04 Feb The Story of Charlie Mae
I’ve never been sure why he named me Charlie. In fact, I’m not sure if there is any rhyme or reason to the selection at all, but as far back as I can remember, my grandfather has always called me ‘his Charlie”. I was ‘his Charlie’, and he was ‘my Papaw’. He and I were very close. He was always secretly my favorite grandpa, because, even from an early age, he took a great interest in being an active part of my life, and he strived to show me all the fun things that life has to offer. We had inside jokes, we had games that only us two knew how to play, and we had our “Papaw & Charlie ‘Dates’”.
For one such outing, my Papaw took me to see my first Broadway musical at Fair Park, in Dallas, ‘Annie’. This was when I was around 7, or so, and I simply remember being completely entranced by the spectacle. These people sang and danced, just as I loved to do, and they got to do it for their job! During the first half of the show I was enamored with the notion that I could do that for a living! It was during the intermission that I, then, made, perhaps, the most life defining decision I would ever make: I turned to my beloved Papaw, pointed up on stage, and said, “I’m going to do that!”.
When I look back on my childhood, this moment has always stuck in my mind as the precise moment that I knew in my gut that my goal would be performing on stage. From that moment on I devoted my life to the arts, and making my ultimate goal come true.
While ‘Annie’ was the first professional production that I saw, music was not at all foreign in my household. My father, a PhD mathematician and classically trained pianist, was very often performing with various groups/bands at our church or other local venues, and my mother, though she never felt the call to hone the skill, still to this day has a strong mezzo voice. Therefore, regardless of when I witnessed my first show, I was, arguably, destined for the stage from birth. My mother will even swear that I have been singing since before I could even hold memories. She recounts a particular night, when I was only a few months old, where she was singing her song for me, “You are My Sunshine”, as she did every night, to lull me to sleep. As she sang she realized that my coo’s were matching her pitch. I wasn’t simply making fussy noises, I was singing along with her.
I joined my elementary school’s choir in the fourth grade, which was the youngest you could participate, and by the time I was 10, I was studying with a Senior Vocal Performance student from the University of North Texas, and dreaming of one day making a living as a classical opera singer. Besides having passion and drive for music, I was also very naturally talented from the start. By the age of 6, I could hear that my voice was very different sounding than others. I already had a fully developed vibrato, and, by the time I began training with my first teacher, my range extended above a C6, two full octaves above ‘middle C’. The first piece that I mastered was “Angel of Music”, from “The Phantom of the Opera”.
I seemed to perform well at any competition that I participated in, and the technical aspects of performing in a choir entranced me. The summer before my freshman year in highschool, my vocal coach even encouraged me to audition to perform with her, and the rest of the University of North Texas vocal performance students, in the UNT Summer Opera Workshop, under the direction of Dr. Stephen Dubberly. My first stage show was “Cindrillion”, the French version of Cinderella, in which I sang in the chorus, and as one of the Fairy Godmother’s fairies. I felt like I was so close to reaching my goal! Though the stage was not in New York, or on Broadway, I was still performing on stage, and that’s what mattered. All the while, the memory of that first show, with my Papaw, spun around in my head. In my mind, even though I grew up in a very musical family, I credited my grandfather with sparking the flame that had been, and continues to be, my ultimate passion. In an effort to show my utmost gratitude, I had the idea that, once it was time to take “the plunge” into professional show business, I would go by ‘Charlie’.
Luckily, the high school I attended placed a heavy priority on the arts, so I received fantastic coaching, and, by the time I graduated, I had performed in three musicals, one being “Les Miserables”, where I played the role of Cosette, and had performed as a credited character in a second UNT opera. I was even able to, not only, sing with the, highly regarded, Texas All-State Mixed Choir, but I was selected to sing the premier soprano solo in front of the entire choir, my senior year.
I continued to study through college, graduating with a degree focusing on vocal performance, but it wasn’t until years later, that I finally decided to begin recording my own professional quality covers. The pressure of constant training, studying, and performing, combined with my own obsessive need to achieve perfection, had finally started to wear at my passion during the latter years of earning my Bachelor’s degree, so I knew that if I was going to embark on creating a career out of music, I’d have to do it on my terms; my way. I had spent a total of 13 years completely immersed in the world of classical music, which is defined by specific laws and rules that one must adhere to in order to be performing “correctly”. I had been striving for a thoroughly unrealistic degree of perfection, and it had certainly taken it’s toll on my degree of motivation and passion. As much as I believed in a voice’s ability to communicate emotion and story, there was a particular way to do it, and if one performed a different way, it simply wasn’t “classically correct”. With that being said, I was very aware that, if I were to make this happen, I needed to feel in control of my path, and I needed to be able to enjoy my music just as much as other’s did. Otherwise, I knew in my gut that I would begin to resent the activity that once brought me such joy. In late 2016, I finally gained the courage to create a musician page on Facebook, and Charlie Mae was, after nearly 26 years of preparation, was born.
Nowdays, Charlie Mae Music operates on a biweekly clock. The clock starts in the booth as I spend, usually, a couple hours in my home studio, capturing a multitude of takes of the particular song I’ve been practicing. However, I am happy to say that the only reason that I end up recording so much is because I truly have fun doing it, not because I feel that I need that many takes of a song. I, actually, usually end up only utilizing the last two, maybe three, performances of a piece in the final cut. In fact, I really try to stick to one take, as opposed to cutting and pasting from multiple tracks, if I can, as it is my personal belief that if I can’t sing the song to my satisfaction all at once, I should not be singing the song. With that being said, the first five to ten takes are usually disregarded as ‘practice takes’. Once I’ve leveled, edited, and mixed the full track down, I cut the trailer track, as well as a clip of the full track, meant to post on Instagram, and I get to work creating the accompanying music video. I utilize Wondershare’s Filmora video software to make all of my videos. From there, I release the trailer on Facebook and Instagram, and, around a week later, I release the full track via Facebook, and the full track clip via Instagram. The entire process has never taken me longer than two weeks, and following the full track release, I immediately start again from the beginning with a new song.
I’m very proud to say that my passion for music has continued to grow through the creation of Charlie Mae, and I have even cultivated a small, loyal following on both Facebook and Instagram. Currently, I have almost 500 Likes on the Charlie Mae Facebook page, and an even more impressive Instagram following of just under 10,000. Charlie Mae Music has even motivated me to compete in local and national vocal competitions! I competed in the Karaoke World Championships at the National level in August of 2018, performing under my alias! I qualified for Nationals in Dallas, Tx, and spent a wonderful week in Las Vegas for the National competition. Unfortunately, the stark contrast in altitude between Dallas and Las Vegas, led to a very annoying case of Laryngitis, which decimated my upper ‘head voice’ register, as well as my lowest ‘chest voice’ register, but I am still pleased to say that I was ranked as being in the 25 top female voices in the country! Feeling as horrible I did, I am very satisfied wtih that ranking. And, even better, I know that if I compete again, I can and will perform even better, if I can ensure that I stay well.
My future goals include the fruition of completing my first original piece, and, eventually,full original album. While I’m very comfortable with composing my own original backing vocals for a cover, my perfectionism has kept me from being satisfied yet, so those are still in the works, being perfected, though the wait for my first original looks to be short. Be sure to visit and follow the Charlie Mae Music Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/charliemaemusic, to stay up to date on trailer releases, full track releases, videos from live performances around Dallas, and other Charlie Mae news! You can also find clips of live performances, photos, trailers, and clips of full tracks on Instagram at @the.real.charlie.mae, so please follow me there as well!
I am also very happy to share that I will be returning to school in January of 2019 to pursue a certificate endorsing my caliber as a live performer, and audio engineer. I’m utilizing this coming semester to slowly re-acclimate to academic life by taking one class: Audio Engineering I. I am very much hoping that in gaining understanding of the physics of sound, and learning how to manipulate it, I will grow even more well rounded in my mastery of music.
To summarize all of this: My name is Chelsea Coleson, and I’m Charlie Mae.
Charlie had always been the ultimate pinnacle of my musical success, in my mind, and her ‘birth’ was the greatest thing to happen to my passion and motivation. Because of her, I now have a vision of my path in music, I am proud of my work, confident in my abilities, and, all I can really say is:
Thank you, Papaw.
Story By: Chelsea Coleson AKA Charlie Mae
Photographers: Clint Chastain, Barry Jackson, Bob Brooks, and