Every so often in life, the clouds part, the stars align, and new paths present themselves. These intriguing paths often lead to exciting new chapters and experiences. That is exactly what happened when the road less traveled allowed The Runaways front-woman and solo artist, Cherie Currie, and Fanny drummer and singer, Brie Darling, to cross over into each other’s lives. While both were ‘70s icons who got the headlines, they didn’t always get the credit they deserved as strong women holding their own and forging new ground in a rock & roll playing field that was then dominated by old-school, masculine mores. While Currie and Darling had a mutual admiration of each other’s work, the duo didn’t meet until 2017, when Darling reached out to Currie to contribute vocals to “Fanny Walked the Earth,” a reunion album from the trailblazing Fanny, the first all-female band signed to a major label (Reprise) in 1969. Now fierce friends and cool collaborators, they’ve joined forces for one of the most anticipated albums of 2019 — “The Motivator.”
“The Motivator” is a 12-song album featuring nine classic covers by bands including T. Rex, The Rolling Stones, Buffalo Springfield, Stevie Wonder, and John Lennon, plus three powerful new originals, including the tough rocker “Too Bruised” and the topical “This Is Our Time”. The covers chosen mostly share—unintentionally—a socio-political resonance that’s as relevant today as when the songs were written. Whittling down the selections from a huge group of favorites, the songs chose their singers. Adding to the fun and celebratory vibe of the album is a host of family and friends to do backups, including Currie’s sister, actress Sondra Currie, her ex-husband, actor Robert Hays; friends, Susan Olsen of Brady Bunch fame and actress/director, Allison Scagliotti. Darling’s brother, Henry Berry is on “He Ain’t Heavy,” and brother Phil Berry does a guitar solo on the Kinks tune “Do it Again” while her sister, Rory Berry Bishop plays drums on Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air.” Patti Quatro—Suzi’s sister and a member of Fanny—plays guitar and sings on “For What It’s Worth.”
“The Motivator” is the end product of years of groundbreaking musical and personal work. But it’s also a new beginning, an album infused with a power, joy and enthusiasm that was forged—and doubled—thanks to the inspiring and exceptional Currie and Darling collaboration. Most importantly, it serves as the starting point for what will undoubtedly be one of the most fruitful chapters of their collective careers.
With the “The Motivator” set for an August 2nd release date via Blue Élan Records, Currie and Darling have already set their sights on the future and are currently charting a course for a Fall 2019 tour. Both artists have deep catalogs to draw on in addition to the amazing recorded work put forth on this amazing new collaborative record. Currie, a renowned chainsaw artist, did two legendary studio albums with the Runaways, plus solo albums, including one with twin sister Marie Currie. Her most recent, 2015’s Reverie, features Runaways bandmate Lita Ford, produced by her son, Jake Hays and original Runaways producer, the late Kim Fowley. Darling, also known as Brie Howard, has recorded as drummer, singer and writer with Fanny in the ‘70s, as well as with the bands American Girls in the mid ‘80s and the Boxing Gandhis, who have put out three albums since the mid-90s. As a backing vocalist, and percussionist, Darling played with or has written songs for the Pointer Sisters, Jimmy Buffett, ELO, Ringo Starr, Carole King and more.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Cherie Currie and Brie Darling to discuss their blossoming friendship, breathing life into “The Motivator,” and what the future may hold for this dynamic duo.
It’s great to catch up with you both and help spread the word on this amazing new collaboration. Let’s start at the beginning. How did you initially cross paths?
Brie: I was doing a record with my girls from the group, Fanny. We did a record a couple of years ago that came out last year called “Fanny Walked The Earth.” I invited Cherie to come in and sing on it with some other girl group musicians. She walked in the door and was such a dynamic personality! I have to say, boiling it down to one short sentence, you get that feeling when you meet someone you really want to work with. You want them to be part of your life and that is kind of what happened. It took a few months and a few things to happen. The bass player in Fanny had a stroke before we were able to support that record, so we weren’t able to continue on. It was already in my head about working with Cherie and she was so awesome to respond to my request. She was just so open! We got together and it was just so easy. I don’t even know how it happened! It is kind of a blur, but we are grateful because it’s a great working relationship and everything that’s coming out so far, we are just thrilled with. To be quite honest, it’s my favorite thing that I have ever done!
Cherie: You know, I had never met Brie. I was introduced to her voice by her husband, Dave Darling, who was producing “Fanny Walked The Earth.” He sent me the song that I was going to participate in with all these other girls from The Bangles, The Go-Go’s, and all these other girl groups. They were all people who really cracked the ice in the past, so I was very excited. When I heard this song, “When We Need Her,” I was just absolutely floored by Brie’s voice. I literally went, “Oh my God! Where has this woman been!” At the time, I was already putting my house up for sale and was in escrow on some land up North. I was going to build a couple of cabins and walk away from this business entirely. When I heard her voice, I was so floored by her. When I walked in the studio, I just told it! I said, “You are absolutely fantastic!” Of course, I put another word in front of that that started with an “f” too and has an “ing.” [laughs] I just couldn’t hold back how amazing I knew she was. I think that broke the ice a little bit. In the business that we are in, and I think Brie will agree with this, women just don’t complement each other. I don’t know if it’s a little bit of trepidation, a little bit of fear, or jealousy. I don’t know what it is.
Brie: Yeah, there is always a little bit of reservation, but with Cherie there is none. She is wide open! I was taken aback.
Cherie: So, I was an instant fan of Brie. When I heard the whole album, “Fanny Walks The Earth,” I told Dave that there was only one problem with the album. He’s an amazing producer — a 6x Grammy nominated genius! He said, “What? What is it?” I told him, “I just want more!” [laughs] “The record is so great; I just want more!” It’s a fantastic record that features Brie, her songwriting, her amazing voice, and her husband’s amazing talent as an arranger and producer. I was just sold. There was something about her that was so special that it made me contemplate not walking away. I was done. I was gone! I was in the woods being a woodswoman and that was my whole thing. It took her, her talent, her amazing personality and loving nature to make me say, “Wait a minute. I’ve got to do this with her!”
Brie: See, Jason? How could I not want to work with her! [laughs]
Once you two decided to work together, how clear was the vision for the album that you would go on to create?
Brie: The was one song that I had really always wanted to do and that was “Gimme Shelter.” That just kind of popped in my head because Cherie and I come from the same type of background and time period. I thought that was something that could work. Of course, when we got in there to do it, it presented its problems because, with the original version, you have a male vocal with Mary Clayton’s high parts. It’s easier for a woman to sing a high part than a male vocal, so that was something we had to figure out. So, that was the first of idea and I think the rest of the songs came from there. We looked for some songs that we had in common that we liked or from artists who influenced who we became as artists. It really grew out of that, so we started searching and Dave helped us with that as well. We also had to write some songs together as well because it’s great to honor your past but it’s also wonderful to figure out where you go from here.
Cherie: I was so impressed by Dave and Brie’s work ethic. If you snooze, you lose when it comes to the two of them. I mean, they had me at the top of my game. Not only are they both brilliant songwriters, as you can tell from “Too Bruised,” which is an amazing song! I mean, what a perfect thing! They are just insatiable when they are songwriting and I love that! I just loved how Brie would grab ideas and run with them. I was so completely impressed and, to be honest, this is the easiest record I have ever made in my career!
I definitely wanted to touch on Dave Darling’s work on this amazing album. What did he bring out in you creatively?
Cherie: First of all, meeting Dave at the “Fanny Walks The Earth” session, I found him to be a very personable guy. While I knew he was a producer, but I was completely unaware of this man’s ability to play just about every instrument and to arrange in a way that works so well with today. You know, right now, I am just so out of touch with today’s music. I really am. I’m a classic rock kind of gal. He made it so easy and he listened! If I had an idea, he didn’t poo-poo me away, which every producer I have ever worked with has done, including my own son! [laughs] He absolutely listened, and he was a pleasure to work with, so much so that I can’t wait to get into the studio for our next record! I loved being there when Brie was there to lend support. There was a beautiful camaraderie between the three of us. It was a mix of respect, admiration and love, and this record just shines with it!
Brie: I think my favorite thing that Dave brings as a producer is that he doesn’t just go for trying to make tracks sound good. Every artist he works with as a producer, he looks for what will bring something special out in them, whether they know it or not. With this album, he wasn’t going to do copies of cover songs, he was looking for something that was different but also fit us. I think he was even looking beyond what I was even thinking. I’m not a producer and I don’t have that ability, but I just loved a song, a vocal or an idea. As a producer, he has the ability to see beyond what the artist might see. He did that with the “Fanny Walks The Earth” record as well. He took us to a place of which we weren’t thinking. We had a concept in mind as far as the tunes we wanted to do but he had a concept in the sound and delivery. I have to say that he had a concept, but I brought Cherie in with her own ideas and influences and bent his concept around, which he was very open to. She also brought a sound of her own that I didn’t even know she was going to bring! I only had a little bit of experience with her singing on some tracks that I had with the other record. She brought in these ideas and I was like, “Woah! This is cool!” I think the three of us stayed open to each other and there was a growing process amongst us, which was really important. Ya know, I do what I do, and I’m used to doing what I do but I found myself learning from Cherie, who is the master of some things that I’ve never tried. Through the process, I was getting to try some of her things, and I was in heaven because it was opening doors for me! It was a great experience all the way around! We make each other better, which is a blessing. We are great together and it’s an absolute gift to work with her and Dave.
Cherie: What I also love about Dave’s producing is that he still retains the essence of them which allowed them to have the huge impact that they did when they first came out. He kept that essence, but he rebirthed it in a way that everyone is just loving. You can’t help it! It’s bold and unique. He’s a brilliant guy.
Brie: Yeah and it’s modern too. He doesn’t let these songs from 40 years ago or longer just sit in their original era. You can feel that because they are songs from that era but you also get the musicality and what’s going on today in sounds and approaches that are more modern, which I think is pretty cool!
As you said, this is more than just a covers record. You have some amazing new tunes on this album. What can you tell us about the songwriting process?
Cherie: The first song that Brie and Dave wrote was “Too Bruised.” That was my introduction to the brilliant songwriting to come from both Brie and Dave. I’ll never forget, she said, “Oh, I want to play you a song.” So, I go into their living room, Dave was in the studio and Brie was playing this lovely track. This beautiful voice, I think, is just singing out of the computer, which I think is a professionally done vocal. My eyes are closed as I’m listening to this and I open my eyes to see that she is actually singing it live for me! I literally fell back in this chair like, “What the hell! This is unbelievable!” That song, “Too Bruised,” I was just so shocked by the magnificence of it! I know how it might sound but I’m not overacting! It’s the friggin’ perfect thing. I called my son when I was driving home and said, “I just heard a perfect song that Brie and Dave wrote. I have to send it to you!” I totally had to send it to my son, and he agreed, which is impressive because he doesn’t give compliments as much as you would think! He absolutely agrees that it was just incredible and truly a smash hit that could crossover into any genre of music. I realized very early on that I was in partnership with two very brilliant musicians and that I had to up my game to make sure I could even sit in the same room with them. It made me a better songwriter and singer. This whole experience has made me better!
Brie: Dave had given me that track a couple of months before that and it was just a track of music at that point. A couple of days before I met Cherie, I don’t remember if the melody or the idea came first, but I had just started working that out. I don’t even think it was all the way finished when I sang it to her. Honestly, I don’t even know if I had sung it to Dave yet. So, that one came out that way. At another point, Cherie and I were talking on the phone and she said something like, “This is our time.” I said, “Wow, that’s a great song idea!” Maybe Dave said it! [laughs] I don’t know who said it, but he came up with another track and that song came out of Cherie’s idea. We fleshed that out and worked on it together. I guess different songs come out in different ways. With “This Is Our Time,” I think I had sketched out an idea and Cherie got in there and offered up some different lines, a different approach, and fixed up the lyrics. I don’t even know where that melody came from! [laughs] “Just Too Good, That’s Just Too Bad” is one that we all worked equally on. I think that’s all Dave’s music and melody and Cherie, and I wrote the lyrics with a little bit of help from our friend Patti Quatro, who put in a couple lyrically ideas on that one. Now, by the way Cherie, Dave just sent me a track yesterday and said, “Here’s a new song for you guys!” So, we’ve gotta get rollin’ again!
Cherie: Great! AWESOME!
Another awesome aspect of this album, which gives it such a great vibe, is the fact that you brought your friends and family along. What are some of your favorite memories of incorporating these awesome people into your music?
Cherie: We brought in our friends and family to sing “Do It Again” and also on “He Ain’t Heavy,” which was a really fun session! There was a little bit of acting involved and a lot of singing! Dave was so funny because he knew that the majority of these people happened to be my friends and family and I don’t think he really expected that many people to show up! [laughs] He said, “Look, if they can’t sing, they’re out!” I knew that! Thank goodness he didn’t have to kick anybody out and they all did a fantastic job. Of course, Brie had her sister play on drums, which just knocked me out! That woman was fantastic! It’s really incredible, the amount of talent that’s in her family.
Brie: I was really happy! I’ve got two brothers and a sister who are musicians and we’ve never recorded together. I’ve never had the opportunity to do this and working with Cherie, who is very family oriented and loves to bring her family into this, the opportunity presented itself. It wasn’t planned. At the last minute, I told my brothers and sister, “I want to have you on this record!” Of course, they were totally ready to jump in on that. I feel like I have a family heirloom with this record, which means so much to me and to them. To me, that’s the icing on the cake, to have this to share with them forever!
Cherie: I concur with that, Brie. I’ve never done a record where I could have my family and close friends who have been in this business for a very long time be a part of the process.
Brie: Isn’t that wonderful that we got to have that together and share this with our family!
Brie: I’ve never been able to do this with anyone else and it just means so much!
You chose a great photo for the album cover. What spoke to you about the image and made it the perfect fit?
Cherie: This was an image that I’ve had in my head for the past 12 years. We had done a photo session for the album cover and Brie wasn’t very happy with it for a cover. So, I shared with her this idea that I had, which she embraced and loved. So, we went scouting! Basically, it’s that long road and leaving behind our past but also paying homage to it. Most importantly, we are walking down this road together and there is a little gleaming light at the end, which is kind of the “Emerald City.” It’s a statement. It’s not the end of something, it’s the beginning! Yes, the past is gone but boy do we have a future! That is what that concept is all about!
What did you learn about yourselves during the creation of this album?
Brie: I learned to open my heart and to really trust. I’m telling you, I’m pretty open and loving person but I didn’t realize how protective I was over all of these years. You’ve heard Cherie talk; she’s always lifting me up. It was shocking to me and I wanted to give it back! The great thing is that we don’t have to talk about ourselves because we get to talk about each other and it’s different. That to me was a huge lesson — that there are wonderful people to work with and wonderful women to work with. I’m not saying that all people or all women are not giving or supportive but Cherie is just particularly so. I love that and I’m learning to give that back. It’s a big deal because that is what music and making art is all about — giving of yourself. For me, it’s the best way to give the gift of music. It’s love on tape or love digitally. It’s caring and spreading art. The best way to do it is when you are feeling open and good, as opposed to being protective and fearful.
Cherie: Right! For me, I’ve truly learned to embrace and trust my instincts. I’ve always had a great instinct, but most people wouldn’t have any part of it. In the past, if it was something of mine or something that I was creating, even though I knew what was happening wasn’t what I wanted, I still bent and allowed it to happen. The thing is that my instincts are right. My instinct about Brie, her husband, this record, Brie’s voice, magnetism and ability was right. All of you have to do is look at her with Carole King. If you Google this video of her front and center with Carole King singing for a charity event [inset link here], I knew then that this was a woman who hadn’t even really been tapped yet. I’m just so happy because this project has put more faith and resilience in me that anything I’ve been involved with in the past. I know that I have to trust myself. Dave calls me “The Steamroller” and he calls Brie “The Flamethrower.” Ya know what? I am a steamroller! Now, I am! Now, I get to be who I always wanted to be with someone that I absolutely adore and admire. I’m just a far better person than I was a year ago when I wanted out. I’m a better artist and I have a clear vision of what I want and what I know we are going to achieve. It’s great to do it with someone I really love and care about!
Brie: Cherie, I feel like there is something in the future that we are going to do. I don’t know what it is yet, but I have a little vision of it. I think our record is great and I love it, but I see something happening on the next record that’s even a bigger statement. It’s going to be higher. I can feel it. I feel like we have a lot more to say!
Cherie: Well, Brie, I look forward to it! [laughs]
Brie: Me too! [laughs]
It’s so cool to hear that you both are already looking toward the future! What does the future of this project mean to you?
Brie: For me, with “The Motivator,” I feel like we’ve honored our past and we did a couple of originals about what’s going on with us now. That’s started the beginning of our new journey together. I think, for me, the goal is to see what that brings us, to discover that and put it in our music and performance. We just have to be ready for whatever happens and be open to anything!
Cherie: Yup! Right now, we’re going to focus on the show. Brie is such an immense talent and I was so shocked that she wasn’t a huge star. I really was! I feel that this is our time to do everything we have always wanted to do but for some reason it didn’t happen. We have a chance now to make it all happen. Brie is a great front person, in addition to being a fantastic drummer. Even though she is used to being on the drums, singing lead or backgrounds or whatever in the past, she’s an amazing frontwoman. We’re just going to have a great time doing everything we’ve always wanted to do, and we get to do it together! It’s just a fantastic way to end this career of ours, somewhere down the line, and end it on a high note! It’s going to be a blast!
Brie: I’m pretty excited when we talk about what our show is going to be and all of the ideas we have. We are so excited! I have to tell you, I love the idea of us being up there together because it’s so much more fun than being up there alone!
I want to thank you both so much for your time today and for coming together on this album. The authenticity of your work shines through and I can’t wait to see where it all leads!
Brie: Thank you, Jason!
Cherie: Thank you, we really appreciate it!
‘The Motivator’ will be released August 2, 2019 on Blue Élan Records and is currently available for pre-order.Check out the official video for “The Motivator” below.