For CHARLEY, the Festival Stage Is a Classroom

With one festival gig under her belt and another to go, the Berklee Popular Music Institute featured artist reflects on the journey to the big stage and the road ahead.

September 19, 2022

Berklee student Charley Tiernan, who performs as CHARLEY, is a force of nature. A self-described "disco-cowgirl diva," she embraces the spirit of the 1970s with her unique style and multi-genre sound. Earlier this summer, she performed at the country music festival Faster Horses in Brooklyn, Michigan, as part of her involvement in the Berklee Popular Music Institute (BPMI), which takes students from the classroom to major festival stages across North America. The institute's BPMI Live course guides students through every step of this process, serving as important preparation for a career in live music, whether as a performer or an industry professional.

On September 24, CHARLEY will represent BPMI at another festival, Sound on Sound, in her home state of Connecticut. Berklee’s Media Relations team talked to her ahead of the show to see what she learned from her first festival, and what she has planned for the future. 

How did you find out about the BPMI? Were there any specific challenges you faced in preparing to audition for a potential festival performance, and did you have a particular festival in mind when you planned your audition?

After I got accepted to Berklee, I began to research the programs they offered to singers and aspiring artists. When I discovered BPMI, it became a major factor in my decision to go to Berklee. Even though I knew I might not get into BPMI, the fact that they even offered such an incredible program to students convinced me that there would be other amazing opportunities.

I was scouted to apply to BPMI during my second semester at Berklee. I was not able to apply to the program because the application required me to submit five original songs. At the time I didn’t have that kind of material. I was really discouraged, but this setback pushed me to start writing more. I worked throughout the next few semesters to write material, and eventually, by my senior year, I was ready to apply.

How did performing at Faster Horses in July teach you about performing for a large audience? Will you be making adjustments for Sound on Sound based on that experience?

Performing for a large audience is all about preparation. By the time we performed at Faster Horses, my band and I knew our set inside and out. For our set at Sound on Sound, we will be adding a new song we have never performed! We can’t wait to share it with the audience. 

How has Berklee helped you prepare for this summer and fall of festivals? Is there any professor or person at Berklee who has been particularly influential?

Berklee has helped me in so many ways. It has taught me the amount of commitment that needs to go into preparing a set. My brand image and sound have gotten so much stronger. BPMI helped me identify what genre my music and style fit into, and from there I was able to understand how to market myself. Lastly, Berklee has given an immense amount of confidence that I can pursue a career in music. The amount of support that Morgan Milardo, Oompa Williams, and the BPMI students have given me has been overwhelming. I am so grateful.

Did you study any artists and their performance styles in preparing for your festival gigs?

Yes! I studied artists that are known for their epic performances, such as Miley Cyrus, Måneskin, Aerosmith, Beyoncé, and others in order to prepare for a festival stage.

What do you hope to take away from these different festival experiences as an artist and student?

The momentum that these festivals have given me has been huge. I have gained a bigger following, and I hope to continue this momentum through releasing new music consistently as well as touring around New England and New York.

What’s coming up for you after Sound on Sound?

After Sound On Sound, I will be releasing a live album along with live video footage of our recording process for each song done by videographer David “Speve” Kayne. The band featured on this album is Jake Baynes, Yoni Ben Ari, Carrick McCullough, Mikee Colet, Cavan Brown, and engineer Dean Andreades. I will also be releasing singles with producer Jasper Harris.  

My band and I will be playing live shows in cities across New England and New York. Coming up, we have two performances in Boston—Sofar Sounds on October 29 at 7:30 p.m., and the Burren on October 30 at 6:30 p.m.

Listen to CHARLEY’s music on Spotify