At only 18-years-old, Chevel Shepherd emboldens the power of country music with a neo-traditional debut EP, Everybody’s Got A Story. The Farmington, New Mexico native made her way to Nashville after taking home the prize on Season 15 of NBC’s The Voice. Bolstered by Kelly Clarkson’s mentorship, Shepherd stepped offset to open shows for Clarkson, Little Big Town, Brothers Osborne, Lee Brice, and more, along with singing “God Bless America” before the Indianapolis 500. Her national entrance as a vocal powerhouse was swift, but the emerging artist boasts wisdom beyond her years and an enduring talent for delivering stories.
On Friday, March 26, Shepherd will release her seven-track collection. While she is not yet ready to share her own songs, the young artist captured the spirit of the vetted tunesmith—including Kacey Musgraves and Shane McAnally—who penned the stories that comprise her first project. Searing pedal steel offsets complicated chronicles, delivering illuminating ballads with towering vocal strength.
“Throughout the collection, you’ll hear a very traditional country sound, I wanted to stay true to that,” Shepherd tells American Songwriter. “Storytelling is at the very heart of country music. Each of these songs are so different, but tell different parts of my own stories for others to relate to.”
Over the course of 2020, Shepherd spilled a sequence of singles from the upcoming project, revealing a through-line of bona fide song stories. The title track, “Everybody’s Got A Story”—penned by Kacey Musgraves, Shane McAnally, and Brandy Clark—embodies Shepard’s draw to narrative lyricism. The artist delivers the anecdotal series with a spanning, twang-filled vocal range. The universally resonant track establishes a masterful tone for the up-and-coming act, whose hell-bent on purveying the music traditions on which she was raised. At home in New Mexico, young Shepherd absorbed the sounds of her childhood, wielding them into her promising career as a country artist.
“My mom listened to country, and my dad listened to classic rock,” she explains. “So, I have an ear for both genres and try to bring forward traditions from both. As an artist, I admire Loretta Lynn because she really stayed true to herself, her beliefs. Tanya Tucker and the Dixie Chicks are also big influences on the music I want to make and share.”
Her stylistically old-school approach allows for a flip-sided account of George Strait’s iconic, “The Chair,” with her second single, “Mama Got the Chair.” Co-written by Nora Collins, Nick Donley, and The Voice alum, Dave Fenley, the mournful tune is a clever response to the 1985 hit reveals an impressive breadth of understanding from the emerging act.
The following singles like “Southern Boy,” “The Letter,” and “Just Like the Circus”—another Musgraves/McAnally cut—continue in the same vein, encompassing various perspectives from the collective human experience. The accompanying videos feature vintage vignettes of ever-relevant messaging. The retro reels overlaid with modern lyrics further propel the young-artist on the forward path, insisting that at 18 years old, she is still to be taken seriously.