“I started playing these chords on my guitar and I knew I had something,” recollects Charlie Winston of the week in August 2004 when he composed his song ‘Like A Hobo’, “Then I took an evening to myself with a bottle of wine to write the chorus. As I played it through I felt strongly this idea of wide open spaces, of a man travelling alone, embracing solitude.”
The song was potent, everyone Charlie played it to was touched by its Ennio Morricone-gone-folk buzz and heartfelt zen-outsider lyrics. So much so that he’d run into acquaintances and they’d ask, “How’s it going with the hobo life then, Charlie?” He laughs at the memory, “I’d think to myself, ‘I’m not really a hobo, I’m still living in an apartment in Stoke Newington doing tiny gigs round London’.”
However, the song and people’s response took on a life of its own. It inspired Charlie to ring everyone in his address book, asking if they knew places he could gig. He said he’d play anywhere, however far and however small and he did, often performing to less than ten people, building a word-of-mouth audience. In Summer 2006 he travelled for months around France, Italy and Spain, calling the adventure ‘Going Hobo’ and keeping a detailed account online, replete with soundbites and video. People started to pay attention.
“The song became a mantra for me,” he admits, “and that’s why I never grow bored of singing it.” And he must have sung it thousands of times since those days for slowly but surely it became a European hit, notably in France where it reached the No.1 spot.