Published: October 13, 2020
Ohio antiques dealer Chuck Auerbach is a familiar face on the trade show circuit, and longtime showgoers will remember seeing Chuck and his sons Dan and Geoff setting up at the New York City Pier show for years. And Dan, of course, is known as the eight-time Grammy-winning guitarist and lead vocalist for the two-man rock band the Black Keys. There’s another side of the life the elder Auerbach is living, however. At 70, he continues to hone his lyricist craft, having released his first album, Remember Me, in June 2018 and lately, due to the COVID pandemic, focusing on his music through virtual concerts. A late bloomer, maybe. But he would argue that a well-lived life is the raw material for memorable songs. He sat down with Antiques and The Arts Weekly to catch us up.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration to write came when I was helping Dan find his own voice. I knew that if he only played covers of other people’s songs, he’d be stuck in the bars and local clubs, and I knew he was more talented than that. So, he started writing original material. In the beginning, he sounded more like his influences than like himself. We worked together to help him find his voice and I really enjoyed the process. My own first attempt was rewriting lyrics to a Gillian Welch song. That was my start.
Where and when do you find the best time for songwriting?
The best time to write is whenever I get hit by inspiration. Generally, I’ll wake up with a phrase, melody attached, or in the shower, turning the water off. I know that sounds weird, but it’s happened too many times to be a coincidence. Once I get that inspiration the rest is repetition and perspiration. I don’t think songs are ever really finished, but I will keep working on them until no new phrases or words pop out of my mouth while singing them. However, I’ve changed lyrics in songs ten years after I’d initially written them.
Have you ever wanted to play an instrument, and if so, what would it be?
I can’t say that I’ve ever really wanted to play an instrument. I’ve always been fortunate enough to hook up with quality musicians who like playing my songs. P.S. I took four years of piano as a child and hated every moment of it.
When did you get your start selling antiques and collectibles?
I’ve been a full-time antiques dealer for 41 years. I started the day after Dan was born. In the beginning, I did small shows near our home in Goshen, N.Y., and in southern Connecticut. While doing a show in Washington Conn., Russell Carrell strolled into my booth, liked what he saw, and I took the opportunity to ask him if I could do his outdoor markets. He enthusiastically agreed and that was really my beginning. Moments later, a woman rushed in and breathlessly asked Russell if she could do his shows. He said, “Madam, we have a very long waiting list,” then turned to me and gave me a big stage wink. I learned a lot that day.
How would you describe your merch and your music?
I would describe my merch as Americana, but on the graphic, quirky, one-of-a-kind side. I like textiles and three dimensional, historical and religious, folk, commercial and Outsider art.
I’d describe my music as Americana, also. However, as a songwriter, a lyricist mostly, my songs have been done in ways that I never thought of and I enjoy all the interpretations.
How many shows do you do a year and how do you balance that with songwriting?
I used to do a show every two or three weeks, but COVID changed everything. All my better shows have been canceled, so I find myself doing lesser markets and working a bit on the internet, Facebook and Instagram. I often write at antiques shows, during slow periods. My favorite story is writing a song at one of Irene Stella’s Pier Shows, bringing it back home to Akron and showing it to Dan. Dan had a quizzical look and asked me when I wrote it. I told him over the weekend, and he showed me a song that he had also written over the weekend with the exact same name, “When the Night Comes.” Two different songs, same name. Spooky!
How did your band come together?
Michael and Cathy Grady are the core of the band. Michael plays guitar, Cathy plays fiddle. I had a song that I always wanted to hear with a Civil War sounding fiddle, ala Ken Burns, so I asked them if they’d like to try it. That was the start.
How often do you get together to rehearse?
We rehearse once a week and that is the most fun, for me. Playing live and recording are okay, but bringing my guys a bare bones song and forming it into a “whole” song is really fun and fulfilling.
Any plans for a father and son performing collaboration?
Dan’s way too busy to work with me on my music.
Tell us about your own father and how he inspired you.
I was inspired by my dad about a lot of things, but not music. Although, he was a Sinatra fan, so I was exposed to a lot of 1940s, 1950s American songbook songs, great writers like Cole Porter, et al.
What’s the family story behind “Remember Me”?
The bracelet on the cover of Remember Me was given to my mother by my father in England, when as a GI he was shipped off to Russia in World War II. He met her in London, fell in love and eventually married in London, before coming back to the states. She followed on a shipload of other war brides.
Best place to go hear live music in Akron?
The best places for music in Akron is Jilly’s and Musica; in Cleveland, it’s The Beachland, where the Black Keys got their real start.
So for those of us who cannot go to hear your band in Akron, where can we find you virtually?
My Facebook page is Chuck Auerbach Band and my web page is www.oldguymusic.com.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm