Cherlise Forshee is no stranger to fighting to be heard above others. The songstress comes from a family of 12- she knows how to make people pay attention. In a music industry where another R&B singer drops a track every week, the Carol City, Florida native is making her mark with her Lil’ Wayne-assisted single, “Love You Right.” The club banger is steadily moving upward on radio playlists, it’s omnipresent online and Cherlise is taking full advantage of the spotlight.
Currently working on her as-yet-untitled LP, the singer/songwriter is aware of her objective and is working towards it tirelessly. With her willingness to grind and her ability to speak to what women are really thinking, Cherlise is ensuring her place in the industry, one melody at a time. Pynk had the opportunity to speak to the Division 1 signee about penning tracks, connecting with Wayne, and how she ended up with Fat Joe as a mentor.
How long have you been on Division 1/Universal?
It’s probably a year and a half now.
Was it shocking or surprising to you once Rico Love signed you to the imprint?
It didn’t necessarily surprise me but I’m moreso surprised at the rate of the record moving at the rate it’s been moving, in a sense… The amount of ground covered in such a short period of time.
I know you’ve been writing songs since you were thirteen. Did you pen your debut single “Love You Right”?
I actually didn’t pen that record. I wrote a few that are going on the album, but Rico Love penned that one.
It sounds like you tap into a bit of emotion on that track, a little attitude, as if you wrote it…
Whenever I sing a record period, I try and find some type of connection to it; I don’t sing anything I can’t necessarily relate to. On that song, the beat is so heavy, the bass is so heavy, and the instrumentation on it just… It’s so confident and aggressive, and I think that a lot of times there’s so many different ways you can say only one particular message- that beat just said something to me. I like to attack records in a sexy, sassy, aggressive way so it was right up my alley. It sounded like something I would sing so… Just the drum pattern, the lyrics itself, it all just stood out to me when I heard it for the first time. As soon as I heard it I knew it was my record. Later we realized was the single. The dynamics of the record itself- the hard hitting drums, the lyrics, it was just a straight forward attack, and when you’re a new artist coming out, that’s the impression you wanna leave on people.
How did the Lil’ Wayne feature come about?
I actually cut the record like a year and a half ago. It was a strong record on its own but I know that it was probably my team’s idea with Wayne coming out with his album and the attack of the record itself, we couldn’t think of a better person to add their personal swag to the record without taking away from me being introduced as a brand new artist. Wayne is really good at that, he’s good at making his presence known, and I guess, keeping it moving in a certain respect.
Do you remember how you started writing?
I actually do. [laughs] My songs actually stemmed from my poetry. I’m one of ten kids, so that was the way I was able to purge myself and release so many thoughts and emotions with so much chaos around me. I loved music so I would just freestyle and just sing random songs just because. It started from me just singing in the backyard to my dog, because I was a middle child and I just felt like I was so mistreated and it stemmed from that. My sister invited me to her friend’s studio, and I took one of my poems and put a melody to it. When I heard it play back to me, that was the moment that I realized, this is me all day. I can do this for the rest of my life.
What was your first song about?
It was about stars. [laughs] I was looking up at the stars at the back of my church and I was just singing about how I wanted to be one of the stars. It’s ironic because you know people associate fame with the stars… I’m sure it didn’t have much of a deep meaning to it. At the time, it meant the world to me but it was making reference to the stars in the sky. I was so dramatic.
How did you get your start singing?
I’m a preacher’s kid, so I’d like to think that I started singing in the church but I didn’t really take on that role of having solos in the choir because no one took me that seriously up until I was in the fifth grade. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember though. Walking around the house… It really started in talent shows in school, and once I landed my first solo in elementary school, my mom realized I could sing and from that point I started singing solos in church and everything but I really got my start singing in local talent shows and for anyone who would let me on the stage I would say ‘yes’. It was pretty much me initially, because my mom didn’t recognize my talent at first. Then she jumped on board and had me everywhere.
So when you write, what are you thinking of?
My inspiration is definitely personal things that I go through as a young woman, and things that people close to me are going through. I think that most women have experienced being in love and being hurt or not finding love, or being cheated on, I pull from those experiences.
Do you remember your first love?
My first love? [pauses] I do. I do remember my first love.
Does he have a song?
Absolutely. [laughs] Yes, he does. But it’s not the type of first love song that people probably talk about. It was moreso, not being ready for love if anything, but yes, he definitely has a song.
Does he realize that the song exists?
Um, yeah. I’m pretty sure he knows it’s about him, but I’ve never directly told him that it’s about him. It definitely stems from that experience of being young and being in a situation that was a little more serious than I’d probably wanted at the time. So he probably has a few songs, when I was going through the angry moments for a while.
Okay. So, what does your family think of your blooming career?
I think they go through so many emotions. Like I said, I have nine siblings so you have some who, all my life, they’ve been like, ‘Oh, shut up. You can’t sing.’ You know, the whole typical sibling rivalry. It’s funny because my sister just sent me a text about the Lil’ Wayne track, like, ‘Oh! That’s a hot record, but I don’t care. You still can’t sing!’ Those attacks keep you humble, then I have my younger siblings who are super excited, through the roof. My father’s calling me every five minutes like, ‘What’s going on with the record?’ They’re very, very excited.
What are you calling the album?
The album doesn’t have a title yet and I kind of like it that way because we’re not done working on it yet and I really want the title itself to encompass the direction of the songs. Who knows it might be self-titled.
I thought I heard that you were affiliated with Terror Squad at some point.
I was never affiliated with Terror Squad but they’re family. [Fat] Joe is definitely a mentor of mine. He’s very seasoned in the industry. He’s very knowledgeable of a lot of ‘dos and don’ts’ and to me, I’ve always gravitated towards people who could impart wisdom to me and that’s definitely what he does. He gives me the ins and outs of everything so it’s a humbling experience. I get to know the Joe that most people don’t know. I don’t know the mean-mugging, super hard, tough Joe. I know the teddy bear part of him. He’s really big on guidance and I’m really big on taking instruction so that works smoothly. I actually met Rico through Joe, so nothing but good has come from knowing him.
You guys are from two completely different walks of life… [laughs] How did this match-up even happen?
It is really random actually because I would’ve never thought in a million years growing up seeing him on TV that that would be the person that I would deem as a mentor. My sister models and she was on set at a video shoot or something, so I went there to support her and ended up meeting him in the mix, so it was really… It wasn’t planned by any means but by the time I got there and I met my manager, my manager ended up introducing me to Joe and from that point he kind of took me under his wing and imparted wisdom once he saw that I had talent, you know, Joe is known for discovering talent- he had Big Pun, Ma, DJ Khalid… Joe’s responsible for a lot of what we hear today so when he saw that, he took on that role.
Interview conducted by Nadine Graham