Listen

Music Journeys: Sheléa

Mar 23, 2021

Credit Sheléa

Sheléa joins Music Journeys to share how the love of music began, the inspiration for her latest songs, and to reflect on her most memorable performances. From multiple White House sessions, working with music’s icons, and singing that Whitney Houston tribute following the legendary singer's death in 2012, Sheléa has a voice that soars and even sings in the podcast. Thanks for listening.

You Are Enough plays...

When Sheléa added some music and her voice to a simple line and branded it a songfirmation, she received quite a response to the finished product. 

"So many people from all over the world were covering that song," Sheléa recalled. "Parents would send me videos of them singing it to their children every morning before they went to school. Preschool teachers were sending me videos of their little preschool class singing it and so many direct messages from people who told me that literally that song got them through 2020. That is my why, recognizing that what came from my heart was able to touch someone else's heart and bring them hope, joy, or whatever they needed. I want that to be my legacy, that my music is what brought people through." 

Because of You plays...

"My most vivid memory is harmonizing with my mom and singing songs together at 2 years old," Sheléa reflected. "In my baby book, they say it started even much earlier than that, but what I can actually recall is 2 years old. There was this particular song that was a duet."   

More Than Wonderful plays...  

"We would always fight over who was going to be the man and who was going to be the woman," Sheléa said with a laugh of More than Wonderful by Sandi Patty and Larnelle Harris. "That's definitely my earliest memory. Then of course I remember this little wooden piano and at around 3 years old making up songs and singing them for my sisters, so music has always been a huge part of who I am. I never thought this would be a career, it was literally just something I just did at church. They always told me I was very talented, but I never saw beyond that. It wasn't until I went to a little school in Hunstville, Alabama called Oakwood University and joined this girls group called Forgiven. We were almost like the Gospel version of Destiny's Child. It was very edgy Gospel and really fun songs. Of course the group didn't work out, but that was my first taste of going into the studio and writing and producing. The bug got me. I was like this is what I want to do forever." 

Love Fell On Me plays…

It’s easy to spot Stevie Wonder lending harmonica to Sheléa’s Love Fell On Me, the title track from her 2013 debut album. Wonder reached out after hearing her singing on Take Six's version of Someone To Watch Over Me in 2008. 

Someone To Watch Over Me plays...

That led to collaborating and touring with Wonder's annual Christmas concert. Recognition of her talent reached another level in 2012. A few days after Whitney Houston's death, Sheléa performed a ten-song medley of Houston's hits and posted the session on YouTube.

Saving All My Love For You sung by Sheléa plays...

"Whitney is the voice," Sheléa reflected. "I remember when she passed that so much was being said about her. It was real and true what was happening in her personal life. But I just wanted to reflect on the music, the legacy, and the light that she was. I went to my dear friend and collaborator, Tony Shepperd. I sat at this keyboard and just started singing all of her songs and hits that just touched me."

Didn't We Almost Have It All sung by Sheléa plays...

"I just did it for myself and friends and had no idea it would have such a response that it did," Sheléa said. "Her dancers, background singers, and family reached out to me. Her best friend Pebbles reached out and said she hadn't been able to grieve and cry until I saw your video. I remember feeling weird putting it out and getting all this attention from it. I remember thinking I would literally give all of this back just to have her back."

I'm Your Baby Tonight sung by Sheléa plays...

"It wasn't until Bobbi Kristina found me on social media," Sheléa recalled. "She said when I listen to you sing my mother's music, I feel her spirit with me and if she were here she would be so proud of you. That was the core of why I did it. I wanted to honor her mother and show what she meant to me. So now, I tour with David Foster and do her songs all over the world. It's just to remind people of how beautiful and great and what a light she was. It's not to show I can sing too. It's more of just reminding people of her legacy."

I've Got No Business plays...

"It feels like a dream," Sheléa said on her journey so far. "There's so many pinch me moments. Is Quincy Jones really my friend? Is Stevie Wonder really my friend? David Foster. I remember being that little girl and reading the liner notes, and now I have their admiration and respect. I know that God has brought me here for a reason. Even in the world now, there's so many people going through challenging times. I think we recognize that music plays such a big role in healing and trying to get through this, and I'm grateful and honored to be part of that."

As for the most memorable and meaningful moment, it's a tie. 

"The one I remember so vividly was the second time I performed at the White House," Sheléa said. "The first time was really special because I was able to bring my dad. He grew up in Alabama in the civil rights era. I knew it meant so much. That one was really special for me. I got the picture and letter that both President Obama and Michelle wrote to me and signed and Burt Bacharach is who I was actually honoring." 

Anyone Who Had A Heart White House performance plays...

"As I'm talking it through, they are tied," Sheléa continued. "I was going with the second time, but it's tied. The second time, I did a duet with Anthony Hamilton for a Ray Charles tribute. I just remember it being the most electrifying moment. I look out and see Barack Obama fanning Michele because it was getting hot in there." 

Night Time Is the Right Time White House performance plays...

"It ended up being the biggest moment of the night," Sheléa recalled. "I remember the sound and standing ovation, and that was the most meaningful moment. Both of those are tied for different reasons but feeling like I was part of history.  I am keenly aware that I am a Black woman in this industry, in this world. But I always say that music is the ultimate equalizer because I have been in settings where before I sing I may have been treated a certain way, not rudely but a little distantly. But the moment that gift God has given me touches their heart and brings them to tears, I have found those same people weeping in my arms because my music touched them so deeply. They didn't see a Black woman. They just felt the gift. Music - it doesn't see race, color, gender, sexual orientation. Music has that power to cut through."

Sheléa had another release in 2015 titled You and a tribute album to Allen and Marilyn Bergman in 2019. Her latest single came out last month. 

Grace plays...

"I was looking around at the world and the things on social media and this whole cancel culture," Sheléa said of the song Grace. "We gotta give more grace. Even during this pandemic, there are moments when I feel great and energized. Other times, especially in the start, I want to stay in my bed. I have to give myself grace and understand there are times when I won't hit the mark. I feel this song is a reminder to all of us that we're not always going to hit the mark. Just the same way that we have to forgive ourselves and give ourselves grace, we have to forgive others and give that same grace."  

Sheléa has had roles in the Emmy-nominated 2016 HBO film All The Way and Lifetime's biographical movie last year The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel, which brought things full circle given her Gospel roots. So what's next?

"I've been asking myself that," Sheléa acknowledged. "I recently got married Dec 31, 2020. It was our last middle finger to 2020. But I'm in a happy place. I would love to do a love record, an album reflective of where I am right now. So we'll see. Cory Henry and I are working on a joint album. I see more movies and films in my future. I'm feeling happy, grateful, and hopeful for the future."