January 13, 2011 at 6:04 pm , by Louise Sloan
In a post a few months ago, I briefly mentioned our new friend Nelson, a Brooklyn neighbor who happens to be an up-and-coming r&b/reggae/hip-hop artist going by the stage name “Cherry L.” The other LHJ ladies and I were astounded when my mommy-blog post was basically mobbed by adoring Cherry L fans. “Who exactly IS this guy?” we wondered. So we invited Cherry L to stop by the Ladies’ Lounge and tell us a bit of his story.
LHJ: Nelson, you do seem to be quite the ladies’ man.
Cherry L: [laughing] Yes, I do love the ladies.
LHJ: In your native St. Lucia, looks like you’re pretty much a rock star. You’ve had top radio hits there with “Turn Me Loose” and “Like That,” won the Best New Artist award, and—according to the Youtube videos of your live concerts—you’ve played to packed venues with screaming women in the front row trying to get their hands on you. When did you come to the U.S. and what’s the reception been here?
Cherry L: I came to New York in 2008, and that first year, I was the only reggae artist to win one of the biggest hip-hop showcases in New York, called Faces in the Crowd. I’ve been performing at various clubs and bars around the city and people love the Caribbean element I bring to my shows.
LHJ: Your lyrics sometimes get raunchy but there are none of the demeaning expletives about women that so many other hip-hop artists use to sound cool. Why not?
Cherry L: It comes from the way I was brought up. I love my mom, who is a music teacher, and I look up to her a lot. She taught me to love and respect women. My dad also taught me to respect and help my mom around the house with chores, stuff like that, and he had a very close relationship with his mom.
LHJ: You recently worked with some high-profile producers and created a mix tape that has a Jamaican dancehall niche flavor, but the songs you do with your partner, producer Sherwin “Dupes” Brice, like “Please Stay,” “Candy” and “All Over Me,” sound like American top-40 r&b/hip-hop hits—very “crossover.” In fact, “All Over Me,” which you chose for your first professionally produced music video, is straight r&b. Tell us about your style and inspiration as an artist.
Cherry L: I did just work with Jamaican producer Left Side, who has produced for dancehall superstars Sean Paul and Buju Banton, and another producer, Vigor, who has also worked with well-known Jamaican artists. Since I got the chance to work with them, I decided to go with a more hard-core Caribbean vibe, with some hip-hop influences. One example of that is “You Check It,” which Left Side produced and which is slang we use on my island to mean, “You understand?” But most of my songs are a collaboration with my in-house producer, Dupes. We have been working together since high school—we were both in the band, I was first violin and he was keyboards—and we both like r&b, hip-hop and pop, so I guess that’s why our sound is more crossover that way. Some of my biggest musical influences are the Beatles, Billy Joel, Bob Marley, Shabba Ranks, Jay Z and Sam Cooke. Even Neil Diamond—he’s an amazing songwriter. I like listening to a lot of ’60s, ’70s and ’80s music, because the music was more based on raw talent and real instruments.
LHJ: What’s your process in the studio?
Cherry L: We are kind of like cooks. I write the music and lyrics and Dupes produces. We try to use musical ingredients from hip-hop, r&b and pop to come up with infectious sounds and hooks with a Caribbean flavor. I’m more hands-on in the production part of it with him, so I have a lot of creative freedom. We have good chemistry and understand each other.
LHJ: What’s your favorite Cherry L song and why?
Cherry L: That’s hard, they are all my babies! Does a mother have a favorite? [laughs] “Please Stay” may be my favorite because it’s very catchy, sentimental and it can play in a club. My goal as a performer is to bring the excitement, fun, creativity and Caribbean party culture to audiences around the world.
LHJ: Since you’re not signed with a label at this point, how can people get your music?
Cherry L: A bunch of my songs start to play if you go to my website, cherrylmusic.com. And some are available for download on iTunes and CDBaby. [UPDATE: Nelson is now recording under his given name, Nelson Serieux. His latest single, "My Love," featuring Fatta Diamond, released February 16, 2012, is here; for news check his blog or follow Nelson on Twitter.]
LHJ: Last question: What’s up with the stage name “Cherry L”?
Cherry L: [laughing] A girl from my hometown gave me that name. I was very light-skinned with red lips. She thought I wore lipstick so she called me Cherry Lips. Soon everyone was calling me that. It stuck through high school and college. Afterward I dropped the lips and kept the L because I bring flavor to the Ladies’ Lives with my Looks and Lyrics. [more laughter] You check it!
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