Interview: Charlene Soraia
Words Cyrus Shahrad
Charlene Soraia tells me there’s a lunar eclipse next weekend. I ask her where.
“In the sky, silly,” she says as she steals one of my crisps. “I wrote a lullaby about it last night. I made up a new word, too: ‘moonwink’. I swear I’m obsessed with the moon.”
That’s Charlene: a lunatic in the literal sense of the word; a space cadet in the figurative sense; and a musician from the moment she first snuck her father’s guitar from behind the sofa, laid the neck over her legs and started picking away at the strings until they snapped. “My dad would ask if I’d been playing with his guitar and I always said, ‘No, it was the cat, I saw her do it with her claws.’ I recently admitted that was a lie.”
Charlene got given her own guitar when she was five, played her first open mic night when she was eight and was a regular on the circuit by the time she was 10. She was 14 – and a convert to the transforming powers of psychedelic drugs – when she wrote ‘Stars Shoot By’, the song, she says, that turned her from a passable pop singer into a proper songwriter. In 2006 she released the ‘Lemonade’ EP, which in its contrasting shades of light and dark set the stage for two very different Charlene Soraias: the girl who likes to pick flowers and run through fields in frilly dresses, and the one who wants to float through the blackest fathoms of space watching planets being born.
“There are two sides to my music,” she says. “There’s the folky, idyllic side that comes out in songs like ‘Daffodils’ and ‘Lemonade’, and there’s the cosmic night time side, songs like ‘Jupiter’ and ‘Postcards From iO’. Although I actually thought Jupiter was the one with rings around it until recently. I also thought Io was the moon made of ice, but apparently that’s Ganymede. I guess ‘Io’ just sounds more like ‘ice’. ‘Ganymede’ sounds like a venereal disease.”
Patrick Moore will sleep easy tonight. Mariah Carey, however, may lie less peacefully on the perfumed pile of money she calls a bed, for the preening diva of dog-bothering octaves has a young contender hot on her heels, and Charlene has a secret weapon when it comes to hitting the high notes.
“I’ve got a little man with a needle who lives in my pocket, and there’s a tiny piano tattooed on my leg. Whenever I want to hit a high note I just give him a prod and he pinpricks the right one. It works every time.”
She also knows where to obtain excellent shrooms. The two facts may be related.