Did you watch the first season of “The Voice”? Have you ever heard the Reba McEntire #1 hit song “Turn On the Radio”? Were you tuned in when Kelly Clarkson and Vince Gill debuted their new song, “Don’t Rush,” on the 46th Annual CMA Awards? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, our latest interviewee should be no stranger to you!
She’s a little bit of Pop, a little bit of Country, and a whole lot of talent…Her name is Cherie Oakley and we were lucky enough to sit down with her and talk about songwriting, song recording, song performing, and some of the incredible artist encounters she has experienced in her musical career so far!
KIC: For those readers who may be ‘meeting’ you for the first time in this blog, can you give us a little bit of a back story as to how you became a singer/songwriter/reality TV contestant?
Cherie: Loaded question, but here goes! I grew up singing with my family as well as singing solo. I did a lot of musical theater, country music festivals, banquets, weddings pretty much anywhere I could. I got my first manager at age 5 in NYC and began auditioning for television and films as well. I moved to Nashville in 2002 and that’s when I decided I wanted to focus on developing my skills as a songwriter. I sang demos around town and wrote whenever I wasn’t working a desk job. I toured as a BGV [Background Vocalist] for different artists for a little over 5 years when I got my first song cut. With the songs success I was able to pull off the road and focus more seriously on my dreams as a solo artist and songwriter. That’s when I heard about The Voice and auditioned (last minute) via skype, sitting in my kitchen.
KIC: How would you describe your musical style?
KIC: We know that you are currently hard at work on your first solo album (and we cannot wait to hear what you are working on!), but let’s talk about your first hit song. What was the song? Who recorded it? Where were you when you first heard it on the radio? How did you feel in that moment?
Cherie: My first song ever cut was “Turn On The Radio” by Reba McEntire and it went #1. LOTS of pressure when you come out of the gate with all of that! I don’t remember where I was when I first heard it on the radio … I do remember when I first heard it though … it was in a studio during its final mix … It was extremely surreal … My favorite time to hear it is when I am shopping somewhere … I still get all giddy and overwhelmingly thankful!
KIC: When you are writing songs, from where do you draw your inspiration? Do you prefer writing alone or with someone else?
Cherie: I don’t like writing alone actually … I come up with ideas all the time alone and I’ll finish a song I co/wrote alone but I thoroughly enjoy collaborating with other people. Sitting in a room with a songwriter who is unbelievably creative inspires me to think outside of the box … to try new things. It’s an amazing experience to bounce ideas back and forth and come up with something you know you couldn’t have alone. AND it’s just more fun!
KIC: Do you typically have an idea in mind, write the song, and then shop around for someone to record it, or do you write with a particular artist in mind and gear your work toward that person?
Cherie: I try to come up with a couple of ideas, both melody and overall subject matter before I go into a writing appointment. I write sometimes knowing certain artists are about to go in and record but I always write something I myself would say, or would like to sing …
KIC: You recently tweeted that you sang background on Kelly Clarkson’s new country song “Don’t Rush” (featuring Vince Gill) and performed “Don’t Rush” on the CMAs. How did you score that gig? How awesome was it to sing on such a highly coveted awards show?
Cherie: I’ve been blessed enough to stay in town and work on various records as a background singer as well as write. I was called by Dann Huff (the producer of that song) to sing BGV’s on the record. I knew ahead of time that the song would be performed on the CMA’s but figured Kelly’s touring background singer would sing my part live. Fortunately and unfortunately her background singer was unable to make it last minute due to the hurricane in NY. I was called on Tuesday to sing at the CMA’s which were on Thursday. There was no time to rehearse or anything, but that was ok, everyone knew I already knew the song because I recorded it. So, I just showed up, hung out with Kelly, her band and management team for a while and then hit the stage! It was an absolute blast! Of course I was a fan of Kelly’s voice (who isn’t?) and her music (again, who isn’t?) but I was BLOWN AWAY by her adorable and incredibly down to earth personality. I’ve worked with so many artists that I’ve learned what not to do from, but I thought, “wow, an artist I could actually learn what TO DO from!” You have no idea how refreshing it was. I adore her. I had a blast … Honored to be there.
KIC: Alright, you have had one of your songs (“Turn On the Radio”) recorded by the Queen of Country Music, Ms. Reba McEntire. What goes through a songwriter’s head when she finds out that one of the most notable vocalists in country music history has chosen to record her song?
Cherie: Well, this was also my first cut so many many things went through my mind. Reba called and asked me personally if she could have the song because she knew it was originally written for me (when I had a record deal). The entire experience was completely surreal! Reba has been an inspiration to me since I was a little girl … She was warm and friendly and it seemed oddly familiar. You talk to her and somehow you feel like you’ve known her for years. She has that way about her. She’s amazing. The entire experience I know will never happen quite like that again. It was one of those “God things” I like to say …
KIC: Speaking of Reba, you are also a background vocalist on the theme song for “Malibu Country.” Should we expect to see you guest starring on that show in some capacity anytime in the near future?
Cherie: Expect? No, probably not. But hey, you never know! This life has proven far too crazy for me to ever count anything out all together.
KIC: Segues are easy when we are interviewing someone with so much involvement in the entertainment world! While we are on the subject of television, let’s talk about your stint on “The Voice” and as a member of “Team Christina.” What is your best memory of that experience?
Cherie: I do have some good memories with Christina, but none that didn’t involve a full crew, mics and television cameras … The memories that come to mind to me first are the ones with the friends I made … Mostly with my roomie Casey Weston (who is an awesome artist by the way!). We would just make each other laugh until we cried sometimes! Those are my favorite memories and the ones I miss the most.
KIC: If you could work with anyone in music, who would be your dream collaboration? If you could write for anyone in music, who would be your dream artist to record one of your original songs?
Cherie: Well, this answer will change in the future I’m sure, but for right now … I would love to write with Taylor Swift. I’m a big fan of her writing, although she would NOT need me at all! I’d love to write a song that Adele would sing … I LOVE her voice! And I would love to write a song for/with Kelly Clarkson. After just working with her, I’m just over the moon about her!
KIC: As we mentioned above, you are finishing up your first solo album and anticipate having it fully recorded within the next month. What can we expect to hear from you?
Cherie: More songs like “Turn On The Radio” and good ballads too. I like my music to be fun and put people in a good place emotionally. I want to be careful not to get too heavy. If I write something that’s pretty dark or heavy I want to be sure to have enough fun rockin’ stuff to balance it out.
KIC: Did you have a hand in writing every track on your album, or did you come across a song or two from another songwriter that you just could not turn down once you heard it?
Cherie: I did not write every song on my album. I did co/write most. There are some on there that I heard and I thought, “I gotta have that song!” I think every artist who is also a songwriter needs to always be open to listening to other songwriters songs as well.
KIC: When do you anticipate your solo album will be released?
Cherie: Hoping to have it done by the end of this month, or before Christmas at the latest.
Keepin’ It Country Quick-Fire Round:
1. Who’s your celebrity crush?
Cherie: I don’t really believe in celebrity crushes because I’m married and we are both in the business and will probably end up meeting that person one day! I do still have a crush on my hubby though! Does that count?
2. All-time favorite country song?
3. The Voice…be honest…are you “once Team Christina always Team Christina”?
4. Guilty pleasure?
Cherie” “American Horror Story” on FX
5. Facebook or Twitter?
Since it’s the holiday season:
6. Dark meat or white meat?
7. Open gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
Cherie: Both depending on when we visit family or vice versa
8. Winter Wonderland or beach holiday?
Cherie: Beach baby!
9. New Years Eve – go out or stay in?
Cherie: Stay in – I’m a homebody!
We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Cherie for taking the time to sit down and talk to us about her experiences. It was an honor and a privilege to get to know more about such a phenomenally talented musician! For more information on Cherie, you can check her out on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cherieoakleymusic and Twitter at @cherieoakley.
Keep checking back here for the latest on Cherie’s upcoming projects! And for a sneak peek at the incredible vocals you are sure to find on Cherie’s solo album, take a look at this video of her performing “We’ve Got Tonight”: