Based out of Nashville, Tennessee, Charissa Hoffman is the daughter of a long lineage of musicians that goes back six generations and counting. If her path to music was a genetic inevitability, then her choice of instrument was anything but predictable. When attending Berklee College Of Music, Charissa became the university’s first-ever Ukelele Principal, taking the sometimes maligned instrument and finding a place for it in the worlds of jazz, folk and pretty much every genre she turns her hands to. Having made her name as an instrumentalist, Charissa has only recently made the move into the limelight, with the release of her self-produced debut EP, different view.
Although she’s quick to point out the cliché, the record focuses on the timeless theme of heartache, the painful end of a relationship running through the record as the thread that binds her compositions into a cohesive whole. The record opens with Knight Song, where hypnotic finger-picking is tastefully adorned with pulsing-bass notes and Charissa’s rich vocal, the lyrics exploring the difference between the White Knight presented to the world, and, “the way he fights the battles within”. From there, the record slips into the psych-folk strains of the title track and the orchestral flourishes of Weigh Him Down, the latter having an almost medieval flair reminiscent of The Courage Of Others-era Midlake. Perhaps the record’s most exciting moment is saved to last with Goodbye, an exploration of loss, it has some of the same nature-folk flourishes of bands like Crake, as the lyrics seem to search for stillness in a world that has a tendency to rush by all too quickly. different view is an intriguing first offering, with much already to admire about it, the record seems to push and prod at the boundaries of Charissa Hoffman’s songwriting, as if trying to work out exactly where her music fits in the world, there’s a voice here with something to say, a story waiting to be heard, a musical talent at the start of something that could end up being quite magical.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Charissa Hoffman?
“Charissa Hoffman is a Nashville, TN-based songwriter, instrumentalist, and pumpkin aficionado.” In 2017 I was the first ukulele principal to be accepted to Berklee College of Music, which is probably what I’m most known for. I’ve spent most of my career doing sideman stuff or hired gun stuff or behind-the-scenes stuff in various music scenes (bluegrass, rock, jazz, you name it). different view is my first release as a solo artist- I really feel like all of those experiences/influences led up to this project and I’m so excited to finally share it with the world!
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
My first full-length solo show was in 2014 at Fanny’s House of Music! It was a fundraiser for the International Justice Mission; from 2014-2017 I ran a concert campaign called Uke Can End It, which raised money to fight modern-day slavery through ukulele music. Eventually the campaign started featuring nationally recognized artists, but that first kick-off show holds a really special place in my heart. My community was incredibly supportive- the folks at Fanny’s offered me their porch as a venue, and dozens of friends and neighbors and strangers turned out and donated. I remember feeling so much gratitude- from then on I realized that performing music is more than an ego boost, it’s a way to “see” people, make them feel a little less alone even if you never actually meet them.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Music has given me so much. As a 6th-generation musician raised in Nashville, it feels as much a part of life to me as breathing- it’s just inevitable. I started writing songs when I was 11 and it was like something in my heart opened up- to this day, music is the only way I can reach that part of myself.
FTR: What can people expect from the Charissa Hoffman live show?
Live shows are where I feel most comfortable. Since I started performing with a band, there’s more of a sense of camaraderie on stage, and a lot more musical depth and complexity. But at the heart of it, my live shows are all about connection between artist and audience- we try to make the shows feel like we’re all sitting in the living room together.
FTR: What’s next for Charissa Hoffman?
Starting in January 2022 I’m going to be hermiting myself away for a while as I write my first full-length album. I have several people in my immediate circle who are high-risk for Covid, so touring is on the back burner for a while- but I’m keeping a close eye on case numbers and looking forward to putting on more live shows soon.
They Listen To…
Joni Mitchell- Amelia
Courtney Barnett- Pedestrian at Best
Brittany Howard- 13th Century Metal
Haim- The Steps
Betty Carter- Social Call
different view is out now. For more information on Charissa Hoffman visit https://www.charissahoffman.com/.