[INTERVIEW] Ms. Sheléa Frazier Is An Artist To Look Out For

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Sheléa Frazier is one of the new voices of R & B to look out for—male or female. The California native had already been co-signed by legends like Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Tony Shepperd and Stevie Wonder before she even delivered her debut album. If that’s not impressive enough, Sheléa ‘s been invited to perform at the White House in front of President Obama. And her song was picked to be the theme song for the major picture film, Jumping The Broom. Even I was impressed and that takes a lot to do after 9 years in the business. Before I could give my own co-sign I decided to check her out at SOBs a few weeks ago as she performed her latest single, “Love The Way You Love Me.” Accompanying herself with a keyboard, she proved to be one of the best performers of the night, impressing the New York City crowd.

Music lovers will agree that her debut album, Love Fell On Me, is a spectacular introduction for the perfectionist. With a bright future ahead of her, we caught up with Sheléa to talk about her humble beginnings in the business, the people who have helped her continue to make strides and her future goals. Get introduced to Sheléa…

Parlé Magazine: When did you decide that music was your passion and that this is what you wanted to dedicate your life to?
Sheléa Frazier:  I wasn’t the kind of kid who was always singing in the brush or anything like that. I came from a family that was all about education, so I sang in the church but I never thought about it as a career. It wasn’t until I was in a girl’s group in college and I started doing some real things. I was in the studio a lot, I was living it, eating it breathing it. It was so overwhelming. Me just being in the environment, even though the girl’s group didn’t work out I started thinking, maybe I can do this by myself. This is when I feel the most alive, but it was much later for me. It was in the college years.

Parlé:  You ended up finishing school, correct?
Sheléa:  I did. I got a BA in Music with an emphasis in Piano.

Parlé:  I recently saw your perform a set at SOBs where you sang,”Love The Way You Love Me,” while playing the piano.  During the performance though you mentioned that you don’t really call yourself a piano player, why is that if you studied it?
Sheléa:  Well, I don’t consider myself to be a pianist. My brother in-law is a great piano player, I really more accompany myself.
Parlé:  One of your biggest supporters right now is the great, Stevie Wonder.  How did you end up meeting him and becoming someone he considers a great artist?
Sheléa:  I was on this album called, The Standard by Take 6 and Stevie absolutely loves Take 6 so when he heard the album, he heard me singing on the song, “Someone To Watch Over Me.” Just from that he wanted to meet me. We developed a friendship and we really connected. So when I released my first album he wanted to be a part of it, so he played harmonica on “Love Fell On Me,” the title track of the album, which is also featured on the soundtrack for the movie, Jumping The Broom. That was incredible.

Parlé:  That’s great. We’ll come back to that song, but prior to this album you released a Christmas EP last year, talk to me about why you wanted to do that?
Sheléa:  Yeah I dropped a Christmas EP. It was just two songs on it but that’s on iTunes now. “Don’t Want To Wait Til Christmas” and “Christmas Time Is Here.” I absolutely love Christmas time and Christmas songs.

Parlé:  The whole road to releasing your debut album, what was that process like?
Sheléa:  Um, difficult towards the end. I gotta be honest, I loved creating the album, but I just kept coming up with more songs. Originally we had a number of songs but I kept being inspired. So for me the biggest problem on this particular release was really narrowing down songs. I had to say, just stop! The most difficult part was not knowing when to stop. I was almost obsessing over it, like, is it good enough? Are all the songs strong enough?

Parlé:  Tony Shepperd is the executive producer on the album and you are also signed to his label, Breath of Life Records. He has a long history in the music business, what was it like working with him on this album?
Sheléa:  Tony and I have a ten year friendship and so we’re very, very close. He started this label a couple of years ago, so it feels like family. He really, really gets what I want to do and he supports me. It feels great to have him as my production partner, and to be a part of his label.

Parlé:  How did your friendship begin?
Sheléa:  I met him through a friend in college, he just said, there’s this guy who I think you should meet. It was really just as simple as that. Its so crazy because I never would have thought it would have led to such a long standing relationship. It was just a simple introduction.

Parlé:  Does anyone else in your family still sing?
Sheléa:  I come from a very, very musical family, everybody sings, but I’m the only one that’s made a career out of it. My mom sings and plays, my dad plays.

Parlé:  The title track, “Love Fell On Me,” you mentioned it earlier, but looking back at it, did you think it had that type of potential when you were originally creating it?
Sheléa:  Absolutely not, its so crazy. I remember I was talking to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, cause I was in songwriters camp for a while, I remember just having this melody that was stuck in my head, so of course I went home and finished it up. Little did I know, five, six years later, Salim Akil, the director of Jumping The Broom would make it the theme song for the film. And then again, later on down the line having Stevie Wonder play on it—Stevie’s not featured on the film version. I had no idea. I go on youtube and there are about 6 or 7 covers of it. People are trying out for “The Voice” with it, Its been really rewarding to see that song come to life.

Parlé:  “Love The Way You Love Me” is the second single.  Tell me about that track.  What type of feedback have you been getting?
Sheléa:  “Seeing You” was the first single. That got a great response but we didn’t have the album out to support it. “Love The Way You Love Me” is the second single now that we have the album. We’re releasing the video on vevo. People are responding really, really strongly to it.

Parlé:  Now that you’ve been sitting on the album for a little bit of time and the difficult part of completing it is out the way, do you have a favorite track or a favorite moment from the creation process?
Sheléa:  I remember vividly the last song we recorded, that was “Till The Morning Comes.” Its kind of one of the sleeper songs on the album because its the second to last track on the album. Its definitely become one of my favorite tracks. It also reminds me of when we cut the last vocal and I came out the booth like, ‘We’re Done!’ But, “Love The Way You Love Me” as well is a song I love performing.
I wrote all the songs so they all come from the depth of my soul, so its hard to choose.

Shelea ‘Love Fell On Me’ album cover

Parlé:  What do you hope from fans? If they haven’t picked up the album, when they do, what do you hope they get from you and your music?
Sheléa:  There’s a lot of people who don’t know me yet, and I’m still looking forward to getting my music out there so they can get to know me, as an artist, my music and as a person. I would want them to know that I respect music, I love music and the art form of being able to tell stories through music. I think they’re all stories of humanity and I think that pretty much wherever you are in life they’ll be something to get from this album. So for that reason alone you should get this album. It inspires you, it makes you think, it makes you happy, it’s going to have something on there for you.

Parlé:  We’ll get into some little known facts about you now.  You mention Jumping The Broom but you’ve been on a few other soundtracks as well in your time. Tell me about that.
Sheléa:  When I was with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis pretty much everything they did, I did background vocals on. From Hotel Rwanda to Akeelah and the Bee, to Shark’s Tale, The Will and Grace Soundtrack. There were a number of things when I was part of that camp that I was able to be a part of.

Parlé:  You’ve also done a performance in front of President Obama. What was that experience like?
Sheléa:  It would have really been an honor to perform for any president, I don’t care who the president is, whether you like him or not, but to be invited to perform at the White House when it was the first African-American President, he’s got swag for days, he’s really just an incredible person. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Actually it was presenting Burt Bacharach and Hal David with the Gershwin Prize. They do it annually.  We all got an opportunity to meet him and first lady Michelle Obama, and we got about 5 to 7 minutes to talk with them and get a little photo opp. I was last in line and I imagined after smiling so much they’d be tired of posing. I remember saying something like, ‘I’m the last one,’ and Michelle Obama just opened up her arms and gave me a hug. They were just so warm. President Obama was like, ‘I heard you got an album, you about to blow up!’ (Laughs) it was really, really sweet. They were so incredible and poised, but at the same time they’re so warm so I could feel the energy. After I performed Michelle said, “you’re so good.” And President Obama gave me a kiss on the check.


Parlé:  As an artist, what’s the number one goal for your career?
Sheléa:  Its so hard because I don’t have one. But I guess it would be to just be recognized for my music from both fans and you know, I’d love to be presented with a Grammy. Just to know that people have connected with my music. And of course that would come from the response so I want the music to sell.

Parlé:  What advice do you have for upcoming artists or anyone trying to be in a position, similar to you?
Sheléa:  I just read this article about Laz Alonzo. He said he just learned how to depersonalize rejection. As a new artist, to keep it real, a lot of veteran artists will tell you, for the one yes I got, I heard 60 NOs. I think when you start personalizing it you start to lose confidence and its going to take away your drive and your passion. But if you look at it like, I believe in my gift so much, you’ll know the win is coming.

Parlé:  Any last message you want to leave the readers with?
Sheléa:  I’m honored to do what I do. I’m definitely interested in doing film or television. So look out for Ms. Sheléa.

While this interview was back in 2013, Sheléa Frazier has reemerged in the spotlight with a role in the forthcoming Clark Sisters biopic, airing on Lifetime.

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