He's got a pure, soulful voice and some distinctly shadowy lyrics. He used to be a cheese salesman and Gene Hackman gave him the name for his debut album. So just who is Charles Stuart and what's he keeping under his hat?
Charles Stuart is a multi-talented musician, singer and songwriter who, drawing on his British/Dominican heritage and his love of old soul/reggae/funk, creates snapshots of London life, armed with his sly and subversive wit to deliver a soulful dub, folk, experimental, groovy kind of leftfield pop.
Stuart began writing music at 11 when a piano was donated "that somebody didn't want. So I started teaching myself a few chords here and there... I'd learn one chord and write four songs around that. I'd learn another chord to go with it and write another 10 songs around those..."
Being part of large family Stuart was exposed to every kind of music and you can hear this eclectic fusion of these influences in his writing. "My brother Paul was into jazz funk so I got to hear The Crusaders, Roy Ayers and Steely Dan. Another brother Peter was into the Human League and Two Tone stuff. My sister was into lovers rock, people like Carole Thompson, Janet Kay...I'd got into Scritti Pollitti, Duran Duran and rap and hip-hop was starting to filter in. It was amazing to have all this stuff going on."
Stuart mainly plays keyboards, but also uses a range of vintage synths and effects pedals, as well as guitars and drum machine/samplers to build his arrangements. He brings this flexibility to his live performances, whether accompanying himself solo on piano, or triggering loops and effects in duos and trios to working with a full band.
Currently Stuart is MD and plays keyboards in Grace Jones' live band as well as writing and performing as part of the brilliant and quirky outfit The Fish Police.
Although no longer part of the band he continues to be occasionally involved with label mates Snorkel, to which he contributes drum machines, various synths/keyboards and occasionally his voice, in a more improvisational context.
He has also worked with Ivor Guest, Skye [Morcheeba], Pest, 129 and recently took part in the Gil Scott-Heron tribute concert 'Pieces Of A Man' at The Roundhouse.