The new Portland-based band Sharlet Crooks captures a fresh yet nostalgic Americana country sound that you haven’t experienced before, and is challenging the status quo with their latest single “Walk Alone.” The song is an anthem of the self, empowering women and men to ignore the cultural norms that say happiness is only found by settling down with a partner. Stream the new single here and to experience their addictively unique yet timeless Americana sound.
We chatted with frontwoman and songwriter Corinne Sharlet about the single and how she created this new band.
What is the story behind “Walk Alone”?
I wrote this song at a time I was really struggling with the fact that I was single. Deep down I knew that it was pretty useless to worry about not being in a long-term relationship because love comes and goes without my control. Still, the unspoken cultural message of “it’s abnormal not to be in a long term relationship” was weighing on me. Side note: I truly believe no one is “single;” most of us have people, good friends or family, in our lives to turn to--they just may not be the romantic partner that we think we need in order to be whole. There has been a lot of progress in changing this mentality. For example, more people are getting married later in life than ever, but the cultural undercurrent of “must find a long term partner to be fulfilled” is still very powerful, at least it was for me and my friends in the community that I grew up in.
What is the writing process like for you?
The writing process for me always starts with the music and then the lyrics follow. That’s the case when I write alone as well as when I’m writing with Zach (the guitar player and songwriting partner for Sharlet Crooks). For “Walk Alone,” Zach brought me the guitar progression he had been messing around with and I started improvising the melody the line. Usually when I improvise lyrics, some phrase or something with stand out as the theme of the song. I then try and craft the lyrics around that theme or phrase that came up from the improvisation. For “Walk Alone,” I remember a theme of water and the phrase “walk alone” came up first, so I took those ideas and ran with them.
What inspired you to start the band “Sharlet Crooks”?
I grew up writing songs. From the age of five, I used to improvise songs and record them in my karaoke machine. Singing led me to performing and doing musical theater. I majored in musical theater in college and became less focused on writing my own material during that time. After graduating, I had a really rough time trying to figure out how I wanted the performing arts to be in my life so I took a break from performing to reevaluate. I had been performing for so long that I had forgotten what brought me to it in the first place--singing. After a year-long break, I realized that I need to sing and write music. That is the one thing that I can’t live without. The first band I was in was an amazing learning experience for me and it gave me the push to learn how to play guitar. It was frustrating for me to not be able to express to other musicians the sound I was hearing in my head. The desire to chase that sound is what inspired me starting Sharlet Crooks. I started learning guitar and writing my own songs again, put an ad on Craigslist, and found Zach!
Who are some of your biggest woman-fronted influences? Why?
I am inspired by old school female jazz and country singers from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s like Edith Piaf, Ella Fitzgerald, and Patsy Cline. I love the timelessness of their music. I also find a ton of inspiration from local female-fronted bands and artists like Y La Bamba and Haley Heynderickx. They make a statement with their music just by being so unapologetically who they are on stage and in their writing, which sounds simple but it is really hard to do. I am also really inspired by international female artists like Yasmine Hamdan who is a Lebanese singer and actress. I love listening to singers who can transport you into their world no matter the time period and have it still feel current. That’s what I want to do with my music.
How has being in Portland shaped your music career? Do you have any bucket list venues, media appearances, etc.
Living in Portland has given me the inspiration to do this whole music thing in a way that feels good to me. The Portland music community is so diverse with so many talented artists doing music in their own way and being supported in doing that. We would love to one day play at the Arlene Schnitzer concert hall (it is so beautiful!). My favorite venue in town is the Doug Fir Lounge; I haven’t gotten to play there yet so that would be super dreamy.
Describe your experience on your recent mini-tour in CA. What did you learn? What will you do differently next time?
The tour was amazing! We got really lucky and everything went smoothly, though a few things shifted around and we had to think creatively. I learned that there is so much I can’t control when we show up to a venue to play our music. That has been really hard for me to accept. Showing up to venues you’ve never played before with just your instruments takes a lot of trust -- trust that the sound guy will show up, that they will have everything you need, and that people will come listen. Next time I hope to not worry so much and just trust my own ability to problem-solve.
When and where will that next time be?
We are already scheming about going on touring down to LA probably next summer, stopping along the way at venues we discovered on this past tour.
Awesome! Finally, what is the best way for fans to support you?
Great question! The best way to support us and any of your favorite local bands is to help share our music either on social media or just the old-fashioned word of mouth way. Word of mouth is still the number one way musicians build a fanbase, so share our new single with a friend or add it to your playlist. That kind of little stuff goes a long way.
The work that Sharlet Crooks has been doing in Portland and beyond has been inspiring to say the least, and we look forward to hearing everything else they have to offer this coming year. The band has plans to release another single this fall, so be sure to keep up to date with them on Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify. Along with the new single, the band plans to check off a major bucket list item in January 2019 by releasing a full length LP with 10 songs. “We wanted to put out a nice beefy piece of work that people can sink their teeth into if they want,” and sink our teeth into it we will! We highly recommend that you see Sharlet Crooks live. You can catch them next at Alberta Street Pub on October 10th, 2018 playing for the Local Roots Live Series at 7pm for only $7, and sing along to the new single yourself.
Interview by: Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov
Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov is the founder and executive directress of #WomenCrush Music. When she’s not leading the #WCM team, she’s coaching artists on how to live their best lives via her business DIA Music Coaching and travelling the world with her hubby and chiweenie pup. She currently resides in NYC and you can follow her at @mrsbossladywcm.
Some of you may know Haley Johnsen from when she was a semi-finalist on American Idol in 2012, but there is more to her than a powerful emotive voice and rockin’ guitar skills. Not only is Haley a force to be reckoned with but she’s also a role model for future boss ladies & a huge advocate for all ages music.
With two singles recently released, "Lift Me Up" and "Close to You", Haley is continuing to tour all over the states with bands like Wolfchild, The Wind and The Wave and Sawyer Fredericks. Still, even on long tours, Haley Johnsen stays connected to her local community in Portland. How does she do it? The Crush took an exclusive interview to learn a thing or two from the songwriter.
Congrats on releasing your new singles! Should we expect another full length soon?
Thank you! Absolutely…I have SO many new songs that I am just aching to get in the studio and record. My goal is to definitely have my first full length LP out by next year!
You've been on tour a lot this year! How did you get started in the touring world?
Honestly, it has just been a few connections that have enabled me to tour all over the country in the last year! I met my now Seattle based manager a few year ago and most of the tours I have gone on are with bands that he manages. If it wasn’t for Seattle based band, Wolfchild, I may not have been introduced to his connections and been able to tour the U.S with The Wind and the Wave, and Sawyer Fredericks. When it comes down to it, it really is all about who you know and if your music is a good match for that bands audience, which it was!
What is the most rewarding thing about being on the road?
Oh man, being on the road is like being in a time warp or different dimension. I would say the most rewarding thing about being on the road is bonding with the people that you are on the road with. Getting to experience a new city everyday with them, work beside them, watch them perform. You learn SO much from each other and just feel a lot more comfortable being vulnerable. When it comes to touring, performing, and selling your brand, there is no time for BS. I would also have to say that meeting new fans and gauging each new audience is a huge rush. You never know what to expect. Some nights, it might seem like you fell flat in your performance and then ONE new fan will come up to you at the end of the night, buy your CD, and tell you that one song moved them to tears and inspired them to make a change. So for me, to put it simply, touring is about CONNECTING!
What is the hardest part about touring? How can artists prepare themselves for it?
The hardest thing about touring is just the behind the scenes work that happens before and after you perform. You have to load all your gear in, set up all your merch, keep track of everything, play your show, keep a friendly face, tear down, making sure you don't forget anything, and finally have your beer or whatever and go to bed at like 2 am. It’s a wacky schedule and I have been physically and emotionally exhausted at times during tour. It is also VERY hard to be away from a partner for so many weeks in a row. Learning how to communicate while being on the road is in art form.
Watching Kingsley blow up in the Portland music scene over the past year has been such an honor. Not only is she one hell of an entrepreneurial spirit, but she’s an intuitive songwriter, vocalist and knowledgeable musician. From experience, I know it is not easy living a double life as an artist and industry professional. From being head of marketing at Double Tee and Roseland Theater, one of the most well-respected music venues in Portland, to being on the same bill with Elise Trouw, and Sawyer and Sara Niemietz, this boss-lady is one to watch. I sat down with her to learn how she does it all.
What's it like to have to balance a full time leadership position in the industry and a rising artist career?
Some days are hell and other days it doesn't feel like work. My favorite part about my day job is that it is in the music world, every day I am doing something at my "day job" that helps build up Kingsley. I get to bounce ideas off talent buyers that have been in the biz for 15+ years and get the real scoop from them. Down side is having to work around a 9-5 schedule. Luckily my job is in the music world and they know I am trying to build my singer career and are flexible with me leaving the office as needed.
How do you stay inspired to write music? How do you avoid burnout?
I write about things that happen in my life - I am inspired everyday by the relations that I have and the things that happen in my day. I don't think I've ever gotten burnt out because my song book is my dairy and I got a lot of shit I am working out in my song book hahaha! Some might say my therapist should read my songbook hahaha! Maybeeeeeeeee, maybe not!
People say that the Portland pop music scene hasn't quite taken off yet. How do you feel about the scene and how has it affected Kingsley?
It has!! It's just not a strong scene for locals - it forces you to reach out to promoters to try to join on a bill with a pop act touring through PDX. Most people want a stripped down solo set if you aren't on a pop bill, but it's hard to showcase what you can do as a pop artist with only a guitar. I went to a shit ton of open mics with my backing track on my iPhone. Most people loved it--and some of them hated it. In the end, if you want to do pop, you gotta try hard in PDX.
Since your debut release in June, you've played so many great shows! What is next for Kingsley?
I will be releasing music viddddddsssss!!! “Vibe” should be coming out around Aug 30th and “I Am Because I Am” will come out in late September. I am also collaborating with people on new music that should be coming out later this year! I am also gearing up to go on tour in Europe Summer of 2019.
Do you have any predictions about what will happen in the next few years in terms of the industry here?
I predict the fusion of Jazz/Hip-Hop is the new genre emerging and it’s going to take TF over! Common and Robert Glasper’s collab is the first of many!
What local ladies are in your top played on Spotify? Or anyone in particular you love going to see live?
Haley Johnsen (of course), and Lenore. I’m excited to see Noah Cyrus in October at the Wonder Ballroom - probably as close to Miley as I'll get! Chelsea Culter is coming, I'd love to open for her - shes a bad B!
What is your advice for local artists trying to break out of the Portland scene?
Don't think you can do it all on your own. Find as many mentors in the scene and get advice and help! Collaborate with people that are trying to rise up too. You don't need to work with someone that is 10 steps ahead of you to have success--networking with someone that is at the same level can advance you both at the same time!
You've collaborated with a lot of different producers, most recently Volldrauf, for your cover of "Seek Bromance" by Avicii and your original song "Human." What is the importance of creating a strong varied team as a rising artist? How has working with different co-writers, producers, visual artists, etc. added to your career?
If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes the world to create a successful artist. I think having a strong team with a variety of skills makes it a hell of a lot easier to achieve this dream. I can get all that I need to create a song or album from the people I surround myself around. I love working with other people; collaboration is the best thing I've done in my career thus far. It was hard to allow room for other ideas, but the outcome is much greater than my pride. I am beyond thankful for everyone that has helped me thus far: family, friends, musicians, producers, photographers, graphic designers, bookers, and all of my fans. Without them, I could not be Kingsley.
You can join Kingsley on her journey at @itskingsleymus (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and by following her on Spotify. Stay tuned for the music video release for her single “Vibe” next month! For now, watch a live performance of her track "Might Not Make It" and listen to her music and other talented boss-ladies in our Blog playlist below.
Interview by: Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov
Ashley Kervabon-Stoyanov is the founder and executive directress for #WomenCrush Music. When she’s not leading the #WCM team, she’s coaching artists on how to live their best lives via her business DIA Music Coaching and travelling the world with her hubby and chiweenie pup. She currently resides in NYC and you can follow her at @mrsbossladywcm.
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