Cheryl B. Engelhardt
If you’re seeking some top notch piano-driven pop music, you need to get into Engelhardt’s entire collection, especially One Up. Keep an eye out for a couple music videos on the way, Cheryl’s indie musician e-course and her schedule at www.cbemusic.com/. There’s much, much more to get into, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ’s.
XXQs: Cheryl B. Engelhardt
Cheryl B. Engelhardt (CBE): Instead of looking at my life as a combination of a bunch of lifestyles, I prefer to approach it as one career: that of creating music and sharing my process. Whether I’m writing music for a commercial, a film, or co-writing a song with another artist, my approach is the same: enhance whatever project I’m working on with thoughtful, inspired music. And I usually don’t wait for inspiration to hit. I believe inspiration is something you can generate by just sitting down and writing! (And that goes for writing articles, songs, scores and interviews like this one!! It’s all about being present with the task at hand.)
PEV: What kind of music where you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?
CBE: I grew up with my dad listening to tons of jazz, as well as playing a bit on our piano. My mom played a lot of classical records for me, plsu I grew up with classical piano lessons so that was a huge influence… My favorites are Mozart, Handel, Beethoven, Debussy. I didn’t get into popular music except for my mom’s Beach Boys and Bette Midler tapes until high school where I fell in love with the (what I call) “man bands”: the Goo Goo Dolls, Dave Matthews, Vertical Horizon, U2. In college I started to fall for Alanis, Sheryl Crow and Evanescence.
PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew you wanted music to be a large part of your life, if not the biggest part?
CBE: It was actually after college…. I had double majored at Cornell in Music and Biology, and my first job out of school was SCUBA diving for the United States Geological Survey. I always thought music was a hobby, but after 6 months on a river, I missed it a lot. When we went on a break, I got asked to write music for a friend’s website who knew I liked to compose music, and I never went back to the science stuff. I do miss it a little, but I think a career outside of music wouldn’t have felt right in the long run. Instead, I’m an avid recycler, and try to explore the ocean any chance I get.
PEV: Tell us about your first ever live performance.
CBE: It was at ACME Underground in Manhattan. I had decided, after working at a commercial post-production facility in NYC, that if I had my own band, I could make records and then get my music placed on commercials. So I put a band together, and did a few gigs to get ready for recording. After the first show, I was like “hey, this gigging thing is pretty fun”, and thus began my career as a performer.
CBE: I was lucky to have several side-passions. I became a personal trainer while I was starting out as a composer and singer/songwriter. Then I landed a full time job working as a tech and music supervisor and occasional composer at a big time jingle house in NYC. That gave me some mad skills in the composing world so when I left to tour more and become a freelance composer, I felt confident. I still did some personal training and teaching piano lessons in between gigs, tours, and composing jobs. I told myself that when I had to cancel 3 or more lessons/sessions in a month because of music opportunities, I would quit the side-jobs for good. Well, one day in 2009, that happened, and poof, I’m a full time, professional musician!
PEV: Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself – “I am really onto something!”?
CBE: I feel like the music career sorta fell into my lap. The first time I really thought “I’m onto something” may have been when I performed live in Switzerland at a festival for 4000 people and even though no one in the crowd had heard of me, no one moved for the whole entire 2-hour set. That was the first time I thought, this could work.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Cheryl B. Engelhardt show?
CBE: Since I play the piano, and the piano was my first interest and love (I could read music before I could read read), I like to showcase some piano skills that you don’t usually get in your average rock show. When I’m performing with my band I love having all of us singing since vocal arrangements are some of my favorite parts of my records. And whether I’m solo or with my band, fans can expect a great “date night” – I’ll play some ballads, put everything into the vocal performance, all heart and soul…. And I like to change up the energy- They can expect some happy songs plus a few fun covers that are unexpected – like Gnarls Barkely’s “Crazy”. I love to chat it up with the fans and have been told I’ve got the “dorky and comedic girl-next door” banter going on. I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you very much.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
CBE: Did anyone show up? Or, if I’m wearing heels, “Don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip.”
PEV: What is the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for your songs?
CBE: Mostly my own relationships, or stories of others’ relationships. Also, a longing for fulfilling potential. That was a huge theme in my first two records. My third and most recent CD was written when I was in a little funk and I decided instead of writing about my depression and anxiety blah blah blah I would write what I needed to hear. So, apart for the first sorta dark song, it’s a happy, uplifting record.
PEV: Tell us more about your latest release, “One Up” and why you feel so passionate about this project. What can fans expect from this work?
CBE: Well, like in the previous question, I wrote this record to have something that I felt I needed to listen to, something that could pull me out of a long funk, and get me going in my own life. I also had extra motivation to license the record to more films, TV shows and commercials, so I was really committed to high quality production. My live band, tons of live vocals, plus a live orchestra is on it and it was mixed by the amazing J Chris Griffin. I feel like I met that happy medium of heart-on-sleeve and marketable pop production. It’s also the first record I wrote where I collaborated writing a few songs, including “Bring You Back” with Joey Auch and “In The Light Of The Dawn” with Jeff Pollock. I also had a guest rapper on one tune and loads of other guest singers, which was fun wot coordinate.
PEV: Describe the kind of mindset you have to be in to record a song?
CBE: When recording ONE UP, working with J Chris Griffin on vocals was amazing- he really gets me to reflect on the emotion I originally had when writing the song. He’ll ask me what’s the story I’m trying to tell, and often has me talk out the lyrics with as much emotion as possible. And then don’t hold back, this will live on the record forever.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Cheryl B. Engelhardt?
CBE: I was a bouncer at a bar in college.
PEV: What one word best describes Cheryl B. Engelhardt?
CBE: That’s tricky. Someone this morning called me “innovative”, and I guess having a bunch of different things going on plus constantly thinking outside the box to create my own income would qualify for that. Either that or “tall”.
PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?
CBE: Life on the road is often my favorite time of year, especially when traveling with my band. When I’m working on a film score simultaneously, it can become logistically tricky. I’ve written a film score while traveling on trains through Europe. I have my little mobile setup, an Oxygen 8 keyboard and audio interface device. My favorite parts are just constantly creating, whether it’s the music on stage, or fun conversation in the van, or good energy when you miss a train or your gear gets stolen. (That’s the worst part, by the way- worrying about if your van and all your gear is safe enough for the night!).
PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet? Why?
CBE: I’d love to perform in Spain and France. I’ve really loved performing in German and Switzerland and have loved the fans and the ease of traveling. I feel like Spain and France would be similar but with lots of new experiences.
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play in your hometown, and in front of your family/friends?
CBE: They are all [finally] on board. For a while, I had a few friends who were like “WHAT are you doing with your life?” Since my family and lots of my friends are in the New York area, they’ve seen me perform a lot. Each time I perform, I try to change up the performance a little, usually for them. It’s a good chance to experiment and know that I will get VERY honest feedback.
PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
CBE: Well, right now I’m writing from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where I’m spending some time with my mountain-guide fiance. So you can catch me hiking, occasionally rock climbing, in addition to writing articles for musician blogs.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
CBE: I am in love with Barnaby Bright- they are a married couple who have the most fun and poignant and original music and live show I’ve ever seen. I met them years ago through the New York Songwriter’s Circle and they’ve been a fave of mine ever since.
PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?
CBE: I’d be a marine biologist. Or a personal trainer/nutritionist.
PEV: So, what is next for Cheryl B. Engelhardt?
CBE: I’m currently working on 2 music videos to help ONE UP get some legs. And I’ve gotten some good response from my first E-course for indie musicians (here’s a link if you want: www.cbemusic.com/ecourse) that I’m looking into writing another. I’m also looking at doing a cover song project, but that’s still just happening in my head. In the scoring world, I continue to write music for a few New York jingle houses as well as collegehumor.com and I’m about to start work on a feature indie film, which I’m really excited about.