AYER — Teachers are notorious for giving back, and these days, Charlie Farren of Chelmsford is doing his fair share of paving the way for the next generation of musicians.
Farren burst onto the national music scene in the early 1980s as the lead singer and guitarist of The Joe Perry Project before starting his own band Farrenheit, which had the MTV hit “Fool in Love.”
He’s been a fixture on the local music scene for the better part of the last three decades, but on Feb. 26, the singer-songwriter will give a special acoustic performance at the Ayer Shirley Regional High School Auditorium to benefit that school’s Drama Club Scholarship Fund.
It’s hard to remember a time when the 62-year-old Farren wasn’t entertaining us, but he did adjust his focus a bit away from the music business in the late 1980s to pursue a stable career that would allow him and his wife to start a family.
He’d still perform live from time to time and kept writing and releasing CDs (his forthcoming album will be his 17th studio album) while working for nearly a quarter century with Digital, then Compaq and finally Hewlett Packard. He’s retired from that job now so he has more time to pursue his music career. Oh, and help the next generation of musicians and performers start theirs.
ASRHS Drama Director JulieAnn Govang knew Farren and reached out, which led to him being booked for the show.
In a press release announcing the event, ASRHS Interim Principal Al Varga said, “Mr. Farren’s music may not be too familiar to the kids right now, but after he shows them all how it’s done on Feb. 26, I have NO doubt he’ll leave our house with a plethora of new fans, in addition to his tried-and-true ones.”
Farren told the Nashoba Valley Voice that the new record, tentatively called “Guitar and Voice,” will feature just Farren playing one guitar and singing. There will be no other instruments, no harmonies.
“This is a record I’ve been threatening to make for a long time. After I was with Joe Perry, I signed a development deal with Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records. He wanted me to make the record I’m making now, with different songs.
“I had a band, but I would record myself,” said Farren. “I had a tape deck in my room for songwriting songs, with guitar and a vocal. Ahmet had heard these because his nephew got some of these tapes. He heard them and took the project over.
“I went to New York, played guitar in his office and he said, we need you on our label,” said Farren. “I left his office with papers. I was trying to get him to sign my band. He said, ‘I like the band, but I have a bunch of five-piece rock bands. What I don’t have is someone like you.
“I signed the deal and I would have phone meetings with him. He would come to my apartment in Boston. He’d offer thoughts and criticism. He’d tell me he couldn’t make the record right now because radio isn’t playing this right now, but keep writing.
“Here I am, fresh out of touring the country with the Joe Perry Project. They were still not ready. I couldn’t wait any longer. He let me out of the deal. Within a few months, I’d signed to Warner Bros. with Farrenheit.”
Fast forward 30 years later, and the record should come out this spring. Farren says he’s playing a nylon string guitar, but tuning it down to make the sound “big and fat.” It’s essentially what an acoustic guitar would sound like, except he’s plugging it in.
“It’s coming out great,” he said. “We’re doing pre-production at open mike nights around the area so I have command of the song before I record it. I’ve never approached it this way. I’ve never heard anyone who did it with one voice and one guitar. I’m in love with the material and am working on it every day.”
One of the major benefits to this approach is he’ll be able to play more of the material live.
“It’s the way I perform. A lot of times, I’ll do a record and when it comes time to perform live, I realize seven of the 10 songs I can’t do by myself. The chorus might require vocals. The song might require a guitar riff or a beat.
“I enjoyed making those records,” he said, “but I always wanted to make this record. It’s the way I write and it shines a spotlight on my guitar style. I’ve been threatening to make this record for a long time and now I’m doing it. I’m excited.”
For the show on Feb. 26 at ASRHS, Farren says he’ll be playing a cross-section of material from his entire catalog, including the songs he’s working on for the new album.
“There are some bases I want to touch in terms of playing my favorites, but I’ll definitely do some new ones and I’ll do some of my hits.”
If you want to give to a good cause while getting some good music for your dollar, rock over to Ayer Shirley Regional High School on Feb. 26 and check him out.
Tickets are $20 for the 7 p.m. concert. For more information, call 978-772-2545 or visit www.jacneed.com/ASYD/AyerShirleyDrama.htm.