I had the pleasure of interviewing creative performing artist Charleene Closshey, an actress and musician with a knack for producing content.
From starring in holiday favorite film An Evergreen Christmas alongside Academy Award nominee Robert Loggia, to debuting on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning musical Once, Closshey most recently starred in romcom dramedy No Postage Necessary (the first film in history to release via the blockchain), a film she also produced and composed the score.
Coming this Fall is her next album titled Talk About Love produced by six-time Grammy winner Brent Maher featuring songs from No Postage Necessary. From singing opera in Rome to fiddling with Charlie Daniels, Charleene says her first language is music. She began playing piano at age 2 and could read music before words.
Thank you so much for joining us! Let’s show everyone you’re a normal human being. What are your hobbies, favorite places to visit, pet peeves? Tell us about YOU when you’re not at the office.
“It’s truly a delight to be with you!
“Ok, so random Charleene factoids: All my life, I think I’ve strived to be anything BUT normal — whatever that means — so that’s completely normal to me. An only-child syndrome I suppose.
Everyone took Spanish in high school; I took French, but only because Latin wasn’t available. Sadly, je ne parle pas français (thank you Google Translate).
“Music was my first language which I could read at age 2. I’m convinced our relationship with dogs is an outward reflection of how we deal with others, while our relationship with cats reflects how we deal with ourselves.
“Purple is the prettiest color of the rainbow. Organic almond matcha lattes are the only way to start a day… second only to time on my meditation mat. I would someday like to star in an Indian film (Bollywood style or dramatic narrative). ‘I think therefore I am’ should read, ‘I am, therefore I think’.
“I love to travel. My favorite trip was spending three months writing a musical on the beaches of Noosa in Queensland, Australia. Hearing people chew is commensurate to fingernails on a chalkboard. O.M.GGGGGGG.
“Savannah, Georgia is one of my favorite weekend getaways, and there’s nothing quite like how the sunlight hits fallen leaves on a crisp Autumn afternoon in the Northeast. Oh, and I love to do laundry.”
Can you tell us something about you that few people know?
“Based on my more gregarious nature, I think many people automatically assume I’m quite the extrovert, when in fact, I tend towards introversion. Most people (even my own family) don’t really know all of me. And I like it that way.
“I’m a strong believer that no one can have the same perception of life as I — they’ve never walked in my shoes, lived in my home, slept on my pillow, or danced in my head. Nor can I perceive life as someone else. Which is pretty dang thrilling!
“There are all these realities running around on the planet at the same time, many of which are bound to collide. Rather than engage, I prefer to watch these exchanges. It allows me to consider how I truly feel about a subject and move forward accordingly. Fueling the fires with single sided opinion seldom quenches my thirst.
“So, I’m an introvert. Plain and simple.
“Now, let’s talk about YOU!
“Oh, and I have blonde eyebrows and lashes. Whether vanity or insecurity, I never leave my house without painting my eyebrows and eyelashes. Profound, I know.”
Do you have any exciting projects going on right now?
“Right now, I’m working on a Christmas album produced by six-time Grammy winner Brent Maher of Nashville. I’m SUPER stoked about this next album — I’m a sucker for Christmas. There’s something magical in the December air that fills my heart with joy. The world is clearer, brighter. Everything is easier; anything is possible. Loving others — and myself — is so much simpler. I wish everyday was this uncomplicated! I think this is what I’m looking to capture on this record: the effortless ease of pure love.
“The sounds will range from big and bold (from a rock and classical fusion, think TransSiberian Orchestra) to paired down folk goodness (with just a guitar and voice). Because of my background in and love of classical music, on my last album we worked with an orchestra and choir from, get this, Sofia, Bulgaria…and we’re doing it again for Christmas! The strings, brass, winds, percussion and choir parts are performed and recorded in Bulgaria, and Brent, the team and I listen in and participate in the session from Nashville, giving any notes along the way.
“Technology is incredible. And, I’m excited to be back working again with Grammy-winning engineer Charles Yingling. These guys record on one of the last analog boards in town, and when you hear the sound they get, you know why. This team has made and continues to make some serious noise in the music world.”
Many people say success correlates with the people you meet in your life. Can you describe two that most impacted your success and why?
“I believe success is a culmination of projected vision and tenacity of spirit. You can wish for something all day long, but if you don’t engage the fortitude of allowing, success seldom manifests. And, success is defined by each individual. Success can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
“To me, I perceive success as perfect present moment living. Everything is created in THIS moment. Not in the last or in the next, but right here, right now. And I feel successful when I’m creating, staying fully present in the here and now. It feels good. And right. And truthful. To me, that’s a huge success. Many of these truths I gleaned from listening to and spending time with Dr. Deepak Chopra. Deepak is constantly seeking new ways to explain timeless wisdoms in words palatable to the ear, fusing the sciences of quantum physics and the eternal soul. It’s quite fascinating. And life affirming!
“I think, too, I learn from most people I meet, no matter who they are; people provide a mirror to more clearly see my own course, which is perhaps why I so enjoy connecting with new friends. Humanity is an interesting topic. I think we’re all in this together, if we just remember who we are. And, even in just articulating these two ideas reinforces how both are ridiculously profund. And, often hard. So, I say, ‘Go easy on yourself! Laugh. Cry. Question. Wander. And, above all, live.’
“Success is in the journey not its end, for the end is rather final.”
Leaders always seem to find ways to overcome their weaknesses. Can you share one or two examples of how you work outside of your comfort zone to achieve success?
“A weakness is only a fear of success, and thus a point at which we cry ‘I can’t do this, I must stop.’ The reality is, a weakness sheds light on an area we could cultivate, tend, and grow…if we just let go of the fear.
“Surround yourself with others who are smarter, faster, stronger, brighter, more courageous, more experienced, and more in tune than you. You will expand your horizon by releasing the ego’s need to be top dog. Connect to your vision. How can you manifest your intentions? Who can help you? Find those people, release your fear, learn and flourish from their success. My mother, an international business woman of a major food manufacturing corporation, always told her both her employees and her customers, “Your success is my success.” And she’s right. Again, we’re all in this together. Find your tribe, learn all you can, and go.
“Every day, life sends me gentle reminders to release fear and ease my ego. A good day is when I can do both.”
The concept of mind over matter has been around for years. A contemporary description of this is having mental toughness. Can you give us an example (or two) of obstacles you’ve overcome by getting your mind in the right place (some might call this reframing the situation)?
“Mind certainly trumps matter, but I perceive spirit supersedes both. Just consider epigenetics: we have the ability to literally switch on (or off) genes in the body simply by the power of intention. It’s chilling the potential we have yet to fully embrace. So, whether it’s mental toughness or the power of intention or choice, it’s semantics. My story of reframing exists in two parts: outer resolve and inner understanding.
“Growing up, I was the fat kid; which meant significant ridicule. Sparing inane details, we all know (and have possibly experienced first-hand) kids can be ridiculously mean. Nicknames like “Miss Piggy” and “The Rock” (and this was way before Dwayne Johnson!) were common. Deep cuts haunted.
“As my heart broke, my shell was toughened. As my emotions overwhelmed, my mind said ‘no more’. So, I resolved to physically change. I peaked at age 12 as a size 14 in women’s clothing and 155 pounds standing 4’11”.
“Then, the young and once-impressionable Charleene made a choice.
“By the end of my senior year in high school, I dropped to a size 2. And, not because I felt pressured by others. Not because I let others dictate what was acceptable for me. But, because I finally chose how I wanted to live my life, which is a massive step.
“I used outward stimuli to consider what was important to me. I chose, through healthy living, diet and exercise. I voraciously consumed knowledge about nutrition, even sneaking health science books into my performing arts high school music history classes because I craved their information. The gym fit in between my orchestra rehearsal schedules because I felt better when I was connected to my body. Nobody made me do any of this. I chose. And today, that knowledge has followed me. The knowledge of how to live fully, and the knowledge of compassion for others, for I know both sides.
“To my way of thinking — and I don’t believe anyone else needs to think this way or even agree with me — we plant the seed of our lifetime’s challenges in childhood.
“Children are incredibly perceptive and connected, much more so than most of adults. I think they subconsciously pick up on their peers’ desired life lessons and help out as best they can, whether it be as a gentle smile or a sharp word. Both are learning tools of the Soul. So, I harbor nothing but appreciation for all the kids — my friends — who helped shape my view of this wide world. You taught me patience. You taught me fortitude. And, you showed me what it is to truly love yourself and thusly others. Thank you.
“Mental Reframing confirms we’re all heroes and villains in someone’s story. You can’t help if someone opts to call you a villain. Always be the hero in your own life’s adventure.”
What is one “efficiency hack” you use consistently in your life to keep your time and mind free to focus on your strengths and passions?
“Efficiency is my middle name. Seriously. And, it started when I was about 7 years old. I read the book Cheaper by the Dozen, becoming utterly fascinated with parents who termed themselves ‘efficiency experts’, often timing how long it took to perform a series of daily tasks and then reengineering their approach to decrease the time needed to complete these same tasks the next day.
“In my little mind, I thought this was a brilliant idea! So, I tried it. I’d start timing myself getting ready in the morning, ultimately finding the most efficient route to get from alarm clock off to toothpaste to socks to out the door (I mean, what 7-year-old does that?!) It made perfect sense: the less time I wasted on the mundane, the more time I had for enjoyment. Keep it simple.
“Thanks to my childhood preparation, to this day I still streamline my life as much as possible to allow more “creative time”. Consistency is important to me. I maintain order by keeping household and work items in a consistent place, else I’m wasting time tracking it down. I always know where the scissors are housed, where to find paper towels, what order my closet is in (it’s color coordinated, by the way), and where each pair of shoes reside. (And God forbid somebody moves something. Here, my patience lacks.)
“P.S. — The book and movie have very little in common, so read the book.”
All actors or musicians have sleepless nights. We have a term we use with our clients called the “2 a.m. moment.” It’s when you’re wide awake and thinking not-so-positive thoughts about your business choices and future. Can you describe a 2 a.m. moment (or moments) you’ve had and how you overcame the challenges?
“My mother taught me two very important life lessons I think are applicable to this discussion: never finalize a decision until your head and your heart agree, and don’t put off to tomorrow what can be done today. When I follow this advice, peaceful slumber tends to ensue. 🙂
“Ironically, the best 2 a.m. moment I’ve ever had was realizing I was having just that — a 2 a.m. moment. And let it go. My life became so much more free when I realized I hold the power position — I sit in my own driver’s seat.
“If I perceive a task to be a struggle, it will be. When I think I’m crazy and completely losing it, I just try to give myself the space to acknowledge how I feel in that moment and gently evaluate if there’s a different — perhaps better, kinder, happier — choice I could make for myself in that moment. And, usually there is.
“I think that’s the profundity of those 2 a.m. moments: if we don’t have them, we might not realize how powerful we already are.”
Nobody likes to fail, and we sure don’t like to admit we failed. Can you describe a moment when you confided your most closely-held business issues/problems to someone close to you, and how the conversation(s) helped you work through the issue?
“I can’t even express how thankful I am to be surrounded by and partnered with some of the most brilliant minds and compassionate souls who can talk me off a ledge or through a seemingly endless ditch of muck.
“Oh, the late night conversations my creative and life partner Jeremy Culver and I have had! Honestly, baring your soul through art is a very vulnerable place in which to live, and sometimes downright debilitating. When recording my first what I call ‘real’ album Talk About Love (you know, the whole NashVegas! Bright Lights and Big City dream), there would be nights I’d get home and just feel utterly defeated. Like I couldn’t connect to this ginormous story I was seeking to tell.
“Between the tears and self-loathing anger seeping from my pores, Jeremy would just hold my hand, listen, and say, ‘Ok. I hear you. How do we fix it?’ Completely present, completely loving, completely supportive. And I’d murmur some indistinguishable nonsensical something, sigh, and suddenly realize I wasn’t as far off as it felt. Without saying a word, Jeremy walked me to the realization the only thing standing in my way was me. The trees in the forest were suddenly clear. And accessible. And, eventually, quite beautiful. The power of being present is the best gift we can give.”
What’s on the drawing board for your next venture?
“We’re really excited to be releasing No Postage Necessary on Blu-ray and DVD on October 2. When the film played a limited theatrical run this past July, we had such a great response from theater goers that I’m very enthused to now be able to share this special project with people all across the country. While I do love the buttery smell of freshly popped corn and a reclining chair (thank you AMC!), I’m a sucker for PJs on the sofa curled up with a great story. Either way, I’m so glad No Postage Necessary is getting into audiences’ hands across the country and — very shortly — across the globe.
“In conjunction with the film’s Blu-ray/DVD release, I’m also releasing my next music album with songs from the film’s soundtrack titled Talk About Love, with tracks produced by Brent Maher and his team. It’s a pop Americana sound and includes songs featured on screen in No Postage Necessary. And, next spring, we’re planning another album to drop titled Only Love Remains. It’s good to be busy.”
What did we miss? Feel free to share any other thoughts or advice on overcoming failure, initiatives you’re currently supporting, any other relevant information you would like to share with the readers.
“Hmmmm… two thoughts! A book, and a belief. Take ’em or leave ‘em.
“The Book: Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
“So, I recently stumbled across Italian author Carlo Rovelli. A scientist and wordsmith, Rovelli simply with poeticism shares great wonders of the universe in under 100 pages. Double spaced, big font. Talk about mind blowing.
“The Belief: Whether I’m telling a story on screen, on stage, or in a recording booth, I’m driven to share the power of Choice.
“We all have the ability to choose — to choose how we live our lives, with whom we share our lives, and how we express our deepest selves in this time and space. Nobody writes your story but you. You can shape and shift your destiny however you desire. You’re never defeated by circumstance, unless you tell yourself you are. Even the hardest lives find joy when they realize it is already within. Everything starts from within. You want to change your environment? Go within. You want to spark a revolution? Go inside. To change the world, we must first change ourselves, else what are we really changing?
“Forcing another to confirm to our wishes and needs and desires is tantamount to saying, ‘Only I matter,’ a phrase no one wants to hear their friend utter. Instead, embrace your innate power so deeply that the forces around you can’t help but feel your glory and strength and, in turn, are moved towards a greater version of themselves. The strongest mountain can never be swayed by the horns of a little beast. Remember that. Trust that. And change the world.
“That’s why we’re here. At least that’s what I think.”
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I love to pop into Social Sphere every so often, sharing fun new projects, musing about life and often unsolicited realizations and wisdoms that drop into my lap, and (of course) sharing my latest adorable cat pics. You know. Real living. 😉
I’m on Instagram at @cclosshey, Facebook at /OfficialCharleeneClosshey and Twitter at @CharleeneC. Please, say hello! I’d love to hear what’s up in your world.
This was really awesome! Thank you so much for joining us!
The pleasure was indeed mine. 🙂 oxo
Originally published at medium.com