It’s hard to imagine television today without “The Voice” showcasing the talents of future stars. With 16 seasons under its belt, the show has produced a record amount of singers with many still in the music industry today.
One such artist who is making it work is Cherie Oakley, who competed on the first season of “The Voice,” back in 2011.
Oakley’s music career was destined from the start. She grew up in Indiana in an Evangelical family and explored the country singing on the road with her family as they toured churches, fairs and festivals.
“I’ve traveled my whole life, started into acting and theatre and things like that when I was four and five, got a manager and agent and continued on the road with my family,” Oakley said. “My dad always listened to country music from place to place, so that’s really where my love for country music really started.”
The last stop on one such tour was Nashville where “the bus stopped here and I got off and I never left.” The then 20-year-old Oakley dove into working with demos and songwriting which led to doors opening for the young artist, one of which lead her to “The Voice.”
For Oakley, “The Voice” was just another stop on her journey and while the show wasn’t able to provide all the connections and instruction that later seasons provided artists, it did give Oakley an established fan base that has followed her throughout her career afterwards.
“I’ve had to figure all that out on my own and work really hard before the show and after the show. It didn’t really change that,” Oakley said. “But what it did do for me that I have to give credit for is it gave me the opportunity to have an established fan base which is something I will always credit “The Voice” for and be thankful for.”
The fan base Oakley garnered from the show continues to support her, cheering her on when she obtains record deals and understanding her through the process.
“I think they understand that my journey in this industry has … been full of ups and downs, and more downs than ups and I think there’s been something really amazing about that because I feel like they feel personally connected to me,” Oakley said. “Because they kind of went through all of that with me.”
Today, the fan base can be excited about Oakley’s upcoming release of her debut EP and more songs like her hit single, “Work It,” which celebrates women and their accomplishments and hard work.
“With my music I like things to be inspirational, I like to encourage people,” Oakley said. “I think it’s important to talk about subject matters that are difficult to talk about, but can we talk about them in a way that’s not ‘debbie downer,’ can we talk about them in a way that’s still hopeful and sends a message of hope and love and encouragement.”
Oakley pulls from her experiences in theatre, church and the artists she is inspired by like Reba McEntire who took Oakley’s song “Turn on the Radio” and made it her 60th Top 10 career single.
“I think when you listen to my music, I think my background definitely comes into play. You can hear my influences from the church for sure in my music. You can hear it in the way I approach a song vocally,” Oakley said. “I think knowing that I like certain country artists, but also that I have a theatre background and a flair for dramatics, I think that all comes into play … I’m just kind of a big melting pot of all of that.”
It’s experience that Oakley looks to when she advises college students on how to make it in any industry which is to where the action is. If you’re interested in rap go to Atlanta or if you’re interested in film and producing move to Los Angeles, she said.
“Go to where the action is and learn, meet people, network, make connections with people,” Oakley said. “Learn, never ever stop learning. I mean I’ll take vocal lessons until the day I die, because you can never learn enough about your craft and what you want to do and push yourself further and further.”
And while Oakley is based in Nashville, immersed in the music scene there, she has deep connections to Knoxville, especially to UT.
“UT is huge in my family,” Oakley said. “A lot of family members from my husband’s side have gone to UT Knoxville in particular my stepson Chandler is a graduate of UT. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering … and my youngest stepson is actually enrolled at UT right now. He’ll be a sophomore and that’s Henry. I’m super proud of him. So we go to UT all the time, we love to go to football games, we love to go visit, it’s not super far so we’re definitely big fans of the University of Tennessee.”