For Kay Hanley, former lead singer of rock band Letters To Cleo, the upcoming release of her solo debut still comes as a shock. Due Aug. 13 on Rounder’s pop imprint Zoe Records, “Cherry Marmalade” was so spontaneous in its creation that a finished product seems a bit unreal to the artist.
Rounding up a group of friends/musicians from Boston, Hanley’s original intention was simply a casual experimentation of the songs she had written. “We’d just hang out, drink beers, and play the music,” she says. “Then it got to the point where we were like, ‘This is stupid. We should be recording this stuff.'”
All of the tracks on the album are written by Hanley, with husband and ex-Cleo guitarist Michael Eisenstein serving as co-writer for the haunting “Chady Saves the Day” and “Princely Ghetto,” a lilting melody accompanied by a narrative drum beat. “This Dreadful Life,” a contemplative autobiography of Hanley’s experience with Letters To Cleo, is the targeted single.
After the friendly dissolution of Letters To Cleo following the group’s 1998 release “Sister” (Wicked Disc), Hanley recorded as the voice of “Josie” for the power pop soundtrack to “Josie and the Pussycats” (Play-Tone/Epic), a collaborative project with producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds that gave her a newfound confidence in her singing.
“After about 12 years of being in a band and thinking of myself in a certain way,” she says, “it was kind of an epiphany to hear from someone like him that I had a lovely voice and that I could do things I didn’t think I was capable of.”
Though Hanley has experienced success in her musical career — Letters To Cleo’s 1993 “Aurora Gory Alice” (Giant) sold more than 185,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, while “Josie and the Pussycats” sold more than 500,000 — her taste of it so far has been either as part of a group or as a fictitious character.
Hanley’s tour will begin in mid-September, prior to which she will showcase “Cherry Marmalade” on the set’s release date during an in-store appearance at the Boston-based Newbury Comics in Government Square.
Excerpted from the Aug. 10, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.
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