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Kay Hanley Biography

Last updated: 07/24/2002 03:08:39 AM

Little Zoe Mabel, two years old and in love with the world, is tumbling over innumerable happy obstacles in Boston's Q Division recording studios. Proud mother Kay Hanley smiles at Zoe's exhaustible wonder, and - for one brief moment - the gleam in their eyes is identical. Both faces, mother and daughter alike, are awash with the thrill of possibility and discovery. For, like her infectiously curious offspring, Kay Hanley is stepping out into the world unencumbered. The peaceful dissolution of the popular pop combo Letters to Cleo, which Hanley fronted with ebullient verve and soaring voice, opened as many doors as it closed. Via marriage (to musical partner and ex-Cleo guitarist Michael Eisenstein), motherhood, and a myriad of prominent musical endeavors, Hanley has reinvested in herself and her well-being, and is rewarded with Cherry Marmalade, her solo debut, which boasts the most personal and potent performances of her already-distinguished career.

Kay Hanley first took to the global alt-rock stage as the wiry lead vocalist fronting Letters to Cleo. Best known for their top 10 hit "Here and Now," (from 1994's Aurora Gory Alice), Cleo's endless touring, three major-label albums, and memorable television and movie appearances (the most prominent being in the teen smash flick Ten Things I Hate About You) put Hanley's inimitable voice - equal parts full throttle belt and delicate resonance - in the ears of millions.

The band also provided songs for the cult animated television show Generation O, which featured Hanley voicing the role of the eight-year-old rocker Molly. That initial brush with voice-over work, coupled with Letter's to Cleo's strong following, led to Hanley starring as the singing voice of Josie on the gold-selling Josie and the Pussycats motion picture soundtrack. In addition to maintaining her reputation as one of rock's foremost female vocalists, these projects introduced untold numbers to Hanley's bewitching stylings.

Armed with a voice at once familiar and fresh, Kay Hanley emerges on Cherry Marmalade as not only a convincing vocalist, but also a distinct, immediate songwriter. Wrapping her personal observations in cascading melodic hooks and luscious, vivid imagery, Hanley combines her discipline as a vocalist and songwriter with the edgier creative instincts embodied in Letters to Cleo's finest work to craft a startlingly incisive set of contemporary melodic rock. From the slippery melismas of the opening "Fall" to the percolating astral waltz "Trans-Neptunian Object #1" that concludes Cherry Marmalade, it is clear that Hanley has continued to hone her considerable musicianship even while out of the public eye.

As if to encourage her debut as a solo artist, Kay Hanley was just recently voted Best Female Vocalist (Local) in Boston Phoenix' 2002 Best Music Poll and received the Best Female Vocalist (Indie Label) award at this year's Boston Music Awards (April, 2002) - well before Cherry Marmalade's August 2002 release. Now fueled by the wonder inspired by Zoe, her newfound independence, the support of her musician peers, and the infectious songs that compose Cherry Marmalade, Hanley is poised at the verge of even wider acclaim and success than she'd ever previously considered. And yet it all comes down not to numbers, but to the curiously mischievous smile that dashes across her lips as Zoe picks herself up after falling one more timeā€¦