Sherree Chamberlain's parents loved music, but not enough to let her sing all the time.
"It's a family rule: No singing at the table," Chamberlain said. "We would all be eating at the table, and it would be me or my sister " one of us would start singing. It would get really annoying to the rest of the family."
Those memories were a short-lived impediment to Chamberlain's own a cappella idea of living, as voiced in the bruising "My Destiny," a song in which she sings: "For I will have died when music has left me / For I only breathe in and out melody."
With a self-titled album in the can, music finally gets to be at least a part-time job for the Stillwater musician.
Chamberlain recorded the album at Chad Copeland's Black Watch Studios in Norman with a cast of musicians. The collaborative process forced Chamberlain to enter a new songwriting phase.
"It's been really interesting," she said, on a day off from waiting tables. "It's inspired me to be a lot more decisive and a lot more thoughtful about what else can come in musically."
Chamberlain said Copeland came in handy, sharing with her a Paul Simon-authored text on songwriting, and schooling her on how to find the right sounds in the studio with the new band.
"I know exactly how I want the melody and the words to go, and the basic chord structure," she said. "But when it comes to 'I'm hearing the tom, the kick and the snare,' I don't know how to verbalize what I want. Chad's been able to really help."
Overall, Chamberlain said she's happy with the new album, which will be released this fall. She will join Utah's Band of Annuals and New York folksinger Matt Bauer for a 9 p.m. Friday show at Opolis in Norman.
Sherree Chamberlain Band shows are traditionally marked by her brooding piano and smoky voice projecting personal stories, which don't turn into proper songs until the emotions boil over.
"It helps me, for some reason, to write songs to get it out there," she said. "I can keep singing it and singing how I feel, and it kind of helps me put words to my pain, however emo that sounds."
She is noticeably cheerier and self-deprecating than, say, the English major who narrates "Bird Song," which has attracted more than 44,000 listeners on her MySpace page. Lights help Chamberlain revisit her emotions on stage " not showy neon lights, but rather simple white beams that bleach out everything around her piano. The music happens when she's illuminated enough to give her the illusion of solitary playing.
"When you can't see the people "¦ there's something very powerful about having a microphone and being able to amplify and say exactly how you feel, and people have to listen," she said.
And, unlike performing at her childhood dinner table, audiences tend to open their ears. "Danny Marroquin