Chicks Chat with……
Cherri Voncelle singer songwriter started out as a backing vocalist with Jessie J. She is one half of ‘Dora Martin’ and an incredible solo artist with a voice like honey…. London born Cherri has been dubbed the British female NeYo with several albums under her belt including “Good Morning Madame Rouge” and “Shades of Red”. She has also collaborated with various artists on different genres making her truly a creative force to be reckoned with. We at Those London Chicks are so pleased Cherri has taken the time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her musical journey, inspirations and her new single ‘Girl in the Mirror’.
Have you always known you wanted to be a singer growing up, what were your first steps into pursuing that dream….( vocal training etc )?
My mum says I’ve wanted to be a singer from a young age … She said I wrote her a letter at the age of five lol… My mum, a gospel vocalist, was my first inspiration. I believe as most young girls do, I wanted to follow in her footsteps. I began singing in a church youth choir at around 8 years old and started having vocal lessons at BRIT school aged 14.
At what point did you start writing and what was your first song?
I’d have piano lessons from my aunt at a young age, and when the room was free I’d play around on the keys and attempt to freestyle a few lines… My mum took me to my first studio session at age 13 and the first song I remember completing was a song called “Do You Know” (cringe) it was basically about having a crush on someone and being mature, although young, melodic, painfully obsessed with this boy etc a bit of a mess really! Lol… I performed it once at a local event! Wow what a memory! LoL
Who are your musical inspirations?
I was obsessed with Whitney Houston at a young age and up until now one of my favourite vocalist’s are U.S RnB artist Brandy …. I felt like I could relate to Brandy so much. Because she launched as a young teen and with her own U.S sitcom was classed as credible singer/actress, I was always inspired by her youth and multi talents..
We all know the music industry is a tough business to break into. What was your journey from singing for fun to singing professionally?
I spent a lot of my late teens as a professional dancer, touring with a Channel 4 music series titled ‘Flava’ and dancing for Ms Dynamite.. I was torn between singing and dancing but soon realised I couldn’t pursue both… When I signed my first record deal as part of a girl group, that was the beginning of the professional journey. Before then it was singing in the church choir, sporadic studio sessions and local shows. So my first record deal made it official.
You have sang backing vocals for some incredible artists ( including Jessie J) and travelled internationally on tour. Were there any valuable lessons you learnt from your experience as a backing vocalist, if so what ?
Being a backing vocalist stretched me vocally and disciplined me quite a bit. It was a great experience and gave me an insight to success at a high level. It also showed me future possibilities when you work hard at your craft. Jessie is insanely talented one of my fa vocalists and it was great to tour with a friend and witness first hand her rise to success. I’m so happy for her and feel she deserves all the accolade’s and much more!
In 2012 you partnered with Jermaine Riley also a singer songwriter to form the very successful musical duo “Dora Martin” how did that come about?
We decided to do a joint project while I was out on the road with Jessie. We would often write together via skype/voice notes and email frequently …. We had both released EP/Mixtape’s and collaborated over the years so we thought why not do a whole project together? initially it was supposed to be presented as ‘The Cherri V & Jermaine Riley Mixtape’ but what happened after that was very organic and lead to a separate entity being ‘Dora Martin’
How did you come up with the name and what is the significance?
At the time of conception, I was touring the world with Jess and the “Dora the Explorer” joke started. Ive always described Jermaine as a dream chaser with such tenacity and I’ve always admired that about him.. Which lead to the martin Luther King speech “I have a dream”. We decided we wanted our name to sound like one person and a brand so we tied the two together and came up with “Dora Martin”
“Dora Martin” supported singer Brandy on tour, how was that?
Brandy is a HUGE influence for both of us so being asked to be an opening act on the U.K leg of her tour was an amazing opportunity especially as it was our FIRST EVER ‘Dora Martin’ gig! We were NERVOUS and excited… we were able to meet her and talk to her about how much she has influenced us… she was so lovely! So refreshing to meet personality that matches talent.
“Coalition” is the aptly named debut EP from ‘Dora Martin’. It’s brilliant! What’s the format for your writing, do you have specific roles in the creative process such as music for one and lyrics for another…. how does it work?
We have a very natural song-writing process… we play an instrumental (If we have one) and just jam literally! We record all our melody ideas, pick the one we feel the most then add lyrics. Skyline was created from scratch with Truth and Cito so that was a little different but an amazing experience…. We also had the privilege of working with J Warner on “Love insaniac” also and he’s a great song-writer! We’d describe our song-writing process and very natural and organic, and we are both very hands on when it comes to lyrics and melody.
Now to your solo stuff, you’ve worked solo for some time now, were you initially nervous to make the leap?
SUPER nervous LOL its been a while since I’ve released solo material…. What songs? What tempo? What artwork? What image? LOL I realised I was very fearful and its been a journey for me. I had to remember why I’m doing it, speak my truth and get ON! My EP is titled “Athzagoraphobia” Which means the fear of being forgotten and that speaks volumes to me on many different levels.
You’ve just released the first single Girl in the Mirror from your forthcoming EP…the message in the song about self image and body confidence is one that we at Those London Chicks strive to highlight. What inspired you to write it?
Girl In the mirror is quite simply a letter to myself… I’ve struggled and still struggle at times with societies perception of beauty AND the industries perception of what a ‘Star’ is and what a ‘Star’ looks like! It’s a constant battle of self acceptance with social media etc also. So it was me reassuring myself that I’m good enough and I matter.
What else can we expect from your forthcoming solo EP?
My truth, my melodies, my way ha! Its just an expression of me, pushing myself vocally and doing what I LOVE. Making music. I realised a while ago that people resonate with songs Ive written from the heart.. when I wear my heart on my sleeve I word things differently and speak into the heart of who is listening. I believe this EP will be no different.
We couldn’t have this chat without asking about your style. You always appear to be fearless with a strong sense of self and of course your trademark red hair…Was that always the case or has your confidence grown over time?
My confidence has grown over time. I don’t think I’m a fashionista but the pressure to be in this day and age is very apparent. I do like a little sexy in moderation and I’m an advocate for dressing your size well. I’ve learnt how to be casual and comfortable, I Used to wear heels EVERYDAY and that was my definition of sexy and effort lol my perception on that has changed now. My red hair trademark is something that has never left me lol when i rock a different style minus the red everyone tells me off lol I guess its a good thing.
Slightly random question Cherri, you are such a busy bee what do you do relax?
I love bowling, netflix and snuggling with my husband when he’s not on tour LOL
Finally, what advice would you give to a singer songwriter hoping to break into the business?
The Internet is your biggest tool.Don’t follow the microwave trend, practice/hone your craft and focus on being GREAT!
Thank you so much Cherri
Take a look at the brilliant video for ‘Girl in the Mirror’