I recently had the opportunity to sit down and speak to Charley Hustle: producer, songwriter, artist, and founder of The Hustle Standard. If you've seen the film Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal, you've heard his music. His song "Beast (Southpaw Remix)", co-written and produced with Rob Bailey (FlagNorFail), played during the opening titles of the film and was featured on the film's soundtrack. He was kind enough to share a little of his time to provide great answers to all of my questions. I hope you enjoy the interview below.
Backwoods Beard Co: Who inspires you?
Charley Hustle: It’s always changing. Different people for different times, but right now. Rick Rubin, Elon Musk, Phil Jackson, Vince Gilligan. It’s usually that kind of mix. A producer or musician, a revolutionary, a coach/leader, and a director/writer.
Backwoods Beard Co: What musical influences would you say led you on your path with songwriting and producing?
Charley Hustle: Method Man was the first person I heard that made me think I wanted to do that. Then I just dove in and eventually started studying producers. I just naturally felt like that’s where I belonged – guiding the direction or trying to bring to reality what artists had in their minds or hearts. I really got away from the artist & songwriter thing for a while in my early 20s. Then I kinda got too impatient for the mainstream path and decided that if I wanted to work on dope music I’ll just have to make it and find the artists I want to make it with. That’s how Hustle Standard was born. I’ve always loved writing songs and making the environment those songs should live in. The artist part is sort of byproduct of that. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a visible part of my music, but more than that I just love creating songs that mean something to people.
Backwoods Beard Co: How old were you when you started pursuing music? Did you have anyone trying to tell you it wouldn’t happen and if so, how did you respond to that?
Charley Hustle: I think I was 17 when I made the choice that that was a path I was going to go down. I told myself that I would regret not trying. That’s actually how I got myself through for a long time. It took me from the time I was 17 until I was around 28 before I ever made any livable money from producing and songwriting. And all along the way, whenever I thought about doing something else, I just kept saying, “but you’ll regret it if you stop now”. And yeah, I don’t know if people really tried to discourage me. And I think that’s kind of my point too. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought. So much so that I don’t even remember if people told me I wouldn’t make it.
Backwoods Beard Co: Can you talk about any of the struggles you faced during your journey?
Charley Hustle: Like I said, it took about 11 yrs to get to a point where I felt like I could say I made my living from producing and songwriting. I was making an ok living as a recording engineer, and could have made a good living at it if I wasn’t so obsessed with becoming a producer/songwriter, and you’d think that being in the studio every day with songwriters and producers and artists and managers and A&Rs blah blah blah that I’d have the most access to get the chance to do what I really wanted, but it was actually the opposite. They all saw me as the “engineer”. That was something that really fired me up. I would be playing my songs or tracks for a songwriter and then their manager would walk in the room and be feeling what I was playing and then ask who it was, and then when they found out it was me the head stopped bobbing along. That was really weird to me and really pissed me off. So, I just said fuck it, I’ll find a different way to the top of the mountain. It’s really funny because no one I ever worked with had or has anything to do with the success of The Hustle Standard. I’m not in that major label club and I’m totally cool with that.
Backwoods Beard Co: Is there an aspect of the field you enjoy more than the other? Where do you feel the most comfortable?
Charley Hustle: Making tracks, writing songs, and working with musicians & artists on songs. That’s where I feel alive. The creating part is my favorite part. I don’t mind mixing. I absolutely cannot stand editing. I also don’t really enjoy playing live shows. I like making shit. That feeling of making something from absolutely nothing and having that thing be something you love. That’s what I live for.
Backwoods Beard Co: How did you and Rob Bailey connect? You’ve worked together on a few albums now and always put out amazing music. What makes that relationship so successful?
Charley Hustle: Rob & I went to high school together. We met on the basketball team. Been great friends ever since. We’ve always helped each other out with projects whether it was him doing graphics or photos for me or me making music for something he was working on, and every once in awhile we would make songs together. Rob has always been one of my favorite people to work with. I feel like we are very similar in a lot of ways. We both have the same amount of intensity. Mine might be a little more under-the-surface, but we both have big expectations of ourselves and live passion filled lives. We both love working hard and we love getting better at stuff. We also give each other a lot of respect creatively. We never argue about what we’re working on and trust me, we’re extremely honest during the creative process, but early on we knew we had to be able to be honest for us to both feel like we were involved in the final product.
Backwoods Beard Co: You and Rob recently had one of your songs featured in and on the soundtrack for the film Southpaw that starred Jake Gyllenhaal. Tell me a little about that experience.
Charley Hustle: The way we got the placement was everything you want as a creative person. Apparently, Atoine Fuquia is an avid boxer, and he listens to RBHS when he’s in the gym. So, when he made a movie about boxing I guess we were the obvious choice haha.
Backwoods Beard Co: I know that a lot of your work has influenced and motivated me personally. It’s my go to pick me up when I need to focus and get sh*t done. Is there an artist like that for you?
Charley Hustle: Weird artists “hype me up”. The Good, The Bad and The Queen; Elbow; Ray LaMontagne; Bon Iver. For some reason Bon Iver’s soft ass music gets me going. I think I get more out of deeply emotional music than just hard shit. But on the other side I always go to Jay-Z, Kanye, Drake, Tupac, Lil Wayne….I love Hip Hop and sometimes the more ignorant the better hahaha.
Backwoods Beard Co: What’s a typical work day look like for you?
Charley Hustle: This is my optimal workday, but you know, sometimes things don’t fit this exactly. But I started planning my days like this about 2 years ago and I get so much more done working 7-8 hours a day and limiting my emails and social to 2-3 times a day then I did when I just went as hard as I could from sun up to sun down….and now I get to spend time with my wife and take care of other responsibilities too. But this is generally what a good day looks like.
6a – I’m up, shower, meditation
7a – Coffee & reading (time with wife)
8a – Breakfast
9a – Working – Which can range from Writing or Mixing to Editing Video or Even just admin stuff.
12p – Lunch & Emails/Social
1p – Back to Work
6p – Emails/Social
6:30p – Dinner
8p – Make a plan for tomorrow, Do stuff around the house, Maybe get some TV in
10p – in bed, reading, asleep by 11a.
Backwoods Beard Co: Is there an artist on your list that you haven’t worked with yet and would like to?
Charley Hustle: I don’t know, I think I could make a killer Jay-Z album. I would love to do a Tom Petty album. Miley Cyrus, holler at me!!! Hahaha But I also really like making songs for my audience. I’d love to bring more artists into my world, and give people more positive, no-excuses, kill everything music hahaha
Backwoods Beard Co: What advice could you give to someone interested in a career in music? How about to young, creative professionals in general?
Charley Hustle: MUSIC – Make a lot of it, work with a lot of people, and finish shit. Also, the sooner you can figure out who you want to be or where you want to be the better. Hold on to that idea and do EVERYTHING you can do to get it, and don’t play yourself. You can’t predict the future and there’s no way of knowing where something will take you, but eventually you’ll be able to tell when something is going to feed your vision or distract you from it. GENERALLY – Yeah, pretty much the same thing. Also, find a mentor and NEVER stop getting better.
Backwoods Beard Co: What do you like to do for fun outside of music?
Charley Hustle: Carpentry is a new hobby for me. I really enjoy that. Snowboarding has also been a new thing for me that I really enjoy. Basically, I never really had hobbies. I lived in NYC and every minute of my life was about career. Then I bought a house in the mountains and now I’ve started doing other stuff. Other stuff is awesome. But don’t worry, music is where my soul lives.
Backwoods Beard Co: One of the highlights of this blog is interviewing hardworking bearded professionals. You just so happen to fit that category. What does your beard mean to you, if anything? When is the last time you were beardless? How does your wife feel about it?
Charley Hustle: My beard doesn’t really mean anything to me more than my jeans or tee shirt, but I’m really happy to have it. When I was a kid I wanted facial hair so badly. I thought dudes with beards and goatees and chinstraps and all facial hair were awesome. So, I’m really happy I can grow one. From the time I was probably 15 I wore some version of facial hair – even if it was just a couple chin hairs. For a year when I was 18/19 I worked at an Italian restaurant in Bay Ridge Brooklyn and they had a shaving policy. That was the only time I ever didn’t have facial hair. I mean, I’ve shaved here and there, but I don’t think I’ve ever shaved more than once every 6 months. I think the last time I took off the beard was about 2 years ago. My wife LOVES the beard. When we met I was wearing a very short beard; a little more than scruff, and she was like, “you should grow that out!”. So naturally, I obliged, and I’ve never been happier. The marriage has been nice too haha.
Backwoods Beard Co: Your favorite beer?
Charley Hustle: Recently I’ve been loving the Nirvana IPA by Ommegang, but now it’s fall and I’m gonna need to get back into the stouts. The Catskills is such an amazing place for good beer. Honorable mentions: Victory makes some great beers, and I pretty much like everything from Southern Tier and 21st Amendment.
Backwoods Beard Co: Finally, is there any news or upcoming announcements you’d like to discuss or anything you’d like to add?
Charley Hustle: Nope. Thanks for the insightful questions.
Special thanks to Charley Hustle for taking the time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer these questions. If you'd like to learn more about his work, please check him out at the following links: