Today I am very happy to share with you the wonderful interview I had with Sheléa. Sheléa is one of the rising star in the music industry. She just came back from 2 months in Dubai doing a residency at Quincy Jones’ brand new jazz lounge in the Palazzo Versace Hotel.
When did you realize that music was your passion?
I feel that I am still discovering how deep the passion goes, but music has been a part of my life from the beginning. Like my earliest memory is musical. I remember my parents bought me this little wooden piano and I was like three years old. I remember writing songs for my sisters with two little fingers (laughs). But what is so rewarding is [the fact that] I remember how music made me feel at that age and it still makes me feel the same way today.
Do you consider music as your life purpose?
I do. I do. My soul kind of knew it all along, although I have been searching for a lot of things (laughs). I was a teacher in another life, a substitute teacher from K-12 in all subjects and it was very rewarding. I come from a family of educators so that’s all I knew too, but music just goes so deep and I don’t think I can ever let it go.
How did you decide that it was more than a passion but that you wanted it to be your lifestyle?
It was not until College. I was not one of those little girls who said “Oh I want to be a singer” because my extent of music was just in the Church. But when I went to College I actually joined a girl’s group and I just got the bug when we were in the studio, writing and producing. And I was just like “oh nothing else matters, that’s what I want to do with the rest of my life!”. But It was not really something that I was encouraged to do growing up, it was more: “Go to school, have an education.”
For a lot of people on the outside, we see you singing and it seems very nice and easy, but can you share with us the commitment that you have behind all of that? What does it take?
You know when I look at my gift I can see that it has grown and I realized that it has grown because I enjoyed it so much. But there is the other side, the one of really taking care of yourself and vocal health and a lot of people don’t understand how you have to make a lot of sacrifices. Just for instance, I went to Oakwood University for Alumni and so I sang for an event on Friday. Saturday is usually the big day when everybody walks around the Von Braun and talks to everybody and catches up… I wanted to be able to do that but I knew vocally I would not be able to because I had a show the next day in Chicago. So you have to make these kind of calls. I have to make sure that I am preserving and protecting my instrument and so I had to pass.
How do you define your music style?
Oh wow, that’s so hard. I grew up in the Church so I am always going to have that Gospel undertone because I listen to everything from the Winans, Commissioned, The Clark Sisters and the Hawkins, Takes 6 of course, those are my brothers, so that (Gospel) is such a big part of my identity. But I also listen to a lot of classical. It’s almost like everything in my journey has brought the sound together, all these influences together. I love Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, and of course who does not love Whitney Houston? I feel like all of those parts are still very much a part of me. I remember reading what Sarah Vaughn said” I am not a jazz singer, I am not a pop singer, I am not a gospel singer.. I am just a singer” and that is how I feel.
You have accomplished so much already but what is a dream or goal that you still want to realize?
Yes I have been so blessed, so many dreams came true that I even did not think to dream of! But I do have a few (laughs). I definitely need to have a lot more name recognition, but a dream of mine is to sing the National Anthem for the Superbowl.
How do you face obstacles? What keeps you going and pushing?
It’s so funny you are asking me this question; I was just talking with my Mom about how in this industry you need to have thick skin. It’s almost like you’re a masochist for punishment (laughs), you keep putting yourself out there, just to get beat up, to be scrutinized, to get picked apart… but you do it because it’s worth it, because that one yes can make the whole difference. But at the end I know how God views me, I’m His child and that continues to be a source of me being able to have a strong sense of identity and worth and not allowing the outside forces to either pick me up or even bring me down.
I think that’s what keeps me going is when after sharing my gift someone cries in my arms and says that’s exactly what they needed, or someone telling that a song that they heard from me helped them through really tough times. It’s about connecting. And at the end, even if all the dreams or goals are never accomplished I get the gift of touching people’s hearts and that is more than enough for me.
What event are you the most proud of?
Wow that’s a hard one, (laughs). One event that made the deepest impression on me was the second time I went to the White House. I did a tribute to Ray Charles. To see President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama just like standing on their feet and going crazy after I finished that was just a surreal moment. And I see it very clear, sometimes things were blurred but that moment I can still hear it I can still feel the electricity that was there. I’m looking at Michelle and she’s fanning herself and I thought “Oh my God this is crazy” (laughs). That time I would said left a longtime impression.
What is your favorite place to travel?
I’ve been to a lot of places but I am only starting to really travel too. I’ve been to Tokyo, The Philippines, Barbados, Bermuda. I love the water! The water in Bermuda is just so blue and so gorgeous. Just like year I did a Gospel cruise and we went to Tortola, San Juan. Tortola is mostly one of the most beautiful places that I’ve been, but they all have their charm. In Japan for example everybody is so accommodating. But If I have to choose one I gotta say South Africa because that was the first time I had been to Africa. I had a very physical and spiritual reaction upon arriving there and it was something I had never experienced before. I’m still trying to figure out what that was. It was kind of like a connection with the earth, like somehow my soul knew I had come home. Cape Town is beautiful. I don’t want to be weird or mystical about it, but something inside me knew. I had a physical pain when I left. When the plane was taking off it felt like I was leaving a part of me.
What is the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up?
(Laughs) I’m checking my phone! (laughs). It’s a really bad habit but it wakes me up though. Before all the social media I was just pressing the snooze button. But now I wake up and I check my Instagram (laughs). I have to be honest (laughs) and I go to the bathroom afterwards. I know I probably have some form of phone addiction (laughs).
How would you describe the perfect day for you?
Oh wow… I love Nature, I love being in Nature. 2 days ago my Dad and I ( I hadn’t caught up with him since I came back from Carnegie Hall so he wanted to hear all about it). So he said “lets have something to eat, let do an early dinner. And he picked me up, he’s got a Porsche, so we drove with the top down along the Coast in Orange County… and I just loved that. With my family we go camping every year in Yosemite, it is surrounded by mountains and the trees, lakes.. I’m an outside girl! So for me putting music in nature together is wonderful!.. but that’s not the whole day, just the highlight.
What is your favorite holidays?
Oh by far Christmas. To be honest, in the beginning I wanted to be an artist just so I could have a Christmas album. I have a few Christmas singles but I cannot wait to have a full Christmas album and then do a Christmas special on NBC (laughs). I’m going to speak it.
What keeps you inspired? What is your inspiration?
I get inspiration from so many things but like I said earlier when I see that my gift is making a difference, that it’s actually resonating, that people believe in me. That is enough to keep me going. And I just love creating, I love the process from writing to going to the studio, laying down the demo, working up the orchestration. So I do the piano first then we add the bass, then the drums and the strings. Then we send it off to mastering and we are like “oh my God this just came out from nothing! It was in my imagination and now everybody can listen to it”. You can touch people’s lives… just that is so inspiring what music can bring and just the process of creating music.