profound so far?
I had a really incredible time at Lucidity this year. Between seeing lots of good music and being able to play on the Nomads Stage, I left feeling really energized and inspired. The Lucidity and Mindful Massive crews did a great job organizing that event. Every show I’ve been playing lately has for the most part been really exciting – it’s cool getting in front of more people now and showing them my mind.
I also just got back from playing the mainstage at Stilldream this year, right before Big Wild. Was definitely one of the coolest live experiences I’ve had so far. It was crazy playing my music for so many people, especially in a place that I have so many memories in.
Are you currently working on more music? What are your goals for 2016?
I’m working on lots of new stuff right now. I’m almost done with a 4-5 track EP that will be out in September/October. I plan on working on my live sets a lot this year and having a ton of new music to play. Also I’ll be doing lots of soundtrack/ambient stuff on my alias as well: https://soundcloud.com/h-wk
Can we expect more poetry in your soundscapes in the future?
You absolutely can, ultimately I want to release some of my writing with my next project. Maybe it will be for the next EP. 🙂
Your biggest musical inspiration? Why?
I would say that over the last year or so I have fallen in love with the music of scientific. It’s really profound production that is clearly rooted in hip hop, yet so forward thinking and emotive. Also Borealism has been a giant inspiration to me recently. Can’t get enough of it.
Anything you would like to share with those seeking to dive into this field of creativity? How important is it to tap into yourself?
I think that it is easy to complicate getting involved in music, or any art form really. When it comes down to it, you just have to pick up the paint brush and do it. As much as technicality is useful in the creative process, some of the most beautiful and heartfelt art is extremely simple. I remember reading something that Mr. Carmack wrote in an interview a while back. I can’t quote it exactly, but it was something like “Get out and live life, try new things, get lost, practice and practice. That’s how you make good music.” I think that learning more about the inner workings of production has been extremely important, but learning more about myself has been equally beneficial. Also finding a close network of people who are passionate about what they do is really crucial. Lots of people have come into my life this year, and many have left. Expect nothing, have high standards. Be relentless. Be happy!
Running Through the Forest Review
Running Through the Forest whistles through organic atmospheres with lush melodies, exhilarating crescendos, deep future bass grooves, and captivating chill beats. Vocal samples are sprinkled sporadically in a dreamy fashion throughout the journey, as flowing rhythms parallel a spirited and free-flowing running through the forest.
“Miuris Cave” has an enigmatic feel, with a dose of hard hitting bass surrounded in deep ambience. Subtle percussive patterns lighten up ethereal escapes and steady, enchanting melodies. Halfway through a crescendo beat flourishes and spoken word poetry enters the flow, “I don’t know where we’re going next.” Intricate structures add another layer of melody, “It’s just another dead end… Have you ever seen this place before?”.
“Thin Air” is a beautiful composition full of ancient vibes, with samples of bird chirps and water streams. Tranquilizing flute melodies and dexterous beat patterns coalesce into a blend of magic.
“Spectrum Dive w/ Sourceactive” is a fluorescent and dynamic dive into an ocean’s depth of design. A collaborative experience, there is a feeling of two worlds joining together to provide a fresh dose of bass imagination. “The euphoria of being lost in a beautiful place, and saying ‘ignorance is bliss’. Even though I wanted to know everything.”
“Falls (interlude)” creates a space of great relief through initial drum and extended chill beats, a moment to reflect. Vocal samples evoke mystery as spiraling melodies trigger innovative effects. Well-crafted breakthroughs fill the space with aquatic tones.
“You Know Nothing” evokes deep feeling. “You know nothing” yet it is a moment of acceptance. “I don’t know where we’re going next” perpetuates mystery, the beauty of not knowing but following intuitive guidance to discover further. “We are put on Earth, to love. That’s all it is about” reveals the drive to this tune. “You know nothing…you know nothing…you know nothing…nothing” fuels a confident feeling of letting go. More spoken poetry near the end, but really it’s the beginning of the end.
“Versicolor” is a combining force of laser synth strikes and wobbly bass drives. Big beat drums fuel atmospheric wonders of newfound worlds, new dimensions, and a new existence. Suspenseful yet alluring leads trigger more melodic spiraling as one can here “I don’t know where we’re going” during the flow.
“The Descent” falls into a portal of unknown dimensions but gives an aftermath of a glorifying comeback. Chiming melodies and space dust patterns, there is a groovy, smooth, and nourishing uplift that comes to life as a known, fifth dimension truth as you feel and hear, “We made it.”