Cherie Martorana – The Luckiest Girl in the World
For those who are active in the NYC music scene, one may have come across Cherie Martorana either on Monday nights at Arlene’s Rock’n'roll karaoke decked in fun risqué costumes as the “Bible babe” or in her 80s retro get up at the Canal Room with her cover band Rubix Cube. It may seem that this local rocker chick has been doing this for decades, but Cherie just started her professional music career. She has accomplished and experienced more than most local professional musicians her age. The saying holds true that, “It’s never too late to become the person you dream of being.”
Cherie’s music career started like most, being involved in the school chorus and theater productions. In her 20s, she moved to San Francisco from her native Massachusetts where she occasionally sang backup for a friend’s band. Ten years later and no longer being involved in music at the time, Cherie packed her bags and moved to New York City. Being the new girl in town looking for a place to call her own, she stepped into the legendary Arlene’s Grocery.
“I started to go to Rock N Roll karaoke at Arlene’s with a live rock karaoke band. I would sign up to sing and rock out like everybody does there and they had this tight band and you had your pick of hundreds of songs,” she explained.
Cherie’s face became more familiar at the local venue and soon enough she was a regular. But it was her personality and stage presence that caught the attention of Arlene’s karaoke band. Enjoying her talent, the band asked her to join as a backup singer.
“They liked having a female element and I’m a people person, so I get along with the crowd. I really truly enjoyed it,” she said. Cherie has been with them for almost four years.
Little did she know that her small gig at Arlene’s would open the door for more opportunities. With the suggestion of her fellow karaoke band mate Eric Presti, Cherie was recommended to try out for an 80s cover band that had a residency at the Canal Room.
“The female lead singer had gotten pregnant and needed to be replaced. He said I should come audition. I wasn’t sure because I wasn’t really a lead, I was more of a backup singer,” said Cherie. “But I tried out and they really liked me. Not only did I fill in during the pregnancy, they asked me to stay on and I’ve been their female lead singer for three years.”
But it was crossing paths with famous musician Moby that would move Cherie’s career into the fast lane. She described her involvement with Moby and his blues rock band, The Little Death NYC as “The big one that just fell in her lap.”
“Moby lives on the Lower East Side and every now and then he’d come to Arlene’s, jump on stage and do karaoke with us. He’d bring his other members of The Little Death. They were putting the band together and they had an amazing lead singer named Laura Dawn and the whole cool part of this band besides that it was all original music and that it was rock and blues influenced, was that they wanted three part harmonies. So in addition to Laura, they wanted two back up singers.”
Moby and the band had seen Cherie numerous times performing at Arlene’s and they asked her to audition for one of the parts. She was selected the night of the try out.
“They had one small request and asked ‘Could you learn all 11 songs and your parts in the next four days because we want to take you on a gig with us this Friday in Los Angeles.’”
And with that Cherie accepted, glued her iPod to her head for four days, and was off L.A. that Friday.
Through The Little Death NYC, Cherie was able to rub elbows with some of the elite in the music industry. At a performance at the SXSW Music Festival, she got the chance to perform backup for Lou Reed when he and Moby performed “Take a Walk on the Wild Side”.
“It was amazing singing five feet away from a music legend and pioneer in the music world,” said Cherie.
It didn’t stop there for the ambitious singer. In April of 2009, The Little Death NYC was asked to perform at the David Lynch Foundation benefit “Change Begins Within”, to support and raise awareness for Transcendental Meditation. The concert was held at Radio City Music Hall and included performances and appearances by Ben Harper, Sheryl Crow, Howard Stern, and Jerry Seinfeld to name a few. Originally there to sing backup for Moby, Cherie and the other Death Threats (a name lovingly given to the backup singers of The Little Death) sang back up for the other performers in the line up as well. To top it all off, headlining were the remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
“Not only did we get to meet them but we got to stand in the wings ten feet away as they reunited on stage and sang together. It was unbelievable! The whole night I was thinking ‘How did I get here?’ After we had rehearsal the day of the show, Paul McCartney came over to us and said ‘You girls sound fantastic.’ That’s exactly what he said to us and I remember saying ‘Oh thanks so much Paul.’, and he walked away and I couldn’t believe I just talked to Paul McCartney,” she said unable to hide the excitement in her voice as she recalled that memorable day.
“We get to meet a lot of great artists in this world but at the end of the day, they’re all people. I don’t get star struck too often but he’s one of two living Beatles. There’s no one of that caliber really walking the planet now a days.”
So after doing all that, where’s a girl to go from there? With Cherie and her talent, the only way is up. Cherie is slowly working and tinkering her way into a solo career, collaborating with local musicians of the city and writing songs here and there. It’s next on her horizon but she is in no rush. As for the local rock scene, Cherie is the head cheerleader for local bands and has nothing but hope for them.
“As far as the music scene, it’s definitely not what it used to be but I’m lucky enough to be involved with groups who are trying to bring it back so to speak. I was and still work very closely with a band called ZO2 and they had a monthly show called The Rock Asylum. It was a showcase held once a month featuring originals bands and they’d get together and play,” she said.
“I feel that in New York City, you can find things like the Rock Asylum or another showcase called Gotham Rocks which is very similar. Its re-introducing rock music where people actually play an instrument and have good singers. I don’t find that in a lot of cities. I go to Boston a lot; I still go to San Francisco. I think one of the greatest things about NYC is the music scene. It’s not as good as it used to be but they haven’t given up, they’re still trying to bring it back.”
Cherie is also a huge supporter of females making their mark on the male dominated scene.
“It is hard. Definitely male dominated. But I’ve got to say overall there’s a lot of hope. I think the guys out there are realizing more and more women are more than just sex objects and hot little numbers to decorate their stage and that we actually bring a lot to the table and help bring a lot of success to their band. We actually know what we’re talking about and that we’re smart. I think that the guys, especially in New York have evolved. I know it’s a lot tougher in other cities. I know for a fact that in Boston, it’s not like that. I’m lucky enough that I’m in a city where the guys are progressing pretty well. There’s hope. I see more and more women who are strong, smart, powerful and talented women like Queen V and Collette from Edible Red. Doing karaoke, I have to say more and more girls are rocking out. I love it! I always say there’s only one thing I love more than a guy rocking out and it’s another sister on stage.