Be A Believer in Chalee
I recently got the pleasure of getting to sit down with Chalee Tennison and talk with her about her life, her new record deal, and her upcoming release on DreamWorks Records titled "Parading in the Rain."
Nat: You recently performed with your daughter on the Opry singing "Easy Lovin' You'", a song that reflects your life, and your daughter's life, what was that like for you?
Chalee: Well, I don't know if anyone got the gist of it online like it was there, because if you were listening you noticed that she didn't come in until later. Well what happened while we were there is that I performed "Parading in the Rain" and then I performed that one. When it was about time for her to come in and sing it, she was on the other side of the stage, so I went and got her, she was never on the stage. I went and got her and as soon as we walked out, we were both just shaking, my hands were sweating, her little hand was sweating. So I got her and the audience immediately got it that she was my 16 year old daughter. They immediately got it and just started clapping. We were crying, we were crying, and it was an awesome thing. I don't think she'll get the gist of being on the Opry right now, but when she's older she'll remember that she debuted at 16 years old on the Ryman stage. You know there's a lot of dreams that I have in my music career, but being able to fulfill that for a 16 year old little girl, when I can remember at 16 wanting to do the same thing. That was a major accomplishment for me.
Nat: You've been performing a lot of new songs from "Parading in the Rain" on the Opry. Do you have any idea what the next single might be?
Chalee: Um, I really don't know what the next single will be. I really don't know what it will be, basically now that I'm on DreamWorks, they have a different way of going through songs, it's a community effort, they really want to pick the best song. There are three songs in the running, the three songs that keep coming back are, "Parading in the Rain", "I Am Love", and "Easy Lovin' You." So I can't say for sure which one it will be, but I would venture to say it will be one of those three.
Nat: Those are all awesome songs.
Chalee: Well, thank you.
Nat: On that song, "Parading in the Rain", how do you apply that song to your life? The first verse of the song automatically made me say, that's Chalee, because you never give up no matter what happens.
Chalee: Well, you know Natalie, you've gotten my albums. You know that every song on my albums is me, and I'm not going to change that ever. So, you're definitely right "Parading in the Rain" is me. You know "it's not raining on my parade, I'm parading in the rain", there all kinds of lyrics in that song,"I'm not going to look back, I'm not dwelling on the past","I know the right ones out there", of course I found the right one, and "my hope is my umbrella." You know it's like I'm just not going to give up. Those that know me know I'm not going to go away any day soon. As long as I can sing a song that makes it so others might get that and they believe it because I believe it. Then that's the kind of music I'm going to be doing forever. So, that's why I picked that song, not to mention James (James Stroud, President of DreamWorks Nashville and her producer) thought he could make a great record, and he did.
Nat: That's definitely one of my favorite songs on the album, that one and "Believe" and I know it will be for a lot of people.
Chalee: Well thank you.
Nat: Where did you get the idea to write that one?
Chalee: "Believe", Kelly Garrett and I just sat down one day and I said, "You know I just want to write a really up-tempo song." He actually came in with the idea. It just naturally came out, you know, and he had a lot to do with it. As soon as he started singing it, I said "Oh yeah." "Every fight uphill is worth it, every tear drop serves a purpose" and that's my life. Melodically I wanted to do something a little different with the falsettos.
Nat: When I heard it, I immediately thought, Chalee co wrote this. It was very different from what you had done on albums in the past.
Chalee: I wanted to put some real positive stuff on this album, that's why.
Nat: It really worked for you.
Chalee: You know I have sad stuff on there too, but I'm not really a sad, bitter person. I'm a really happy person. I get sad over losing battles, but I'm still going to fight.
Nat: Why did you decided to record "I Am Pretty?"
Chalee: My life.
Nat: I had a feeling.
Chalee: My life.
Chalee: "I Am Pretty" was played to me, I mean you know as a singer/songwriter you go around and you're getting songs for your album, you have to listen to thousands or songs and hundreds of songs, well maybe thousands. I was at EMI Publishing Company and one of the players there, he said after two or three times we had visited, he goes "Chalee this one is you." After listening to everything I had to say, telling him why certain songs did work for me and certain songs didn't, he played it and I said "Give me that CD right now." (Pauses) That song is going to affect me for the rest of my life. It's going to affect a lot of people for the rest of their lives, because it's validation. You know, it's major validation; it's getting out of a rut. (It) looking in the mirror like my first single, "Someone Else's Turn To Cry", and finally realizing, you know I just don't have to treat myself like I'm second. I watched it happen to my Mom and I was a victim of it myself. Being the honest person I am, I had to make sure I cut a song that really told people what I was about. (And) that's country music, back in the Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, and Patsy Cline days. I try to say it without saying names.
Nat: That's the safe way to do it. (We laugh) You can't mess up there.
Nat: What kind of response have you been getting from the fans that have heard "I Am Pretty?"
Chalee: Tears. Believe it or not the very first time I performed that song live was at the Wildhorse Saloon here in Nashville and DreamWorks was there. It was a very nerve racking night, and Emerson Drive, I opened up for them. Nobody had heard the song and one of my friends is a cancer survivor came out. First time she's not worn her wig, her hair was growing out, and I said "You know what I just want to send this out to you." She came to the Wildhorse that night with her sisters and husband and didn't wear her wig, for me, first time she'd ever done it. I'm getting chill bumps now, I just said "You know what you are beautiful, you look beautiful, and I'm going to send this song out to you." That moment it had a different moment, but as soon as I said "I Am Pretty", they just applauded. Scott Borchetta was out there in the middle of the floor, and he said "It's amazing how they reacted to that song and they'd never heard it before." That makes me happy that I could do that I can do that real honest stuff, and people still want to hear it. It's not all popcorn and cotton candy.
Nat: Yeah, that's one thing we don't get on your albums, we get real songs.
Chalee: Exactly, that's right.
Nat: When you came to Nashville, you had your record deal, how have your career goals changed since then and now that you are with DreamWorks?
Chalee: Career goals have not changed, I don't have career goals really, I have lifetime goals that affect my children. When you move from Texas to Nashville as a single mom with three kids, you have to make sure that what you do for a living shows them that they can achieve anything in their life that they want to achieve. You can. You can just tell them: "Look, your momma moved from Texas to Nashville and she had a dream, and she pursued it, and she didn't give up." So what I'm showing my kids is that they can be the President, they can be Mozart, they can be whatever they want to be. That is my goal to rub off on them so much that they can understand that they can be anything they want to be, because platinum records don't change lives, songs do. A platinum record for me, yeah I'd be lying if I didn't want one of those hanging on my wall, but the songs I sing have touched people's lives. Even though people might not know who Chalee Tennison is, I know that the ones that do know are affected by what I wanted them to be affected by.
Nat: Definitely, you have touched a lot of hearts with your music.
Nat: What do you want the fans to get out of this album, what do you think its message is compared to your other two albums?
Chalee: I don't think it's going to be a different message. The people that really pay attention to me and know my music and know the kind of person I am, as soon as they hear this album, they are going to say, "That's our Chalee, that's her." Because listening to an album and not knowing the artist, maybe on the albums before, on the first album you heard some bitterness and some really sad, sad, stuff. On the second one you heard some healing and some getting better, and a better attitude. Now you'll hear, you know I'm 13 months married, kids are happy, you are going to hear my life. What I want to make sure that is with every album and every song that I sing, that they are seeing that I'm growing, I'm changing, my moods are up and down, and I'm going to be honest, and you are going to get to hear where I am at that stage in my life. That's what is supposed to happen, isn't it?
Nat: Yes, Definitely!
Chalee: I think. (laughing)
Nat: If you had to pick one song from "Parading in the Rain" that most fits you, which one would it be?
Chalee: Most fits me, besides "Easy Lovin' You", (laughing), "The Mind of This Woman." Dean Dillon and I wrote that song and basically that day I was just so scatter brained. I said Dean, "I know I can do it all; it's just today I'm having a bad day. How do you make your brain function in 50 different ways at one time, I'm just everywhere, in one second, I'm everywhere." I think that probably fits what Chalee Tennison does, I'm here, I'm there, I'm sad, I'm happy. So I think that probably fits me better than anything on there. (But)"I Am Love" was written about Mark so I'm there. "Parading in the Rain" is a song I cut because of where I am in my life, so I'm there. "The Mind of This Woman" of course, "I Am Pretty",lived it. "Easy Lovin' You", lived it, so everything on there describes some part of me. "Cheater's Road" is just a real bluesy kind of (song), it's third person, she said, not I said, it's just a really bluesy kind of song that is my roots, it's my roots. "Believe" lived it, living it. "Peace", just absolutely want to change the world, and make people see, that they can change.
Nat: When I first heard it, I thought it was kind of different, it was written by Leslie Satcher, and I had heard her stuff before. At the end of it when you said, "and whisper, peace." It just blew me away.
Chalee: Aww, It was written before September 11, so it was really an odd thing, and I cut it before then too. So it was a really odd thing that it came out like that.
Nat: I did notice you had more up-tempo songs on this album "Parading in the Rain" than on your previous two.
Chalee: Yeah, I tried really hard to get more up-tempo on this one. I still have some slow ones, I love ballads.
Nat: Yeah me too, you perform ballads very well, and you have some great ones on "Parading in the Rain."
Nat: What was it like working with James Stroud? How was it different than with your two previous CD's?
Chalee: If I had not hired James (President of DreamWorks) for my third album, which was originally supposed to be on Warner Brothers, I would not be on DreamWorks right now, I mean I would absolutely not be on DreamWorks. James Stroud was hired just as my producer for Warner Brothers to produce my third album. I have been a fan of James' for years and the feelings been mutual, I don't say that to be bragging, it's just that we have said that to each other. I asked him on the second album but he couldn't do it, just technicalities or whatever. We bonded so well in that studio I became just like, "Oh my gosh." You just don't understand this man is so talented. To this day, I don't think I'll ever have anybody else produce me. He understands me. If I'm sad, he's sad, if I'm happy, he's happy and the music he creates around what I do has been by far the best combination for me. It felt good. It was fun, it's always fun for me, but it's just beyond an experience I've had before, it was just great.
Nat: Who would you love to write with, you have a Carolyn Dawn Johnson co write on this CD. Do you have anybody that you would just love to write with?
Chalee: I have written with Gary Burr before, we don't get to cut all the songs we write. I have written with Bob Dipiero, I've written with Dean Dillon, Chris Waters, Rick Bowles, Kim Williams, the list goes on and on and on. Also Ron Harbin, Aaron Barker, Dale Dodson, and Billy Lawson. I feel extremely, extremely, blessed. Dean Dillon is my all time and I've written with him. I've written with Leslie Satcher too. So there's not anybody right now that I haven't fulfilled that particular need for. My favorite writer/co writer, besides Dean Dillon, is Jim Robinson. I've written with Jim, I haven't written with him in a while, and I just want to write with him again. That was "Someone Else's Turn To Cry", "This Woman's Heart", and the bond that we have as co writers, we just have to keep doing. Sometimes you can really respect somebody's writing a lot and then you get together it just doesn't work. My favorite songwriters are going to be so much different than someone else's. My all time favorite songwriter is Jimmy Webb, but you know that's not ever going to happen.(Laughs) So Dean Dillon is one of my favorites.
Nat: Your fans are very important to you, I know that, what do you think one thing they might tell people about your music that describes you? How do you think your music has affected them for them to go tell others about it? How do you think they would describe it?
Chalee: When Michelle's baby, Parker (was born), she's one of the very first people that touched my heart as a fan, because she was the "Someone Else's Turn to Cry" story, where she's depressed. It helped her get out of that and now she's just as happy as can be. Through the four and a half years we have kept up with her, and everyone one of you, I've known all of you for a long time. One word that has been described with what my fans feel is, real, just a simple word, just real. I'm 33 years old, I'm not 23, I've lived a lot. I've got 16, 11, and 7 kids you know, year old I mean, not that many. (Laughs) Honesty, no holds bar, open book, black and white, tells it like it is. Don't you agree, I mean I think the one thing I want to make sure that comes across is no time ever does someone ever go,"No that's not you, that's not you." I want them to go, "Yep, if you know her, that's her." You know I think that's important don't you?
Nat: Yes, very much so.
Chalee: That's why I listen to country music, when I was growing up.
Nat: When someone's actually telling what happened to them, it's real, you can relate to it.
Chalee: Yeah, yeah, you know I used to say I didn't live in a fantasy world, but then I met my Prince Charming.
Nat: Thank you very much Chalee.
Chalee: Well thank you. I appreciate it.