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Charise Sowells a.k.a. Lake Lady, Songwriter (Oakland, CA)

1. So what’s your story?

  • Age: 30
  • Hometown: St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Current City of Residence: Oakland, California
  • Area of Expertise: Songwriter 
  • How did you get started? My mother put headphones with classical music playing on her belly when I was in the womb and for years that was the only music I listened to. I even dreamt of being a conductor and would practice in my room by blasting Tchaikovsky and conducting my stuffed animal orchestra with the stick I had broken off of my blinds. Eventually, I branched out to Disney musical soundtracks, Michael Jackson, Enya, world music and jazz standards. Come middle school, my friends surprised me with my first CD player boom box along with three albums by the most teeny bopper artists you could ask for at the time. And in high school I discovered KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic. It was right around that time I began writing all kinds of songs.

2. What helps to keep you motivated?

The music in my head and my never ending To Do List. Also, jealousy. I know it sounds weird but it can be a really good motivator if you can acknowledge its presence and turn it into fuel for achieving your own goals.

3. When you’re creating, where do you get your inspiration?

I get my inspiration from living fully, being in the moment, continuously educating myself, maintaining a sense of curiosity about the world and getting out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. A professor of mine in college once called it “filling the well” which stuck with me as a metaphor because basically, if the well ever runs dry, that means it’s time to go out and live a little.

4. What are some words that you live and work by?

A motto I came up with a few years back is, ”Apathy is for dead people." I say this because you can coast through life and never make any memories for yourself or anybody else or you can live compassionately, make a difference, try and fail, leap and maybe even fly. I prefer the latter, difficult as it may be sometimes.

Words of others that I love:

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.”

      - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"What is it about two really good voices coming together to make something so wonderful, something greater than the sum of their individual parts? Perhaps, in this world of discord, it makes us feel that, yes, we can get something right."

      - Emmy Lou Harris

"Nobody makes the greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little."

      -Edmond Burke

"I am a canvas painted over whether it be by your hand or mine own..."

      -Saul Williams

5. Who are some of the artists you admire and respect?

Oh, so many… I love Michael Jackson, Enya, Billie Holiday, Nick Drake, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley and Loreena McKennit for being so timeless and universal. I admire Carole King, Sia, Pink, and Sarah McLachlan for their songwriting careers, Yann Tiersen for the Amelie soundtrack and Bjork, Zoe Deschanel, and Lady Gaga for staying true to themselves. I also really respect Taylor Swift for standing up for musicians’ rights and making a statement about the devaluation of our work.

6. When do you know you’re finished with a piece?

As a perfectionist, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel that a piece is truly finished. But at some point I move on and that’s usually when I can listen to a song without new ideas for how to change it.

7. Any tips for other creatives in your area of expertise?

Keep at it, whatever your craft may be. Focus. Work hard. Say yes more than no. Avoid gossip. Stay true. And don’t go into debt for art school.

8. Do you have any upcoming performances, shows, exhibits, releases, new products or publications we should check out?

Yes, I have a brand new single with Midnite Tiger called “Will Your Feelings Change?” My collaborative groove pop duo, Lake Lady and the Mountain Man, just released this awesome cover of Milky Chance’s “Stolen Dance”. And I've been writing a lot with electronic producers across the globe including: Quando (Panama), Ado Mass (Scotland) and AN & (Morocco).

I also have put together a band comprised of myself on ukulele and lead vocals, Bill Cole on accordion, Mountain Man a.k.a. Evan Malouf on bass, and Charles Peoples III on backing vocals. We're called Lake Lady Ukulele Project and we have our first show on 2/15 at 3:30pm at the new Liminal Center in Oakland, CA. Here are the self-produced demos from before I had the band. Hope to see you there!

9. What’s the best way for people to contact you for hire or purchase any of your work or services?

For purchasing go to: Lake Lady Bandcamp, LLATMM Bandcamp, or Sydney Miles Bandcamp (my alter ego prior to the birth of Lake Lady). To inquire about music licensing, booking, studio singing, cowriting, voice overs, jingles or anything else, please email

Social Media Links: SoundCloud, Facebook and Twitter.

*Responses are prepared by the featured creative.

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