Charlene Kaye spent her childhood all over the globe— having lived in Hawaii, Singapore, Hong Kong, Arizona and Michigan all before she turned 18. Absorbing both the old soul records of her parents and the 90s grunge on the radio, she quickly became a full-fledged music obsessive.

After college, Kaye moved to New York to pursue music. She toured nationally on her first two records from 2012- 2014 and played bass and guitar in several Brooklyn bands (including shredding as Slash in an all-girl Guns N’ Roses cover band called ‘Guns N’ Hoses’). In 2014, a mutual friend connected her with San Fermin’s Ellis Ludwig-Leone. The two hit it o and, impressed with her voice, Ludwig-Leone asked her to be San Fermin’s new lead vocalist. This led to five years of collaboration and touring with San Fermin, with Kaye’s electric frontwoman energy propelling their albums Jackrabbit and Belong (Downtown) to international audiences and festivals worldwide.

She released “Closer Than This,” her first single as a solo artist post-San Fermin, in December 2019. The song gained traction quickly, garnering 75K plays on Spotify in the first two months without any editorial playlisting, and was featured as Rolling Stone’s Song You Need to Know. Her follow up single, “Too Much,” was featured in NPR’s New Music Friday roundup in February 2020.

“I wrote ‘Closer Than This’ because I felt there were a lot of narratives in music about women expressing their longing for commitment and relationships, but I had a specific experience where that wasn’t the case,” says KAYE. “Women especially are sold this idea that if they’re not giving constantly, they’re innately bad — giving to others, giving to a partner, giving to a family. This song is about a time when I didn’t want to give to anybody except myself.”

The year she turned 34 was a brutal dose of reality; she began to feel further away from her youth than ever before. Her second single, Lifeline flies with vulnerable but steady wings out of her newly released EP, Neon God.

For KAYE, it’s important that we remember to fight the messages fed to us in the groundwater: to nurture, grow, and push back. As an artist, she yearns to create art and find light through tapping into a deeper part of herself without glorifying the pain. In time, she believes art can be a lifeline.