I first met Corinne Sharlet more than a decade ago when we were both cast in CTC's production of Brigadoon. She easily surpassed the material and was one of the breakout stars of the show, seeming destined to be front and center from then on.
"I've been singing ever since I could talk," Sharlet says. "I used to stand on bar stools at five or six and sing along to Shania Twain songs into my karaoke machine—I started doing musical theater as a way to continue singing. The biggest support of my singing was my voice teacher, Eileen Heaton, who I started studying with at 14."
Sharlet headed to the Santa Fe University of Art and Design where she studied voice while also getting her degree in musical theater. After eventually making her way to Portland, Sharlet hit a turning point.
"I was feeling uninspired auditioning for theater stuff, so I took a break from performing for a while," she says. "I think I was burnt out and questioning my drive to do theater. I wondered whether or not I actually liked it or had just continued doing it because I had been doing it for so long. When I took some time off, the one thing that I missed was the music. Since I was a kid, I loved to write songs and I started to miss that. I met the guitarist of the band through work and one day we started playing together and something clicked."
Sharlet's voice has only gotten better with time, as she is able to flit effortlessly between a soft and dreamy harmony to powerful and yearning explosions of lyricism. Madam Officer is alternative pop in a way that no one really makes anymore. There's no hipster cred that is being strived for, just old fashioned, heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics combined with powerhouse vocals and an incredibly solid band.
Sharlet describes their sound as "hi-fi, guitar, torch pop."
"I don't think anyone actually gets that except me," Sharlet says. "I say the 'hi-fi guitar' part because our songs are very guitar driven, Aaron [Tollefson of Kaddisfly] definitely plays with an early The Edge, U2 sound. I say the 'torch pop' part because my vocals definitely have a pop structure and I am really inspired by old torch/jazz singers like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone."
Music is also in Sharlet's genes. Her dad, Ed "The Whistler" Sharlet, has livened up local shows for years with his absolutely pitch-perfect whistling. And while she wouldn't say for sure, Sharlet suggested he might do the same for Madam Officer.
"No way! He'll steal the show!" she jokes. "Just kidding. My dad is super supportive, he will definitely be there and may make a special appearance."
Madam Officer has only played about 14 shows around Portland (although they did play the White Eagle and that place is legendary), but their sound is assured. They don't sound like a rookie band in the least.
"It is like getting a glimpse inside our practices in the basement," Sharlet says of the band's live shows. "No two shows are alike."
If they can play that loosely together already, then this should be a band we'll be hearing from for a long time to come. Discover them at Silver Moon before anyone else does.
Madam Officer with Corner Gospel Explosion
8:30 pm. Friday, Dec. 18
Silver Moon Brewing, 24 NW Greenwood Ave.