Interview By Tachelle Wilkes
Tachelle Wilkes (T): What essence is behind the name Sheléa?
Sheléa (S): My mom's name is Sheila and all my sister's and I have the "sh" sound at the beginning of our names. I'm afraid that's the only significance. When I was a girl, I wished I had a more common name so I could get a cup or keychain with my name on it. But now I love the fact that it's so unique. My middle name is Melody so it does seem meant to be that I'm involved in music.
T: How would you describe your musical style and influences?
S: I grew up listening to only gospel music, so I had to play catch up as I got older. So I was influenced from Vanessa Bell Armstrong to The Winans to Whitney Houston and Barbra Streisand. Stevie Wonder also played a big role in my musicality. For this album, it's definitely a R&B/Pop feel with a lot of heart and soul.
T: Tell us about your inspiration behind the song Love Fell On Me, which was the musical theme in the movie Jumping The Broom?
S: I wrote this song years before the movie was even made. So it was incredible that it fit so perfectly in the story line for Jason and Sabrina played by Laz Alonso and Paula Patton. I was in love at the time so that made the songwriting process a lot easier.
T: What lessons have you gained while working with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis at their Flyte Tyme production company as an in-house songwriter and vocalist?
S: My time at Flyte Tyme was priceless. I learned so much from them. I'd say one thing was the power of friendship. They have been working together so long and are still going strong! I think that's beautiful. Another thing I learned was the more you read any and everything, you become a better songwriter.
T: Many are saying that you are filling the musical void left by Whitney Houston – how does that make you feel?
S: I always say there will never be another Whitney Houston. God gave her something so specific. So rare. And so beautiful. Yet, God has given me something special too, and I hope to be able to uplift the human spirit using my gift just as she did.
T: Stevie Wonder helped orchestrate the perfect opportunity for you to showcase your beautiful talent at a dinner honoring The President and Michelle Obama – tell us about that evening. What was the mood like? What was the moment like and the expression on peoples’ faces while you performed?
S: I realize more and more everyday how historic it was for me to perform for President Obama and the beautiful First Lady. Before the event, we were allowed a brief visit and photo op with them. And they just embraced me with loving arms. I remember I was last in line. I knew they had been smiling for so long, so I said with a smile, "we're the last ones..." Michelle started walking towards me and said, "they saved the best for last!" I'll cherish that moment forever! They were so warm and familiar, yet so poised and regal! The performance is kinda a blur. Lol. I had to go to a different place. But afterward, I remember mouthing to them, thank you and they were beaming. Almost like they were proud. Afterward, Michelle hugged me so long and told me how great the performance was. And President Obama pronounced my name flawlessly! It was already an honor to pay tribute to Hal David and Burt Bacharach. But to do it at the White House was epic! I will always be in debt to Stevie for helping make that happen!
T: Tell us about your writing process for "Love The Way You Love Me." We heard you had writer's block at the time?
S: I had the chorus for Love the Way You Love Me for years! But I was in a different space back then. And now, for some reason I just wasn't inspired to write a happy in love song. I remember staring at the keys on the keyboard. Feeling nothing. It actually scared me because it was a foreign feeling. I started to imagine what it would be like to be with the man of my dreams. What would make him special? What would our intimacy look like? That's when I got the visual of cuddling...and that became the first line: "It's 5:02 on the dot, we're cuddled in our favorite spot." After that, it just broke and the lyrics/melody flowed quickly.
T: How do you get out of writer's block?
S: It's only happened once. This time, letting my musical imagination as well as my emotional imagination go was what broke the writer's block. Also, I just didn't leave the keyboard until I was done!
T: What other new project(s) are you currently working on and how can people support your music and find out about your upcoming performances?
S: My number one goal is to release the album this spring. I'd like to get more film placements to propel the album. I have a few singles on iTunes right now for purchase. I communicate what I'm doing through Twitter and my Facebook Music page which are both named Shelea Music.
T: What are some lasting words would you like to share with our readers?
S: When others don't believe in your gift, you have to be your own biggest cheerleader. If you know in your heart you have something special to offer, never give up. Preparation will meet the opportunity when you least expect it.