Few artists have left a more indelible mark on America’s musical landscape than Charlie Daniels. Readers experience a soft, personal side of Charlie Daniels that has never before been documented in his new memoir, Never Look at the Empty Seats. In his own words, he presents the path from his post-Depression childhood to performing for millions as one of the most successful country acts of all time and what he has learned along the way.
Daniels dropped by Build Series in New York City five days shy of his 81st birthday to discuss the book, as well as his remarkable career, which has spanned multiple decades.
“I’ve been around a long time,” chuckles Daniels. “I’m going into my 60th year playing music, and I love it as much as I ever did — every step I made, every career decision I made, I tried to include longevity in it.
“My first answer [to how to achieve career longevity] is to make sure you love what you’re doing. Make sure you love this enough to make the sacrifices and go through all the changes and the things you have to do to make it in this business. It’s not an easy business. If you’re going to shy away from the things you have to go through, you’re not going to make it, so just stay home. Play the lounges on weekends and leave the road to the big boys.”
Daniels’s book not only shares his tips on how to make it in show business but also relates many stories about his years in the biz, where, unsurprisingly, he rubbed elbows with many legendary colleagues. When asked about a meeting that absolutely sucked the air out of the room for him, Daniels recalled a meeting with none other than the iconic Bob Dylan back in 1969.
At the time, Daniels was fairly new to Music City and was making a living as a session picker. “I was only supposed to do one Bob Dylan session. He came to town to do Nashville Skyline, and they had 15 sessions booked for the entire album. The guitar player they wanted was a fine guitar player, but could not make the first session — he was already booked — so they asked me to come in. And I hung on every note that Bob played. Every note he sang. That whole three hours, I was right in his face — well, metaphorically speaking — trying to get into his head.
At the end of the session, Daniels got ready to pack up his gear, and to his surprise Dylan asked where he was going. “[Dylan said] ‘I don’t want another guitar player — I want him.’”
Watch the full interview with Daniels below: