Heralding a distinct new chapter in his lauded three-decade career, beloved vocalist Charles Billingsley returns May 13 with The Shadow of Your Smile. A quintessential anthology of nostalgic favorites, the 15-song set also marks Billingsley’s Club44 Records debut. Bringing his signature vocals to a range of treasured classics—Billingsley’s lifelong musical influences—The Shadow of Your Smile was produced by Tim Davis (Barbra Streisand, Lady Gaga); Wayne Haun (Linda Lavin, Jason Crabb); and Jamey Ray (Voctave). Pre-add/pre-save The Shadow of Your Smile now and receive instant access to the lead single, “It Had To Be You,” as well as two other pre-release tracks. In this TCB Exclusive, Charles reflects on what inspired the album’s title, how the creative process for this project was unique and what he hopes comes from the record.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of The Shadow Of Your Smile! What prompted you to pick the title for this project?
Thank you so much. Honestly, it was a collective effort between me and the record company. I really like the word smile, and I wanted to play off that theme for the whole record so “The Shadow of Your Smile” rose to the top for the title cut. It is one of the great classic songs on the record that everyone knows, and I felt it was the best choice.
You’ve been in the music business for decades, so you’re no stranger to the process of making music. How did the recording experience for this project most surprise you, perhaps even exceeding your expectations?
I think the arrangements were a huge part of it. Even though I have done a lot of records, we have never done 15 big band arrangements. We had large sessions: a big string session and a big band session. It is really unique to have that this day and age with the recording process. There are no programmed instruments. It is all live. And that is different from most pop style records that I have done.
I also had to sing in a completely different style than the typical pop sound. I had to readjust my thinking on just about every syllable of every word as I was singing.
You pre-released the lead single “It Had To Be You.” Has there been a recurring theme to the listener responses?
I think everyone is pleasantly surprised. It’s not a Christian record per se, but it has a lot of Christian thematic overtones. People are surprised when they listen to the pre-released singles like “It Had to Be You” and “The Shadow of Your Smile” and find the music really fun. We have had really great feedback so far from listeners and the industry. We were so excited to land in top spots on multiple curated jazz playlists and that was a fun surprise for us.
Which track or lyric do you think the world most needs to hear now in its current state?
Well, I think there are three that come to mind: “You’ll Never Walk Alone” or “Smile” or “Let There be Peace on Earth.” Obviously, with the war going on in the world, “Let There Be Peace” is a key element. We’ve just come through a global pandemic and haven’t seen people’s faces for years. There is so much depression in the world. I think the messages of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Smile” encourage people that they are not alone, and that even when times are hard, you can put a smile on your face. You can get through this.
How does this project preview your upcoming new sound and musical direction?
I am hoping to do a lot more of this style of music with the symphony and performing arts world, and I really want to do more projects like this. This genre fits my voice well and lets me belt out and sing, as well as explore other musical tastes I’ve never had a chance to do. I’ll never stop doing what I am currently doing as far as singing at conferences and churches, but this type of music expands our reach to a whole new audience to encourage.
How will you define success for this collection?
By 2023, I would love it if we were doing 10-20 symphony/big band dates across the country. If I can break into expanding and growing a new audience, then all of it is a success to me. Most importantly, to hear that people have been given hope and encouragement – and maybe being able to add a smile to their day – well, that is the best success of all.
What are you most expectant for in 2022?
I’m looking forward to a whole host of concerts…a good mix of our Christian events and events that are centered around this kind of music. I’m looking forward to seeing how this new record opens hearts and minds of new listeners to a hope that goes beyond temporal things.