Cherie Currie & Brie Darling
Female Rock Trailblazers Cherie Currie and Brie Darling Team Up
Not too many musicians earn iconic status in their own right, but then also get to create music with one of the legends who inspired them – but that’s exactly what’s happened with Cherie Currie. She became famous while still a teenager in the 1970s as the lead singer for the iconic all-female rock group The Runaways, and now she’s recently released The Motivator, an album that she recorded with Brie Darling, who was a drummer/vocalist for Fanny, the trailblazing all-female band that The Runaways often cited as a key influence.
“We have been through very similar circumstances, coming from all-girl bands in the very beginning, and the trials and tribulations of that,” Currie says, when she and Darling call from their homes in California. “So it was just a really neat concept, to be able to do it right this time. To actually have each other’s back, and know that we can persevere no matter what.” Darling agrees: “Cherie is so supportive. She constantly gives you room to be who you are. This is my first experience where someone gives it to you. It’s just different. It makes it fun, it makes it exciting, it’s room to grow instead of having to grab what you need. It’s a giving situation. I’m enjoying myself instead of trying to find where I belong.”
Their partnership began in 2017, when Darling was recording an album with other former Fanny members (they’d renamed themselves Fanny Walked the Earth). It was suggested that other singers from all-female bands should be brought in to participate on the project. When Currie recorded her part, Darling was instantly taken with her powerful style. “Cherie came into the studio, and I was blown away by her because she’s just so amazing.”
After that project, Currie and Darling stayed in touch, which was easy to do because they both live in L.A. “She invited me to play at the St. Jude Children’s benefit with her, playing drums and singing with her on “Cherry Bomb” [The Runaways’ biggest hit]. So it was just a natural turn of events,” Darling says. It wasn’t long before talk turned to joining up as an official duo for a recording project.
The resulting album is a collection of three original compositions and nine cover songs. “The Motivator” title track is a T. Rex song from 1971; other covers include The Rolling Stones (“Gimme Shelter”), The Hollies (“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”), and The Kinks (“Do It Again”). They share vocals, with each one sometimes taking on a particular track, but more often sharing songs and taking turns on lines. Regardless of who’s singing, all of these songs, even the ballads, display a certain swagger.
Both Currie and Darling exude pride and excitement as they talk about their partnership. “This time, we get to be ourselves. We don’t have to be what someone else demands us to be – we get to be who we are, with complete support and love,” Currie says. “It was the easiest project I’ve ever done. We didn’t have one moment of meltdown in that studio. Not one moment of any kind of back and forth issues, which do happen far too often when you’re in a studio with a partner or in a band. That just did not exist, and that was a miracle for me. Brie and I both know that ego destroys everything, that’s the big destroyer. We’re at a place now where we lift each other up, we don’t drag each other down. That’s our job. That’s what we do together, in any situation. We’re there for each other.”
Darling agrees that there was no competition between them, only support: “I don’t want to be the boss of everything. I’m a band guy. I like to be in a situation where everybody gets to participate. I don’t want to run the show, I want to run the show with somebody. I like a partnership, but it’s hard to find, and I feel so fortunate to be in this situation today.”
They are especially effusive when it comes to praising each other’s vocal abilities on the album. In particular, Currie points out how special it is to have Darling doing a lot of lead vocals, instead of being primarily a drummer like she’s been in the past. “I was just so taken by Brie’s voice. I literally was stunned,” Currie says. “Honestly, stunned. I just sat back and went, ‘Holy cow! To see her really come into her own as a lead singer has just been a joy for me. It’s funny – sometimes I can’t tell who’s singing what, and then there’s other times when we really have very different voices. She’s extremely soulful and is able to do stuff that I’ve never been able to do. I just add the more gravely rock edge to it.”
While they both agree that it was exceptionally easy to work with each other, it was actually quite difficult deciding which songs to include on The Motivator – the cover songs, in particular, proved tricky to pick. “I was always concerned about doing covers, because you don’t want to do them just like the original artist, and of course you don’t want to sound like you’re doing a bar band version,” Darling says. “But Cherie was always coming to the studio with these great ideas, and it makes us both be better. And Dave [Darling, Brie’s husband and The Motivator’s producer] came up with great ideas for making these not like the originals. I think there’s something magical about the three of us working together. We allow each other to do what we want to do, and that’s very important.”
Currie, for her part, says that she’s especially proud of their original compositions, especially the jaunty track “This Is Our Time.” “I came up with the idea just by mentioning, ‘This is our time, Brie – this is our time to fix the things in the past that have haunted both of us.’ And she then took that and ran with it.” (From the first verse: “Taking care of the business of a lifetime / Every step, watching for a landmine.”)
It’s not surprising that Currie and Darling allude to the things that they’ve both been through in their early years – both had to fight to find a place in the male-dominated ’70s music business – but when Fanny and The Runaways are specifically brought up, Cherie sighs. “It’s funny, questions like that, I know that it’s interesting for some people, [but] it’s been mowed over a gazillion times.” So she will only say this: “Brie went in [the music business] at 14 to become a serious musician. I happened to just see a David Bowie concert, and the skies opened and I realized I wanted to be a lead singer of a rock band. The fact that we were both in successful bands, that’s a miracle. So I feel very blessed.”
She also says she feels very lucky to find herself making music at all, at this point, which is a sentiment that Darling echoes. Since their ’70s bands, both have spent significant time working at other endeavors: Currie’s sculptures – made as a chainsaw artist – have brought her much attention (her creations can be viewed at www.chainsawchick.com), and Darling has worked as a highly sought-after custom cake maker.
“I was literally selling my house and buying land up north to build a couple cabins to be a chainsaw artist for the rest of my life,” Currie says. “I didn’t really want to do [music] again until I met Brie. So the moral of the story is that you might think it’s over, in fact be happy it’s over, be content that you’ve made that decision – but it ain’t over if the universe says it’s not over. I think that is also what Brie and I really want people to know: when they think that they’re washed up or they’re too old, it’s just not true. Things happen in life that are a mystery.
“I became a chainsaw artist on an absolute fluke, just following my heart, following those crazy voices in your head that say, ‘You can do this,’” Currie continues, though she adds that she is clear-eyed about the more pragmatic reason she does that other work, too: “That’s the reason I why I have a roof over my head, is the chainsaw art. We have to look at the cold, hard truth about this business: there are peaks and valleys, and we have to work, we have to make a living, because there are real lean times in the music business.”
Fortunately, this is most definitely not a lean time for Currie and Darling: The Motivator is only the first album in their four-album record deal. They say the next album will likely contain a higher number of original songs, but beyond that, as Darling says, “I don’t know what it’s going to be yet, until it starts presenting itself. Ideas pop into my head. I like the idea of letting this story tell itself instead of trying to force it.” Currie agrees with this assessment: “We’re not sure what the next record’s going to be like. We don’t know what tomorrow’s going to be like. All I know is that we’re working really hard to give the listeners what we believe is the best of ourselves, and that’s really what it’s all about.”
Photo by Corey Parks.