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Charlie Peacock's dreams come true
Charlie Peacock respects his roots.
Whether it's orchards in Tierra Buena where he learned to harness his imagination or small Midwest and Southern towns where his ancestors got their start, they all provide fuel for the singer-songwriter-producer's musical inspiration.
Peacock, 56, keeps a picture of the Sutter Buttes with him at all times, though the double-Grammy winning Yuba City native is so busy he rarely makes it home from Nashville, Tenn. But he said this area will always have a spot in his heart.
"Maybe because I was an artist and so idealistic I couldn't wait to escape it," he said. "I would not have been able to do what I did with my life if I stayed in Yuba City, but I don't knock it, either, because it was the place where my own artist's seed was able to germinate and grow."
This month, he released "No Man's Land," his ninth solo outing and first vocal recording in 13 years. The album, which began during a three-day break between other productions, has been called "the culmination of a lifetime of making music" as Peacock tried to capture the sounds of his grandparents' roots in the South and Midwest.
His mother, Alice Ashworth of Yuba City, was among the first to get a copy. Before its public release, she had already listened to the 12-track CD several times and claimed her son's soulful tune "Mystic" was her favorite, because of the homage it pays to Peacock's history.
"He wouldn't be here today if not for those people," she said. "It's all about giving honor to those who preceded him and to where he came from."
Peacock was raised in Yuba City, and like a lot of little boys, he wanted to grow up to be like his father, a working musician and educator at Marysville High School. The Ashworths had a good record collection, and Peacock, then known as Chuck Ashworth, spent a lot of time with his father's students and became a band student at Yuba City High School.
"Dean Estabrook was one of my teachers and he taught me two years of music theory — I still use that stuff today," he said.
Growing up in a small town, Peacock's goal was to get a band together to play high school dances, the Elks Lodge and maybe Eddie's Lounge and the Drawing Room. He married his wife, Andi Ashworth, at 18 and left Yuba City for Sacramento to begin making music.
Notable highlights from the past few decades include his first gold record, which turned into a 5 million platinum seller, and co-writing Amy Grant's smash hit "Every Heart Beat." And of course, Peacock added, getting to work with heroes such as Al Green and Jackson Brown that he had grown up listening to.
In February, he won two Grammys for his role as a producer on The Civil Wars' break-through album, "Barton Hollow."
"I've been excited about it every step of the way," he said. "I've been grateful for it, whether it was being in marching band at Yuba City High School ... or winning a Grammy."
But success does not come easily. Peacock's day usually starts around 5 a.m., either working for his nonprofit arts foundation, Art House America, or heading straight to his studio to produce a record, play on one or compose songs.
"I just try to get up every morning and work really hard and live up to the particular skills that I have," he said. "And never stop dreaming and never stop imagining. Every day I just try to remember what it was like to be a kid with a dream."
Peacock comes from a long line of musicians, and his mother used to say the expertise was in his blood.
"I always thought he had to be born with all the talent," Ashworth said. "He took one piano lesson and he didn't need any more — he could play as good as the teacher. He was very determined to do what he wanted."
One person who remembers Peacock's dreams is his aunt, Karoly Zaft, who babysat him as a boy. Both have fond memories of singing songs together and watching "American Bandstand."
Zaft still lives in Yuba City but sees Peacock four or five times a year and enjoys chatting with him about up-and-coming artists, "American Idol" and life in Yuba City. Mostly, the proud aunt loves to watch him perform.
"It touches my heart," Zaft said. "He loves the history of everything. That's why we've always been so close."
Peacock will be playing at the Torch Club in Sacramento next Wednesday. Being so close, it's likely his hometown will be on his mind, especially as he reflects on how he became who he is today.
"Because I grew up in an agricultural area, it gave me patience so when I am creating and working on something I am not demanding it has to be done immediately," he said. "I grew up in a place where you plant a seed and wait months and months before finally getting fruit from it ... I always put a little bit of Yuba City-Marysville in what I do."