Dream Girl: Erene
Like another hip-hop singer and dancer you could name, she's just a girl from the block, but her "block" is the historic central square in Keene, N.H. Erene, 19, attended local schools and her family runs the popular chain of Athen's Pizza restaurants, but she always knew her destiny had less to do with throwing dough and more with laying down beats and dance moves.
Her talent was noticed early on and she was asked to perform at the Keene High School baccalaureate. She wrote her first original song for the occasion, titled "Our Time." In her first semester at Colby Sawyer College she recorded a couple of songs in Boston. Two weeks later the producer called her back and suggested she put off school for awhile and focus on her music career. She's now a hot up-and-comer on the regional scene, but it was her recent homecoming at the Keene Pumpkin Festival that convinced her she had made the right choice. An ocean of fans came out to sing and dance along with the little girl (5'1") with big dreams.
People tend to think of Keene as a sleepy town. Is there more music going on there than people know?
Keene is like many New Hampshire towns, it could appear sleepy but there is actually a vibrant music scene. Annual events like the Keene Pumpkin Festival and the Keene Music Festival showcase new and known bands from all over year after year. With Keene State College, there is a ready audience for good music of all kinds. Every time I perform in Keene the energy of the crowd is amazing.
You grew up in a pretty well-known family. Did you ever feel out of place?
No, my family has always been incredibly supportive of my interest in music. I come from a large family, and they were my first audience and continue to be my most supportive.
Why do you think you are more inspired by male hip-hop artists than female?
Part of it is that there are many more male hip-hop artists than female. I am often inspired by the tone, style and drive of male artists. Drake is a huge inspiration to me because he sings and raps about real life experiences. I remember when Chris Brown's first album came out and instantly falling in love with his voice. Ultimately, I am inspired by any artist, male or female, who sings from the heart with energy and style.
They say you are the go-to girl for singing the National Anthem. Do you spice it up a little?
I feel like it's important to stay true when given the honor of singing the National Anthem. I definitely add my style to make it my own, but not take away from its meaning and impact. It is an honor every time I am asked to sing our anthem.
When you sang for Hillary Clinton, did you get to meet her? Any specific memories?
Yes, my family and I had the honor of meeting Secretary Clinton after her speech. I remember her being very composed when she spoke. I admire Secretary Clinton as an incredibly powerful woman in the usually male dominated world of politics.
Your show is a full production with dancers. Sounds a bit risky. Do things sometimes go wrong?
We spend many hours rehearsing and preparing for every show, but something could always go wrong. Our goal every time is to give the crowd an amazing performance. We try to be ready for anything.
What's the weirdest and/or funniest thing that's happened to you so far in your career?
I don't know where to start when it comes to talking about all the hilarious things that have happened. My dancers and I are like family so we definitely know how to make a rehearsal crazy fun. Once during rehearsals one of my guys dropped me during a subtle lift where I fell right on my butt. Thanks, guys.
How did you feel after your big day of performing at the Keene Pumpkin Festival?
The feeling was incredible. I remember looking out at the audience while on stage and not being able to see where the crowd stopped in the distance. It is amazing to think of the thousands of fans who came to support me. Hearing them singing along with me was energizing and humbling. My fans give me the determination and drive to continue perusing my dreams; I couldn't do it without them.
"Move Ya Body Ma" is such a catchy line. What inspired it?
I love when a song makes me move even when I don't realize it is happening. I wanted to write a song that encourages those people who don't usually dance to give it a try. I think this song does that very well.