FHS graduate Cheryl Kaderli has grown from her high school role of Sandra “Dee” in Grease to finding her own voice as a singer/songwriter about to release her solo EP of original music. Photo by Phil Houseal
Cheryl Kaderli: Finding a larger stage
by Phil Houseal
One of the joys of writing this column is being able to follow talented local youngsters who grow into even more talented adults.
As a member of the pit orchestra in Fredericksburg High School’s 2001 production of Grease, I watched senior student Cheryl Kaderli rivet audiences in the lead role of Sandra Dumbrowski. Now Kaderli is captivating Texas audiences with her clear, pure voice, unassuming persona, and accomplished songwriting.
Her original songs are more edgy than Beauty School Dropout, and the struggles more real than dating Danny Zuko, but Kaderli is still able to tap into her talent and Fredericksburg upbringing to reach a wider audience.
Niches are hard to find, especially in Austin’s eclectic music scene. Her sound is so different, she created a new musical category to describe it: mint.
“My style is fresh but still traditional,” she explained in a phone interview. “I really made it up to mean ‘more edgy meets traditional’ singer-songwriter style. I definitely write more dark stuff.”
Kaderli cites a range of musical influences, from the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin to Nirvana and Courtney Love. She remembers her father playing Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline. Neil Young was a “huge influence that made me fall in love with music.” When Kaderli went off to major in Vocal Performance at Texas State, she leaned more to rock, but now realizes she needed both rock and country to create her music.
“You can hear a lot of country influence in our rock and roll stuff,” she said. “It makes sort of a cool mix.”
Any musician understands the challenge of trying to make a living in the music field. That is Kaderli’s elusive dream.
“Right now I am playing as many shows as possible in Austin,” she said. “To travel and play music would be the ultimate goal.”
From my seat in the orchestra pit watching Kaderli perform all those summer nights ago, one of her charms was the sense of shyness she projects on stage. Is that an accurate assumption?
“Yes,” she admitted. “I still battle that - not wanting to be in the limelight. I still hang back as a defense mechanism.”
But she continues to reach new maturity in that arena. Specifically she realized she was watching people who weren’t as talented getting better spots at Austin venues. “I finally got tired of myself - I can’t keep living in fear and worry about what people think about me. If I don’t put myself out there, it’s going to be a waste. Life is so short.”
With her impending EP release, she is excited about reaching a new confidence level. Her solo EP was recorded at another FHS alum’s studio - Blake Atwell’s Studio 1916 in Kyle. The EP is titled The Mind Holds The Hammer, and including the title track features four original songs: You Broke the Night, Can’t Say No, and Now.
With age comes wisdom. Kaderli is starting to see the balance in her life, and is becoming proficient in turning the bad into the better. Like being really busy gives her less time to think negative thoughts, and working a limiting day job provides more inspiration for her writing.
“Success can be defined in so many ways,” she said. “I try to be realistic. Playing music doesn’t pay the bills unless you make it big, so right now I am playing as many shows as possible in Austin. Once I have the EP released, it will be easier to figure out my direction.”
That hopefully will include to “live comfortably and play music the rest of my life.”
No doubt on an ever larger stage.