Time to Unpack Her Suitcase

Char McAllister seated

Char McAllister website

[Editor’s note: **For an exciting update, see the end of this article**]

Char McAllister’s new CD is named for her life’s journey, set to music. A rich voice full of complexity, nuance and depth tells the tale of setbacks and challenges that almost did her in.

But she wouldn’t allow that to happen. Based on her successes stemming all the way from 1998’s Chosen to be Blessed and the electricity surrounding her new CD (released 8/13/17) titled Suitcase & A Dream, it may finally be time to unpack.

Char has arrived.

There’s lots of imagery of you at the railroad tracks. Why the symbolism?

It pretty much depicts how I have felt most of my life, roaming from place to place, trying to find where I fit in this world. The dreamer’s journey…

How has your style evolved from Chosen to be Blessed all the way through to Suitcase & A Dream?

I grew up in a very strict religious upbringing and was pretty much closed off from the world. I wasn’t allowed to listen to “secular” music, not even contemporary Christian music.

Born an artist, it was always a challenge for me not being able to express myself truthfully. I gradually began to experiment with different styles. 

Chosen to be Blessed, Family Christmas, and Dreams are a mixture of gospel, pop, and R&B. My single “Dreams” received a wonderful review from TAXI A&R (Artists and Repertoire) which sums up pretty much the direction I am heading:

“What a great sounding vocal, song and track! This is very impressive, from the stellar production, soulful and expressive vocal and very sophisticated structural song elements…Very contemporary overall sound, that could cross…between traditional R&B/pop and Gospel. Not an easy bridge to cross but I think this does it. Fantastic, you should feel great about this!”

“Bustin’ Out” is a single I released in 2015. More of a rock & roll vibe. 

What is the main message you try to convey in your music?

LOVE… and with that, everything good will follow.

Which artists have inspired you in your career?

Whitney Houston, CeCe Winans and Fred Hammond.

When did you record this EP?

The songs on Suitcase & A Dream were recorded in 2009. I had some life experiences that hindered the completion of the project, so they were just sitting in the studio until now. An opportunity presented itself and here we are! I am about to release my songs after so many years. They include:

  1. Seasons of Life 
  2. Bustin’ Out 
  3. Best Friend 
  4. My Song of Thanks
  5. New Beginnings

On August 13th I released my new EP and will had a release party at The Latin Phoenix Music and Art Studios in Elgin, IL. (More info is available at chardreams.com/tour.)

Every track is an original song that I wrote between 1998 and 2009, when I tapped into my inner strength to make some life changes. I had walked away from an abusive past to pursue a better life.

I had nothing…no money, no job, no family…I was even homeless. All I had was a suitcase and a dream. Seven years later I’m glad I made that decision. Better late than never!

When did you start your musical training?

I never had any musical training.

I’ve been singing since I was a very young girl. I actually remember singing my first solo in church when I was 5 or 6 years old. I was this little girl singing this deep song with this big voice. I was a shy girl but when I got on stage I was bold. Singing in church and school choirs and groups helped me to develop my talent.

When did you know you wanted this to be your career?

For as long as I can remember. Funny, people who knew me when I was younger remind me that I used to tell them I’d be a professional singer. 

Do you compose all your music? 

Yes. I wrote my first song at 16 years old. It was a BIG song – deep – sad. It was the only way I could express what I was feeling.

I’ve struggled with depression throughout my life. I experienced a terrible bout in my late 20’s and GOD breathed lyrics and melody into me. They came so fast I had to start carrying a notebook and recorder with me everywhere. The songs became my medicine. 

I’ve recently been branching off into collaborating with other writers.

Where have you toured? 

Most of the East Coast, Midwest and Canada.

What are some of your favorite venues to perform? 

I enjoyed performing at Carnegie Hall and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Navy Pier and The House of Blues in Chicago are some of the cool places I enjoyed performing.

Where would you like to perform that you have not yet?

I would like to perform on Broadway in New York City; it’s been a childhood dream. A major European tour is on the list of “Must Do.”

How would you characterize your music: soul, jazz, R&B, etc.?

Inspirational. I write songs and they never come out sounding the same.

There is not one genre that can capture my essence. My songs are written from personal experiences, from my heart and soul.

I don’t like to fit myself in any genre, I just write music that will inspire everything good in the world. 

What do you think sets Chicago apart from other major US cities?

Every city I have been to has its uniqueness. I always gravitate to the music and it feeds my need to grow as an artist.

Do you work with the same personnel?

I don’t.  I’ve performed with phenomenal musicians. I’m working towards having a core group as I rebuild my solo career.

How do you choose your backup singers?

I search for the right voices that will complement and enhance my vision.

The beautiful thing is both my daughters are amazing vocalists and they know all my songs. My oldest has been singing with me for the last few shows, so I’m covered until they no longer want to sing with me.

What was your first break in the industry?

It was my debut recording Chosen to be Blessed which was released on my independent label JuDavida Music Group.

Those awesome experiences were priceless. It presented so many doors for me to tour for three years, opening for MC Hammer, Vickie Winans, Commissioned and very well-known artists. I was the headliner at Three Rivers Stadium and voted “Pittsburgh’s 1999 Best Gospel Performer.”

I got a glimpse of my future. That CD released in 1998 is still impacting people.  It led to me having my own television special which aired on B.E.T. and The Inspiration Network.

What are your plans the day after your release party?

Lots of R&R…massage, stillness, reflecting, being with my children. 

Future projects?

YESSSSS! I have some amazing songs lined up for the new project. It will be at another level because I’ve grown so much. I’m more open-minded, uninhibited, raw, real, pure, broken and mended. 

Other comments? 

To find out more about my upcoming projects, booking and tour dates please visit my website at www.chardreams.com.

Also, visit my artist page at www.facebook.com/chardreams and hit the “LIKE” button to show your support. Thanks!



“You have such an amazing talent!!!… some may call it connection, stage presence…I, my dear, call it anointing from above. The way you move one’s soul through your lyrics, the sound of your voice. I’m truly blessed to call you my friend and to have had the honor of being part of the beginning of many DREAMS come true!” — Sandra G.

“When I try to describe CHAR…she’s about something, she’s about positive change, she’s about hope, she’s about inspiring others. She has the mastery of Whitney [Houston], the soul of India [Arie], the heart of CeCe [Winans], but she is uniquely CHAR.” — Rise Jones

“Everyone was spectacular!!! YOU shone brightly and we all love your spirit and talent!!! Enjoy the moments…it’s just starting!!! Dreams do come true!!!!” — Amaryllis Santiago

“Thanks again for the experience…It was pretty nice to rock with you, Char and the band. I felt like many seeds were planted by that show on many levels… Keep going, don’t stop. Be a Divine messenger for God in your evolving and special uniqueness.” — Spike Rebel

“This queen right here put on an amazing performance as she released her EP Suitcase and a Dream. I am so proud and inspired by her.  Her soul screams out through her music. I  love her vibes. Char McAllister has such amazing, positive energy  that it draws you into her soul and music.” — Erica H.

“Had a fabulous evening listening to this beautiful lady sing and enjoying the mad skills of her band! Congratulations Char on your Suitcase & A Dream CD launch! Thank you for sharing your journey with us all.” — Wendy H.

“I loved your show. I still have goose bumps. You are simply amazing. I’m still smiling.” — Thomas R.

“You are so talented Char McAllister!!! I could feel the love in the room. Congratulations and never stop believing in your dreams.” — Danae T.

“It was wonderful, just wanted more…” — Jacqueline R.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.

(c) Debbie Burke 2017

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