If you're looking for flash and brass, you're not going to find it in Cheryl Dawdy. But take a quieter moment, listen to your heart, and what you just might hear will be Cheryl's clear soprano bringing your deepest emotions to light. Thousands of fans have found her gentle ballads and soulful, softer sounds to be downright cathartic.
What to you love about performing?
I love having this chance to move people. This opportunity to make them both laugh and cry. It's not something I take for granted. It still means so much to me when someone tells me how one of our songs has touched them or helped them through some difficult moment. I do believe that music is meant to inspire, and I'm very grateful to be in a position to participate in that way.
Did you sing when you were a kid?
No, I was pretty shy. I didn't feel I was "cool" enough to part of any school choir or choral group. In my early teens I used to stand in my living room when everyone was gone and sing along to my mom's Barbra Streisand and Nancy Wilson records. But I never, ever thought I would perform in front of an audience - too terrifying!
What about now - are you still shy?
I still struggle with it, yes. The way I see it is that I'm an introvert doing the job of an extrovert. I can fake confidence pretty well, but I can never really fully feel it. Over the years I've learned how to harness it and come to terms with it. But some very famous people, like Johnny Carson and Ella Fitzgerald, struggled with it too, so I'm in good company.
One could say you're a lot like the music you create - quieter, softer.
I guess you could say that my music reveals little bits and pieces of me. I wrote "To Miss Someone" after the death of my mother.
Is that your favorite song you've written?
Probably, because it kind of happened in one piece. It was a special kind of creation that I didn't have to labor at. I hold a personal connection to those songs that just come out of me like that.
Who were your early influences?
I had a teacher in fourth and fifth grades named Mrs. Hoyer who told me that being quiet wasn't such a bad thing. She looked more deeply at me than anyone else and encouraged my creativity. I'll never forget that. And when I was 16 I discovered Joni Mitchell, and my world changed. I memorized her Blue album down to every trill and nuance.
What made you ultimately realize you could sing in public?
I knew I wanted to perform long before I ever did. It took me about a year to talk myself into doing it for the first time. I was 21 and it was Open Mike night at The Ark in Ann Arbor. When I sang, I closed my eyes and pretended I was in my living room. Afterward, I got so much encouragement from people. I felt so supported and like I belonged. That's when I knew this was what I wanted to do.
What, in your opinion, makes the Chenille Sisters work as a group?
The contrast of our personalities is a lot of what makes it work. Grace is gregarious. She can just pull things of the air and then feed off of the audience when they laugh. A lot of the outward personality of the group is Grace. Then Connie's musicianship is superb. She's shaped our sound and holds us to a high standard of harmonies and presentation. That's why we get as many compliments as we do. Her sense of humor is wry, which gives us kind of an edge. And then there's me. I think I bring balance to the whole dynamic.
You're a visual artist, too, right?
Yes, I do collage, mostly. I have a line of greeting cards and some pieces hanging in some Ann Arbor restaurants. I call my collages Reconstructed Landscapes. They're made from bits and pieces of paper, old postcards and stamps from other times and places. We used some of my work for the cover of our album, True to Life.
How are collage and music related?
Music is kind of an audio tapestry for me. I want it to evoke images for people.
What have you learned in 20+ years as a Chenille Sister?
That I'm a lot stronger and more capable than I had originally thought I was when I was younger. That if you really want something, you can overcome just about anything to do it, or get it.
- Full name:
- Cheryl Lynn Dawdy
- Detroit, MI
- Current home:
- Ann Arbor, MI
- 1 brother, 1 twin sister (fraternal)
- Favorite sound:
- waves lapping
- Favorite smell:
- Favorite food:
- Special talent:
- can recite the old Shake and Bake commercial in German