5 Questions: Pearl Charles Finds Creative Inspiration in Joshua Tree

Photos by Hailley Howard, Wiissa and Cecilia Alejandra

We all have different sides to ourselves, provoked by our surroundings. It is an act of physical space affecting our mental space — for Pearl Charles, like a lineage of amazing musicians before her, an important place for inspiration is the desert around Joshua Tree, California.

In advance of her set tonight at A Sunday Kind of Love, we asked Pearl five questions about the desert’s influence on her creativity and learned how growing up around that setting has shaped the music and style of one of our favorite new LA artists.

Who comes to mind when you think about the desert?

The first two people that immediately pop into my head are my mom (who is one of the biggest desert lovers I know) and, of course, Gram Parsons.

What kind of influence has the desert had on your creativity?

My parents bought a house in Joshua Tree when I was in junior high school, long before I knew anything about Gram Parsons. As I got older and started taking the trip out more frequently, the more I felt I was drawn to listen to classic country music. I had grown up listening to country music in the car with my mom, ranging from Patsy Cline to John Prine, but had never truly appreciated what I was listening to. Gram Parsons loved the desert hence his wanting to be cremated out there and I definitely feel that his spirit flows strongly through Joshua Tree so I consider his influence, guiding me first towards the classics which later lead me to his contributions to country/folk-rock or as he called it "Cosmic American Music", an integral part of the music I choose to make today.

Where is your favorite place to visit when you're there?

The desert is filled with amazing natural spaces and unique outsider art, from the Integratron to the Noah Purifoy Foundation, but I feel incredibly lucky to share a space out there with my family that is in and of itself an ever-changing, living, breathing piece of art. My mom is an incredible artist and I personally feel that our house is her masterpiece but I believe that it was Leonardo da Vinci who said "art is never finished", so she is constantly working on it. The house is built into the boulders and was originally owned by the first Native American Playboy bunny, Sandra Edwards.

When do you remember first really appreciating the desert and its surroundings?

The first couple of times we went out to Joshua Tree as a family when I was a teenager I was more concerned with what I was missing back at home socially rather than stopping to take in the beauty that was around me. As I got older though, I began to look forward to that escape from the city and the inspiration the desert provided me as an artist. Now, whether I go alone or with friends, the desert is probably my favorite place in the world and getting out to there is a top priority for me.

Why is it important to who you are and what you do?

I wouldn't be the person I am today without the experiences I've had in the desert. To me, there is nothing more humbling than looking out at the untouched, silent landscape or up at the countless stars. Living in the city it can be easy to forget but it is in those moments that I am reminded of our roles, as people and artists, in the harmony of human beings and nature.

Pearl Charles’ self-titled EP is out now on Burger Records. See her tonight (Sunday, Aug. 30) at A Sunday Kind of Love, upstairs at Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles.