Cherie Oakley: “Work It” by Eileen Shapiro

“Work It” is the newest song and video release from Country artist sensation Cherie Oakley….and “Work It” she does. The hard driving, vibrant track and video seeps into the very heart and soul of the multi-faceted life the everyday woman leads. Her voice is powerful like a raging tsunami, yet tantalizing and endowed with passion and sensitivity.

Clearly destined to be a songstress, Cherie’s musical journey began as a small child and never stopped. Traveling the country with her Evangelistic family, at age 3 she was already included in musical theater, singing her tiny little heart out. Her fortunate childhood allowed her to become an accomplished session singer with artists including: The Band Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Vince Gill, Martina McBride, and the cast from the hit television series “Nashville.”

As a touring background vocalist, she has shared the stage with the likes of Carrie Underwood, Amy Grant, Kelly Clarkson, Gretchen Wilson, and Trace Adkins. Having performed with superstars including: Sheryl Crow, Luke Bryan, LeAnn Rimes, Jennifer Nettles, George Strait, Reba, Idina Menzel, and Mary J. Blige, it’s no wonder she is now capturing the country music industry and turning it upside down.

Already recognized as an accomplished  country music writer, for having created Reba McEntire’s “Turn On The Radio”, which skyrocketed to # 1 on the Billboard Country Charts, she has also performed on The Tonight show, The Billboard Music Awards, American Music Awards, the CMA Awards, Ellen, The Today show, BBC Breakfast, Live with Regis and Kelly, The Late Show with David Letterman, The X-Factor UK, and The Voice, having Christina Aguilera turn a chair.

Now the universe has spoken, and Cherie Oakley is owning her own stage with “Work It”, written by Cherie, Mark Oakley, and David Fanning, and produced by the iconic Dann Huff. Like a supernova, a star that has suddenly increased greatly in its brightness because of an orgasmic explosion, Cherie Oakley is rising.

I spoke with Cherie, and what began as an interview ended as a wonderful new friendship….

Obviously with your talent it was destiny that you became a singer. What inspired you to choose country music?

Thank you…. I grew up singing all different genres but country kind of went back to my roots, Southern gospel music. I grew up in evangelism with my family. We sang country and southern gospel songs in the morning and then at night, because my parents originated in the theater, they incorporated that into our ministry. They would write original musicals for us to do. Then on the long drive from church to church I only listened to country music. So for me, I sang country before I sang anything else. It feels like home. It’s like comfort food for me. It is a genre where I can just let my hair down and just let it fly. I loved doing musical theater growing up and I love singing pop music, and all different kinds of music, but I had to pay attention to certain things like my vowels and things like that. So, country music was the only genre that was 100% me. I don’t have to pay attention to any particular thing, it’s just authentic.

I love to interview country artists because all of you seem to have a cool story.

That is interesting. I have never even thought about that.

Country music feels so popular now.

It is. It’s such a broad genre, there’s traditional country, forms of pop country, now there is urban country. There are many different flavors in there which for me is so fantastic because once again it lets me be creative and have freedom. I don’t feel like I have to conform in any way. I can just be myself and write what I want to write,  how I want to write and sing it how I want to sing it. I’m not sure that country would’ve been the best fit for me years ago simply because I think I would’ve really had to try and conform a little bit more and maybe not be quite as authentic. Like other genres, I would’ve had to pay attention to things a little bit more. So, I love the fact that country is such a broad ranged genre, with different genres within it. I think that country music allows more artistic freedom.

I feel like you have such a strong voice that you could sing anything. I also know that country is popular in the UK. What are your thoughts about touring internationally?

I love history. I’m such a history buff and so I love traveling and seeing the world. I love being with different cultures and soaking it all in. It’s such a big part of being a songwriter. You’re inspired by things and so yes, I’ve been dying to.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Indiana, in a little town called Crawfordsville. It’s hilarious because I have no idea where it is. Someday I’ll venture there and see what it’s like and actually be able to talk about it. I was just born there but we went into full-time evangelism on my third birthday. We traveled and traveled. Then I got spotted by an agent when I was four years old in Atlanta, and then I got a manager in New York. Then we would route auditions for television or theater or just whatever on the way to our next destination to the next revival or whatever it was that we were doing.

You started super, super young. 

Yeah. I’ve had people ask me what made me want to be a singer and I have to tell them that I don’t know anything else. I don’t remember ever doing anything else. I don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. I was a weird kid. I would wake up and sing and I would do it all day long. If I played with dolls then my dolls sang. If I played with any toys they sang. If I drew pictures it was of me performing on the stage. So everything I did revolved around being a singer. It was so weird  being so young and  so obsessed with it. I was passionate about it. It was just my whole world. My poor parents, I don’t know how they put up with it.

You really were literally destined.

Yeah. I don’t know how they did it, they never told me to stop. I grew up kind of all over. We had houses at different points in different places, but we weren’t really there very much. But it’s been amazing. I got to be in Jersey for a while, New York for a while, Georgia, Florida…. so I feel like I can relate to a lot of people. I feel like I can have a conversation with a brick wall. I feel pretty blessed to be able to do that. The only time it’s a bad thing is when strangers come up and then they vomit their life to you. That happens. It’s a compliment.

You seem to be completely positive and so is your new song.

I feel like the world is a dark enough place. I am totally all about pointing out things that can be frustrating, upsetting, and depressing but I definitely don’t write Debbie downers. I feel like you should have something that has a bit of hope to it. There is nothing wrong with shedding light on things that are going on in life or your friend’s life or the world that are upsetting, but if there is something we can say to the listener that’s going through it that might help them hang on another day…. that’s my whole thing and it’s funny that you picked up on that.

I think that country singers have a lot of power because people expect a story line from their songs. 

They really do. I mean, I think that all musicians do but country music is really blowing up. I think country singers are held in a different degree, more than other genres. They are expected to be honest. I think they are expected to have authenticity with their songwriting and who they are as an artist. I feel with other genres you can sometimes test what sort of a character that you can become, and I’m not saying that in a negative way. I just think country is all about authenticity. So, I totally see that and agree with it.

I think country singers tell a story better and clearer sometimes than other genres.

Thank you. I mean I hope it continues. That is definitely the roots of country music. I think for a little while it kind of got overly saturated with some sort of surface songs if you will. I think that we’ve definitely pulled away from that and gotten closer to the essence of country music, which is so much more than trucks in mud and countrified food. There is so much more to talk about and sing about. Those things are great and they’re fun, and they are definitely an escape that we need, but there is also a need for songs that are going to talk about deeper things that country music has always done. I think that’s really dominating the genre now.

If you could have your ultimate stage fantasy what would you want to happen?

I like that question. Well it would be huge. It would be a massive, massive stage. I would have a huge band. I would have six back-up singers that all have choreographed moves. I would have a horn section. I would have two fiddle players because fiddles are my favorite country instrument. I would have millions and millions and millions of people that if I pull the mic away and held it to the audience, they would sing every word.

I love that fantasy and I think soon it will be a fantasy come true.

Don’t we alI want to go to that fantasy? I’m definitely working towards it. That’s why I am totally open. That place for me, it might be in America, it might be in Germany, it might be in Ireland, London. You don’t know where your music is going to strike a nerve. So, don’t put any boundaries on it and just go for it. Let your music speak to people. Maybe it’s the way I was raised in evangelism. You just want to reach out and help everybody. My music does that.

I can see that. If you could have me ask you any question in the world, what question would that be?

I think you can put this in the form of a question. I think the timing of everything that is happening for me is kind of bizarre.

Describe what you mean by Bizarre?

Why didn’t this happen for me when I was 16? I was totally ready for it then. Why didn’t it happen for me when I was 18? Or why did it happen for me so many years later. Now I have a daughter and life is a bit more complicated. I look at different artists that are getting signed right now and they’re younger, and maybe just getting married but they are just in a totally different place. I am so thankful that I can talk about a whole lot of stuff that nobody else can really talk about. I know what it’s like to be a mom, a wife, for a while now. I know the ups and downs of a career financially. I know what it’s like to feel when nobody would write Country songs for a woman, and I wasn’t an artist in the ring yet. I know what it’s like to watch people make horrible mistakes and then make incredible decisions that change people’s lives and learn from everything along the way. I feel like I have so much to say and I’m so grateful that the timing is now for me. Is it a little bit more complicated? Yes, totally. But I feel like I can relate to so many people. Their lives are so complicated. Most people are juggling a million things and figuring out how to make it work. Most people don’t have the luxuries of nannies and millions of dollars, without needing a job. I feel like I can relate to I guess the average mom. The average person who is trying to make it. The ones who are pounding their heads against the pavement and who are frustrated. I can speak to a really wide range of women out there. I’m so thankful for that because I don’t see that with a lot of artists that are signed right now.

I can answer that question for you. It’s because the universe came together now for you instead of when you were 16 or 18.

Right! I’m so grateful, I really am because I look at when I was younger who did I idolize? I think that it is incredible that we have people like Taylor Swift for the young girls who need someone their age to identify with. I kind of miss seeing quite frankly a lot of grown women that are telling stories through their music and speaking about things that they are passionate about, not because they are on TV but because they have experienced it. I think it is a totally different place when you can say “look, this is what I’ve lived, this is what I know, I can relate to you and you can relate to me. We are one in the same.” I’m grateful for that I am so grateful to have all of this happening for me right now.

Watch Cherie Oakley’s “Work It” Music Video here:

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Twitter: @cherieoakley

Instagram: probablycherieoakley