Q & A with Charlie Marie, Burrillville’s own country icon


BURRILLVILLE – Rolling Stone Country recently named, “Heard It Through The Red Wine,” as one of their best new music releases.

Fans say one listen tells you why: Charlie Marie’s voice hits you in the heart and draws you in, but the twist that this Burrillville native gives to her lyrics is anything but traditional.

NRI NOW spoke with the acclaimed artist to find out more about the woman behind the songs.

Who first inspired you to get on a stage?

Jerilyn Sawyer. I knew her in 5th grade. She was the only girl in Burrillville who really sang, and I thought, “that girl’s really cool, I want to be like her.” That’s when I started taking lessons. John Cottone was my vocal coach – he really helped me find my voice. I think that’s important as an artist, figuring out what your voice really is. At my first lesson, John told me I was imitating other people. I was 10 years old and it really freaked me out. I remember going home after that and praying, ”God, I don’t know what just happened, but I’m not singing with my own voice, please help find it.”

Who did you work with when you first started performing?

One local musician I played with a lot growing up was Gerry Beaulieu on acoustic guitar; he actually taught me how to play. Then there was Dick Drake who plays the fiddle, electric guitar, and steel guitar. Hank Walters played piano with me, and Brian Mattias played bass. This was probably around 2005.

How long have you been doing this?

I’ve been doing this for 20 years now. In Nashville, they all say it’s a, “ten year town,” and it’s true: it took me ten years to really create something that I’m proud of. My new album, Ramble On, is the first piece of work that I’m blown away by – it came out better than I expected.

Are these all your own songs?

Yes, I write all of my own music. I’ve co-written some of it, but I’m the writer.

What were your earliest influences?

I had the opportunity growing up to be surrounded by all types of music. My parents didn’t listen to country – my mom was obsessed with Bob Seger, so I know every single one of his songs. My dad used to be a fan of the Eagles. And I remember this video of me as a kid singing the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s song, Under The Bridge.

I focused more on traditional country music. I wanted to create music that made me fall in love with the genre. But I was surrounded by a lot of other stuff. I think that I just took it all in like a sponge and then when I write a song, it just flows out of me.

Do you have a manager?

Right now, I don’t. I’m working with Soundly Music to help put out the record and with REK Room Media for PR, and Angela Backstrom for radio. Brian McKinnon plays electric guitar with me, and together we do a lot of things. I also have a couple of college friends from Nashville who’ve helped me: Amanda Renkel and Ben Klise. It’s kind of like a team, everybody plays their part.

The industry has a way of manipulating artists, especially women, to boost sales. How are you handling that?

I’m going to be completely honest: I’ve been doing this on my own too long to let people tell me what to do. I’m going to do what I want because I worked hard for that. My image is just down to earth and approachable. I don’t want to be put on a pedestal because I’m not better than anyone else. Yes, there’s a part of me that’s Charlie Marie, but that’s who I am when I’m on stage and doing music. That’s not who I am in my life. I’m a regular person – I’m a waitress, and since COVID I’ve been working at Amazon. A lot of my coworkers are twice my age and I don’t know how they do it. They work as hard, and harder than me, and they have families. I’m blown away. It’s very cool hearing all these people’s stories.

Where do you see yourself a year from now?

I’m hoping to be on the road, promoting Ramble On. I want to get out there and start singing again. It seems like I haven’t really been playing in a long time.

Right now, I feel like I need to go on an adventure. I’ve decided I’m going on a road trip out to Utah in April. I’m just gonna go by myself and I feel like it’s going to toughen me up, so I’m really excited about that. After I come back, I may pick up some waitressing gigs, but I want to just get into this and push it into the next sphere. I feel like I’m getting rusty – I don’t want to just sit around.

This business has broken a lot of hearts. What keeps you going?

Even though it sucks sometimes, and sometimes it’s a b****, it makes me feel alive. And I feel like I’m making the world a better place and I’m helping people. That’s what’s most important to me.

Any advice for other women trying to make it in music?

I think the first question that you have to ask yourself is: “Who are you?” Do whatever you’ve gotta do to figure that out, then ask yourself why you want to do music. If it’s for self centered reasons, ask yourself again because if it is, it’s not going to fulfill you. And you’re not going to last.

You seem like someone who will, Charlie. Please – let us know when you play out, we’d love to come hear you.

Will do! It was great talking with you, it really was. You have a nice day!

For more, visit charliemariemusic.com

Ramble on, due for release May 7, can be preordered at https://cmarie.fanlink.to/RO

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