"I feel much older and wiser," baroque-pop balladeer Charlene Kaye said. "I guess the City does that to you..."
Kaye's attained a knack for bringing a freewheeling effervescence (see: strutting pop) to rich or classier sensibilities (see: ornate, orchestral elements). Hers was a sound that could conjure the exuberant clash of elegance and exuberance; like the dashing feel of tuxedoes and dry-clean-only tablecloths with slicked up cellists and violinists flown-in-from-Vienna sawed stoically by a marble fountain, met with the high-heel-kick-off of some enlivening burst of cathartic, light-hearted caution to the wind, spilling wine and loosening ties and jumping in that very same marble fountain, silk skirt be damned.
The singer/songwriter's come a long way from Ann Arbor, having finished studies at U-M in spring 09 and now resettled in New York. Well, truth be told, she came a long way to Ann Arbor (having been raised in Hawaii); and while the Mitten-state got to enjoy her beautiful voice and eclectic folk reconstructionist ruminations for too short a time. While she was here, she released her debut LP Things I Will Need in the Past (recorded with Jim Roll). But, since, she's relocated to New York, cut a new EP with a full band (The Brilliant Eyes) and cut a single with Glee's Darren Criss.
All that she's learned about the logistics of making a living (and career) with music, after a nearly two year crash-course spent "soaking up the scene" in New York, "playing as often as humanly possible," has blown her mind. She's informed, she said, about what it actually takes, more so since she graduated U-M.
"It takes a lot of work and I can see how people get discouraged easily," Kaye said, "because it's hard! I give myself daily pep talks telling myself not to give up, not to let go of my dreams."
Criss was a fellow Wolverine, with Kaye, through the mid-00's. "We met at an open mic our freshman year," Kaye said. "Our musical styles totally clicked and it's just snowballed from there. He sings a bunch of (Things I Will Need...) and recently he sang on my song "Dress and Tie" (watch/listen)."
Said single^ charted at #140 on the pop charts. Not bad.
"The Brilliant Eyes," she said, is a "rock band, something glamorous and riotous," echoing 70's new-wave and dance/rock aristocrats like Blondie or the Bee-Gees, balancing the fun of quick catchiness with stately ambition, not to mention helping Kaye to flex her penchant for jazz and blues (see: "Mad Tom of Bedlam"). Beyond that, however, Kaye & the Brilliant Eyes now utilize more electronics, i.e. drum programming pads and samplers.
"Ann Arbor brought out the sincerity in me, New York brought out the edge."
Her newest songs are "grittier and more ambitious, but still with serious emotion - I mean every word in these new songs because I've been through a lot since (Things I Will Need...)." Kaye hopes to record an LP this autumn, "unlike anything anyone's ever heard under the name Charlene Kaye, and hopefully unlike anything I've heard, either!"
"My only goal in life is to travel the world and play music," Kaye said, revealing that she just recently made the "frightening and exhilerating" leap of quitting her day-job. "If I can survive doing only that, I'll never ask for anything more."
See Kaye & the Brilliant Eyes at Ann Arbor's Blind Pig - May 27th.