At just 18-years-old, Chevel Shepherd is poised to take the country music world by storm. A native of Farmington, New Mexico, the talented country artist became interested in music early on. Her first taste of the stage came at the young age of four-years-old when she entered a singing competition with the Disney tune “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes.”
But Shepherd didn’t stop there.
In 2018, she joined the cast of NBC’s The Voice, where she competed on Team Kelly Clarkson, performing songs like The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” and Kacey Musgraves’ “Space Cowboy.” After winning the sing-off show, Shepherd didn’t walk away with a contract. Instead, she held onto what she learned and took some time off to strategically plan out her next move.
In the spring of 2020, Shepherd released a handful of catchy country songs, including the Musgraves, Shane MacAnally, and Brandy Clark-penned “Everybody’s Got A Story” and “Mama Got the Chair”- a call-and-response to the 1985 George Strait hit “The Chair.” Shepherd followed those songs up with three more tracks – “Just Like the Circus,” “Southern Boy,” and “The Letter.”
Now, Shepherd is readying the release of her debut EP entitled, Everybody’s Got A Story. Due out on Friday (March 26) via her independent label Country Sweetheart, the seven-track project will feature the previously mentioned songs as well as new songs, “Good Boy” and “Snakes.” Following the release of Shepherd’s EP, fans can look for her accompanying video for “Good Boy.”
Shepherd caught up with Country Now to talk about some of the songs on her forthcoming EP, journey on Season 15’s The Voice, and more.
Read on to find out more about Chevel Shepherd in this exclusive Q&A below.
What led you to want to pursue a career in country music?
I have been singing ever since I could speak. My mom sang, my sister sang, and my dad played guitar. So I grew up in a musical family. My mom loved country music, and my dad loved classic rock, so I grew up with the best of both worlds. But, I gravitated towards country music and fell in love with it. So, I just started learning songs and singing songs. My first performance in front of an actual audience was when I was four. There was a singing competition in Farmington, New Mexico. At first, they wouldn’t let me enter because they thought I’d win for being so young. I auditioned with “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood. But they asked me to sing a Cinderella song instead. So I did, and that was my first performance live in front of an audience. I think, from that point on, I just fell in love with performing. I started singing on the radio when I was about eight years old. I would go in every Friday before school, and I would cover a song, and I started doing that every week for a very long time. Then I auditioned for The Voice, and it just took off from there. I always had a love for music and knew that this is what I wanted to do.
What artists inspire you?
There are a lot of females in country music that I look up to. Like Loretta Lynn, I love her to death! She is the queen of country music, and she never strayed from her roots. She just always stayed true to who she was, and I look up to that a lot because that’s how I want to be. I always want to be true to myself. I love classic country music because it tells a story. I think music should tell a story because it connects with people in a lot of different ways. So, I love Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and Gretchen Wilson. I love so many artists! There are just too many to name.
You’re so young! Are people ever surprised when they find out you lean on the traditional side of country music?
Yeah, definitely. I have gotten some comments from people being like, ‘Wow, you sound like you could sing country music in the 80s!’ I love that! That is a big compliment because I love that kind of music. I think that people are always a little bit surprised because no one my age or in my generation listens to that kind of music anymore. But I love it, and I am hoping to bring that sound back.
A lot of fans know you from your experience on The Voice. What were some of the biggest takeaways from that experience?
Yeah! I met a lot of great people when I was on The Voice. When I was there, I got to hang out with people who shared the same passion as me. We all loved music. It was so fun because living in Farmington, it’s a small town, and I was going to a regular high school. But when I went to The Voice, I was surrounded by people who wanted to do the same thing with their future. So it felt so comfortable. We were all friends, and we all got along so well. It was fun getting to work with Kelly Clarkson, my coach on The Voice. She gave me an insight into the music business. I am involved in every aspect of my career. I wanted to know all the ins and outs of the music business. So I think she helped me open up more and learn more about the music business and the career I wanted to pursue.
After winning your season, did you feel pressure to release music right away?
After I won The Voice, I immediately wanted to put out music. I didn’t feel pressured, but I wanted to put out my original music and start touring. So I started finding songs from writers to record for my EP, and I started booking gigs. I didn’t have a manager or anything at the time. So my mom, dad, and I were pretty much doing all of the work. My mom was negotiating with people for gigs. I like to work hard and set goals for myself, so I didn’t feel pressured, but I also didn’t want to breathe. I just wanted to get out there and do what I love.
This month, you’ll be releasing your debut EP, Everybody’s Got A Story. What can you tell us about that project?
Well, it was a great project to do. I had so much fun! That was the first time I had ever recorded in Nashville, which was cool. I think that the whole EP shows who I am as a country artist. It also shows a lot of different aspects of my voice. I have some upbeat songs on there and some ballads, but they are all classic country. They all tell a good story that many people can relate to, and I love telling stories! I want to reach people, and I think that music heals people. I am proud of my EP. I believe it embodies me as an artist and a person, and I think it’s just great!
One of the songs on the project is the already-released song, “Just Like The Circus.” What does that song mean to you?
The first time I heard it, I fell in love with the story. I think how I interpret it is that it’s very empowering for women. It reminds them that they are strong, and can be independent, and it reminds them to know their worth. I love that storyline, and I think that the music video that we shot helps get that story across.
Is there anything you want to share about the music video that people don’t know?
Well, we worked hard. We filmed it in about four days, locally in Durango, Colorado, about an hour away from my house in New Mexico. So, my fiddle player, he is the general manager of the railroad up there. He connected us with the train, and I just had all these connections. I used a lot of local people because that’s what I love to do. I love to give back to my community and involve people that have helped me get to where I am. So I involved many local people and brought some of my friends on it, and it came together really, really great, and it was such a fun experience.
One of my favorite songs on your upcoming EP is “Mama Got the Chair.” Can you tell me about that song?
I had reached out to my friend, Dave Fenley, who was on The Voice with me. He is an incredible musician and songwriter. He had sent me that song, and I immediately was like, ‘Yes! I have to do this song!’ I love the storyline, and I love that the song is a callback to a George Strait song! It was so, so classic. I knew that I had to do it. It was the very first song I got for my EP, and I fell in love with it. I do not have a favorite song on the EP because I love them all so much. They are all my babies, and I am so proud of all of them. But, oh gosh! “Mama Got the Chair” is definitely up at the top!
What do you want fans to take away from your upcoming EP?
I hope that they can relate to the story that I am singing. “Everybody’s Got a Story,” which is another song on the EP, connected with many people. The song helps to tell the story of different aspects of life that people go through. So people loved that one. I want people to realize how much I love country music and how I want to bring the real country back, and I hope they are excited for more stuff in the future.
In what ways have you had to adjust your creativity during this time?
Social media has been a big help because that’s what’s connecting us all right now since we can’t be together in person. So I have been doing a lot of covers on my Facebook and Instagram. I do them every Saturday. I cover a song, and I’ll take requests. I think that has helped a lot since we cannot do concerts. I think releasing new music is also helping a lot because people love music, and in quarantine, people are listening to a lot of music. So releasing music, talking to people, and checking-in with them, has helped, but I do miss performing live.
Have you picked up any new hobbies while in quarantine?
During quarantine, I started playing guitar a lot more. I have been learning it for a while now, but I started hammering down on it. I’m doing pretty good. I’ve just been spending time with my family around the house. We like to bake around here. So we have been baking, playing around with our animals, and hanging around the house.
What should fans look out for next from you?
I hope that all this stuff blows over soon. Once it does, I am excited to get back on the stage and start performing again. I cannot wait to start doing meet-and-greets again too. I am excited to see everybody’s faces in person again!
Fans can keep up with Chevel Shepherd on Instagram.