UK folk songstress Charlene Soraia performed at Hotel Café on March 19th as part of her first stint in the States, which included three stops at New York City, SXSW, and Los Angeles. Her first full-length album was released in the UK in November of 2011, but won’t drop in the North America until May 17th. However, Charlene graced the crowd with a preview of some songs from the debut album, Moonchild.
After being completely self-taught, Charlene’s solo musical career began with her hitting the open mic circuit at the age of 8. She was accepted into the BRIT School of Performing Arts despite having the minimum requirement of a GCSE in Music. After playing in a band called Retrospect, Charlene retreated to solo performances and didn’t waste any time releasing three EPs in 2008 (Daffodils and Other Idylls, Postcards from iO, and One of the Sun). The first EP in the series reached the Top 3 on iTunes’ UK Folk Chart and an iTunes Live Sessions EP was released from her festival performance in early 2008.
Charlene has a knack for melding personal defeats into beautifully crafted lyrics, complemented with the sweet twang of her guitar. She was a well-kept secret in the genre of folk before being adopted by a more mainstream audience when her cover of “Wherever You Will Go” by The Calling was used in an advertisement for Twinings Tea in 2011. The cover is featured as a bonus track on Moonchild along with some familiar songs from her previous EPs.
Although Charlene’s recorded melodies contain more instrumentation than her singular guitar, her purely acoustic performance didn’t sound like it was missing anything. This songbird has full control of her vocal range and can manipulate it in such a way that it wouldn’t be surprising if glass broke from the sheer height she reaches. Her voice is a carbon copy of her studio recordings, if not more of an oral treat for the eardrums, and she played various songs from Moonchild including a mix of songs from 2008, like “Bike,” “Lemonade,” “Postcards from iO,” and “Rowing.” Charlene also performed her cover of “Wherever You Will Go” and previewed unheard tracks from the new album, as well as a song she only plays during live shows, titled “Does She Fake Her Cum Face.”
It is clear that the reoccurring theme of her lyrical inspiration is heartbreak – whether it is the bliss beforehand or the devastation of the aftermath. Charlene pours all of her emotions and a mental dialogue of what she’d say to each former lover into her songwriting. Some songs are more polite and share a sense of reverie for the time passed, but others are an underhanded jab at a cheater, coyly cloaked by catchy, acoustic, guitar-driven melodies.
Charlene’s sincere demeanor adds to the honesty of her performance as one can see she opens her entire heart to her music and, in turn, to her listeners. The audience gets an earful of antidotes of awkward conversations with cab drivers, fantasies of older men, and a fascination with the cosmos. Her humbleness is endearing and proves that the person behind the music is a true reflection of the music itself.
The show at the Hollywood venue was her last performance before heading back home to London, but Charlene played as if she’d be returning for another set next week. Hopefully, she will become no stranger to playing State-side.
For more information about Charlene Soraia and Moonchild, visit her website.