To ALL artists who make significant amount of money: You should retain your bands. I have seen so many artists who go on long breaks while they continue to make millions of dollars from endorsements, recordings, royalties and so on, you have the ability to make your band and their family’s feel valued …. You should. They don’t have the luxury of bringing their families out on the road any time they want, they work hard and make little and sacrifice a lot. Health insurance isn’t provided for from artists or labels and is insanely expensive for musicians, show your band they are more than players, they are people who you value and retain them for goodness sake.
I had the pleasure to interview recording artist Cherie Oakley. Cherie grew up singing with her family full time on the road in evangelism touring churches, fairs and festivals. Music wasn’t her only passion that began at an early age. She also started acting during her childhood appearing in various musical theater productions. Moving to Nashville at the age of 20, Cherie began singing background vocals in the studio and on tour for acts like Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Gretchen Wilson, Martina McBride and Amy Grant. She would score a breakthrough as a writer when Reba McEntire charted her 60th Top 10 career single with Turn on the Radio penned by Cherie, Mark Oakley and J.P. Twang. The song would go all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart on January 1, 2011. That same year, Cherie would make her debut TV appearance on the premiere season of NBC’s hit series The Voice, landing a spot on Christina Aguilera’s team. After building a grassroots following on the singer-songwriter circuits, Cherie signed with Number One Group in 2017 and started work on her debut EP under the wings of ACM and CMA award-winning producer Dann Huff which will premiere in the summer of 2019. Her first single from the EP, “Work It”, is available now on all online streaming platforms. CMT called the song the “sonic love-child” of Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj’s “Bang, Bang” and Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” for a country audience.
Thank you so much for joining us Cherie! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been on this career path my entire life I guess. I grew up in evangelism and performed with my family full time as a child. We all sang together in the mornings and performed original musicals my parents wrote at night. I was discovered by an agent at the age of 4 and a manager at the age of 5. I would beg to sing more solos, I would arrange vocal parts for my family and work on our blend and dynamics as a child … I have never known anything other than performing. It’s all I have ever dreamed of doing and I’m thankful to have performed my entire life now. I’m incredibly blessed to have the childhood I had and for the family I have. Everything prepared me to be in this industry and not let it break me, everything prepared me to have thick skin and never lose my passion for music …
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?
That’s hard. I have a LOT of crazy stories! I guess I will share some details about this next one that most people don’t know. In 2010 I co/wrote a song called Turn On The Radio. At the time I had an artist deal in the works … I thought all of my dreams were coming true … And then they weren’t. The flood happened in Nashville and we were surrounded by devastation … It was the sadness that helped us want to write something up tempo, full of attitude and a complete escape from the reality around us. I always try to think of how a song will go over live in a writing appointment and we wrote that song pretty effortlessly. Then all of the sudden everything with my artist deal was starting to crumble into pieces, I felt devastated. One of my co/writers turned the song in to their publishing company, someone from Reba’s camp heard the song and before I knew it, I was on the phone with Dann Huff (who later produced it) as he was explaining to me that Reba and Big Machine, (her label) wanted this song and they wanted it badly. I was in completely shock … I didn’t even know how Reba had heard it, plus she was a childhood idol of mine. I knew if I went to the people that my deal was with (who also happened to employ me and my husband) that we would be fired. We would lose every ounce of our income, and I would lose my chance at being an artist, well, that particular chance anyway. Here’s some detail people don’t know. Reba called my cell phone personally to ask for the song. After 24 hours of no sleep and constant prayer I gave Reba some stipulations (ballsy I know) … She agreed to those and I gave her the song. My husband and I were fired almost immediately, lost every ounce of our income and my deal as a solo artist was obviously now obsolete. Reba called again and asked me to sing BGV’s on it. I’ll never forget singing the backgrounds around her iconic voice, on this song I had written … I finally got to hear myself sing this song on the radio … Not as an artist as I had dreamed, but I sang on a song that went #1 with Reba McEntire, one of my biggest inspirations and I wrote it … And we were collecting unemployment when it peaked at #1 on the Billboard Country Charts.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My EP! I cannot wait to release my next single and I can’t wait to release the full EP …. A LOT of blood, sweat, tears and prayer went into it …. I’m thankful and I’m proud.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Reba, Amy Grant, Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton, Simon Cowell, Ryan Seacrest … There was the time I finally got to share with Reba WHY I gave her stipulations and we gossiped a little about a female country artist (who shall remain nameless) who is just not very nice to people, including Reba and Kelly. There was the time my best friend had died and Kelly was so compassionate, she actually cried WITH me, the time Blake Shelton started an inside joke with me that still sticks around every time I see him, and the time I finally got to give him crap for not turning around for me on NATIONAL TELEVISION on The Voice. The time Simon Cowell told me he had a crush on me, he was a perfect gentleman and I was extremely flattered. There was the time a woman who worked with Ryan Seacrest very awkwardly tried to set us up romantically in front of each other while we both very awkwardly were not interested … Pretty sure she was fired after that. Then there are millions of times I’ve been able to be around Amy Grant and soak in so much wisdom from her about life and music and the craziness of it all ….
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
People that beat the odds, people that make history, people that go through HELL and rise above it …. Tina Turner, Oprah, Dolly Parton, Rosa Parks,
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I try to make myself available to people to really listen to them, because I really do care. I try to write music that even if it sheds a light on a negative subject matter it’s full of hope and an inspiring message.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Here’s a few things I would love to inspire to change: To ALL artists who make significant amount of money: You should retain your bands. I have seen so many artists who go on long breaks while they continue to make millions of dollars from endorsements, recordings, royalties and so on, you have the ability to make your band and their family’s feel valued …. You should. They don’t have the luxury of bringing their families out on the road any time they want, they work hard and make little and sacrifice a lot. Health insurance isn’t provided for from artists or labels and is insanely expensive for musicians, show your band they are more than players, they are people who you value and retain them for goodness sake.
The other thing I would do, as if my last answer didn’t piss off enough people :), I would also make it to where all labels and publishing companies had to sign talent equally. Example, if you sign 10 men, you must sign 10 women. If you have 5 slots for men open, you must have 5 slots for women open. It feels like gender discrimination for so many companies to have a ton of slots open for men and only a few to zero slots for women. Women will NEVER be equal on the radio when they aren’t even equal at labels and publishing companies …
And last but certainly not least I would ask publishing companies to pay significant draws to their writers like they used to. Taking care of songwriters so they can focus solely on their jobs used to be industry standard. A songwriter who has to work 1–3 jobs to pay bills will never be able to write their best, you want the best? Take care of them and pay them.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Look at the bigger picture, keep things in perspective … ALWAYS keep moving forward and remember, this too shall pass.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Get a college degree. I can’t tell you how many times my career has lulled and I’ve had to get a side job, I can’t tell you how many times I wished I had had a college degree
2. Self respect is everything
3. People don’t forget things, it’s not ok to be young and stupid and make serious mistakes
4. When a door closes, a window doesn’t always open, sometimes you have to cut a window through a wall all by yourself
5. Find out who you are, which is not what you do, but WHO YOU ARE. Find out what makes you happy, what brings you peace, your hobbies, likes dislikes, what YOUR dreams are, what music moves you and why, what is upsetting to you, what you are passionate about, what makes you feel beautiful, loved, unloved … Only then will you be able to write from your heart and know what you want to say and what kind of an artist you want to be, because only then do you really know who you are as a person.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Sheryl Sandburg … She is doing and has done a great deal for women in the workplace. She has risen to the top in a cut throat corporate world. I would love to sit with her and pick her brain and see how I can make a difference for women in the music industry, whether that’s the creative side or the corporate side. I’d also love to perform my current single WORK IT, which is a female empowerment song at her conferences … hint hint 🙂