Why ukulele? That is a very long and dramatic story that you will have to ask Charissa about another time. All she has space to say here is that she was very suddenly and irrevocably drawn to the instrument at age 11 and the rest is history. Raised by a musical family in Nashville, TN, Charissa quickly established herself as a formidable instrumentalist through her originals and chord-melody arrangements, and began playing writer’s rounds and concerts everywhere from local festivals to the Bluebird Cafe. Through her nonprofit concert campaign, Uke Can End It, she performed alongside artists like Al Nobriga, Kristin Andreassen and Phil Keaggy, and raised enough funds to finance a rescue operation for anti-slavery organization International Justice Mission.
In 2018, Charissa became both the youngest and the first female ukulele principal to study at Berklee College of Music. Through Berklee's American Roots program, Charissa began writing and performing alongside Lucy Nelligan under the name Buttonwillow; the duo has performed in various locations across New England, notably Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival and FreshGrass Festival, and released their first EP in Fall 2019. Also in Fall 2019, Charissa was featured in Ukulele Magazine for her solo recital at Berklee, the first
ukulele recital in Berklee's history. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 Charissa was selected as a songwriter for Savannah Music Festival’s Acoustic Music Seminar (the virtual Stringband Spectacular is available here). She was also named a 2020-21 Fletcher Bright scholar by the Berklee American Roots program.
Musically, Charissa has been compared to everyone from Amanda Palmer to Joni Mitchell to Bela Fleck. She is thrilled and delighted by this because she wants her music to defy category; within her there is jumbled together a daring, open-hearted performer, a wistful, introspective songwriter, and an intentional instrumentalist who is driven to break down barriers for her instrument. She draws on singer-songwriter roots and jazz training in her music, creating dreamy, ethereal worlds for her listeners.
Charissa's debut solo EP will be released in June 2021. You can check out her first single, "Goodbye", on all streaming platforms.