NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After winning over the hearts of America and taking home the proverbial crown on Season 15 of NBC’s “The Voice,” what comes next? For 17-year-old, powerhouse vocalist Chevel Shepherd it means becoming a quick study, not just in the course work she is completing to graduate high school this May, but also of the music industry itself.
Part of that industry education included a first-ever stop at last month’s Country Radio Seminar (CRS) where Shepherd revealed to The Washington Post she’d be independently releasing new music. Two of those new songs are available now. The reflective “Everybody’s Got A Story,” penned by Kacey Musgraves, Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark and clever “Mama Got the Chair,” which explores the other side of “The Chair,” George Strait’s 1985 No. 1 hit, are the first of several releases leading up to Shepherd’s debut EP later this summer.
“I grew up listening to country music,” shares Shepherd. “I’ve always loved the classics like Loretta Lynn, Reba, Tanya Tucker and the Dixie Chicks. These new songs really embrace that kind of traditional country sound, but I’ve put my own twist on them. I hope you guys love them as much as I do!”
Part of Shepherd’s continuing education at CRS included a panel discussion hosted by CMT regarding the challenges facing women and airplay on country radio. The statistics for a new female artist could be daunting for some, but Shepherd is undeterred, sharing with Rolling Stone, “This data doesn’t deter me. It can’t. I’m proud to be a female country singer and am proud of the music the women in this format continue to create…Country is who I am.”
During her run on “The Voice,” Cowboys & Indians declared that Shepherd “stands poised to become Generation Z’s newest country music star.” But the young dynamo wasn’t interested in overnight success. So, the wise-beyond-her-years vocalist walked away from the recording contract that comes with winning “The Voice” in order to maintain creative control of her sound. While fans have been patiently awaiting new music, the Farmington, N.M. native has been traveling between her home and Nashville carefully selecting songs by acclaimed songwriters and scoring studio time with the help of “Voice” coach turned mentor, Kelly Clarkson.
Raised on country music and the outdoors, Shepherd grew up feeding animals on the farm, barrel racing in the rodeo, fixing up cars with her dad and singing almost before she could walk, certainly well before walking onto “The Voice” stage and onto team Kelly. When it comes to the new songs and her forthcoming EP, Shepherd knows how invaluable Clarkson’s support was to her creative process sharing with The Post, “I got to pick the songs and I got to record it here in Nashville. Kelly just being a part of it, it’s been a blessing.”
In addition to the songwriting prowess of award-winners Kacey Musgraves, Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark on “Everybody’s Got A Story,” new track “Mama Got the Chair” was written by Nora Collins, Nick Donley and Shepherd’s fellow “Voice” contestant Dave Fenley. Both tracks, produced by Todd Tidwell (Kelly Clarkson, Cody Johnson, Reba, Ashley Monroe) and recorded with an in-studio band, solidify Shepherd’s commitment to a more traditional country sound. The honesty of “Everybody’s Got A Story” coupled with what PEOPLE calls “a larger than life voice,” creates a memorable ode to small town life while “Mama Got the Chair,” coated in Shepherd’s rich vocals, shares the rest of the story from Strait’s romantic tale of a chance bar room encounter. Stay tuned on details for more new music from Shepherd soon.