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Chalee Tennison's voice is pure country- strong, soulful, cool and tender yet tough as the Texas roadhouses where she forged her musical style. Her early influences ran heavily towards church hymn-singing and Tammy Wynette. But in a household with four brothers and sisters, everything from Ronnie Milsap and Elvis to ZZ Top, Karen Carpenter and Three Dog Night was just as likely to be heard booming from some sibling's bedroom door.
Add to that mix nearly a decade fronting her own band-learning to accommodate the wildly diverse musical tastes for which Texans are famous as she discovered and developed a dramatically distinctive voice of her own, and a clear picture of Chalee Tennison, 2001, begins to emerge.
On her self-titled debut album, Chalee shows a commanding vocal presence and emotional depth to stand her in the company of country's greatest singers, while still informed by the sensibilities and brilliance of the full range of musical giants who have preceded her. Capturing the timelessness of tradition in a cutting-edge, contemporary context, Chalee Tennison is poised as the perfect artist to lead country music into the 21st century. A real country singer delivering real country songs.
Chalee sings straight from the heart with disarming candor and conviction, and she's not afraid to lay squarely on the table for all to see both the trials and triumphs of her own 32 years of living. There are no cute little ditties here. This is passion and profession from a woman who has lived what she sings.
A single mother of three children ages 14, 9 and 5 Chalee is open and upfront in talking about the turmoil of three marriages. And it's that same honest self-revelation that gives her and her songs power as well as tenderness, both etched with the lines of living, loving, losing and winning that mark the heart of every human being.
"I have to really believe a song personally before I can sing it," Chalee says. "I looked not only for great songs for this album, but songs that I also found a deep emotional connection with. If it touches me, I know I can touch other people with it as well."
The album's first single, "Someone Else's Turn To Cry," co-written by Chalee, is unapologetically autobiographical as she wraps a performance both sensitive and soaring√Ę‚‚¨‚€Ěaround what she describes as a "song of personal victory." It is an anthem of self-worth and awakening.
"This came one day near the end of my last marriage, when I was looking at myself in the mirror, crying," says Chalee. "But something had changed in me. For the first time I said to myself, it's time to head down a different road. And in a matter of seconds, there were no more tears. It was one of those rare moments in life of real transition. It felt like finding an old friend who'd been lost for years. And that old friend was me."
"I've made some mistakes and bad choices, and I've paid for them, but I've also gained a lot of wisdom in the process," she says. "But through it all I've never lost this tremendous need to sing for people. If someone's sad, I want to make them happy. I want to fix a life fix a marriage. I wasn't very good at it myself, but I believe I can help other people who are struggling or hurting just by letting them know they're not the first one to go through what they're going through, or to feel what they're feeling. There's great comfort just in knowing you're not alone."
"And I hope I could be a role model to other women to let them know that if you've done everything in your power to love someone and make a relationship work, and it just doesn't, then it's OK to be on your own. It's OK to be a single mom. You can make it, and you have nothing to be ashamed of."
Stand-outs on Chalee Tennison abound. "I Let Him Get Away With It" is simmering country soul driven with the perfect touch of rock muscle. "I Can Feel You Drifting" is a classic ballad with a plaintive fiddle echoing the melancholy of Chalee's heart-on-her-sleeve admission of dying love. "It Ain't So Easy" is a kicking country/rocker where a sassy and defiant Chalee gives an errant old flame a taste of his own medicine.
"Just Because She Lives There" is an aching saga of a marriage gone cold. And though that's sadly familiar terrain for Chalee, she admits she still can't give up on love. "Some days I feel certain that I'll never marry again," she says, "but I love to love, and to be loved deeply. I wouldn't be honest if I said I'll never fall in love again. I'd hate to have to go through life without that."
"There's A War In Me" is a riveting narrative of the battle between decisiveness and uncertainty that's as old as love itself, while "Sometime" serves up country in a rock-solid pocket that acknowledges a tinge of regret even as a neglected lover finally puts her foot down. "I'd Rather Miss You" is an emotional ballad, colored with wistful fiddles and a towering electric guitar, and "Go On" offers some tough-edged blues as Chalee issues a faded love an assertive, in-your-face invitation to just call it quits.
Chalee's newest album This Woman's Heart explodes with the power and conviction that only Chalee could produce. The first single Makin'Up with You, tells with lighthearted humor the fun of having and argument and then the joy of making up. The albums latest single Go Back gives us a look at the power of a song not only with heart wrenching lyrics but also with the poignant voice of Chalee Tennison. Go Back tells the tale of a man who gets more than once second chance at a wonderful life. The song was written by a childhood cancer survivor whose story is more than amazing.
Chalee grew up in and around central Texas. A musically gifted child, she spent much of her young life singing hymns with her mother and two sisters around the house, in church and at family get-togethers, all the while harboring dreams far beyond her small-town roots.
"I always held onto the dream of making my life in music," says Chalee. "I had to put it on the back burner for a while, but I never gave it up. And it never was about ego. Music was just in me. Singing was all I ever wanted to do."
In between she worked to support herself and her family. "I've worked a lot of different jobs, mostly dealing with people and those experiences have enabled me to see life from other view points." Of those jobs, none could have been more insightful than the year she worked as a guard at a maximum security prison for women.
Chalee first visited Nashville in 1996. A 10-song CD she had recorded made its way to Sony/Tree music publishing and into the hands of producer Jerry Taylor. Blown away with the then-unknown Texas songstress, Taylor began using her to record songwriter demos. Chalee commuted between Texas and Nashville from late 1997 into the summer of '98. Industry interest and excitement about her grew steadily over those months, leading to her signing with Asylum and her relocation with her three children to Nashville.
Standing at that magical moment where dreams and reality merge, Chalee Tennison is a woman at peace with the past and excited about the promise of tomorrow.
"Knowing what I do today, there would definitely be things I would have done differently," Chalee says, "but I'm finally happy with myself and with life. And I wouldn't be this person if I hadn't gone through everything I have. Where I am today is the result of everywhere I've been. There's no point√Ę‚‚¨‚€Ěand no time for should-have-been or could-have-been. Life's in front of me, and that's where I'm headed."
Chalee is now on Dreamworks Records and her first single Lonesome Road is due out October 14th, 2002, with an album Parading in the Rain due out in the spring.
~~ Biography courtesy of Asylum Records ~~
and Natalie Bradley
The Story Behind the Song
Each month I will feature one of Chalee's album tracks for stories behind the songs so email me with your personal experiences with Chalee's music and the woman herself.
This month's feature:
Go Back was written by a childhood cancer survivor the story is amazing and is a miracle.
The young man had cancer and was supposed to keep getting treatments to help..the treatments made him weak and he was feeling defeated and hopeless.
He just wanted to stop hurting he talked with his grandfather who told him he didn't have to have this last surgery. His grandfather stayed with him and the next morning the cancer was gone all the cancer that was in him was dead...this is what inspired him to write Go Back.
Chalee's Fan Club
Check out Chalee's Official website, run by none other than the best of 'em Roxc. Join Chalee's Fan Club it's really a great group of people! For more info check out www.chaleetennisonfanclub.com
Other Great Chalee Sites
The Official Chalee Tennison Fan Club Website