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.
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