Chevel Shepherd is helping us all to remember the power of pedal steel and good stories. “I love the storytelling of classic country music, and I love the musicality of it,” she says. “It’s real––and you can tell it’s real. I just want to bring that real music back.”
With bold sincerity and a sparrow’s natural instincts, Chevel sings modern country music that toes tradition’s best lines. For her debut EP Everybody’s Got a Story, the 17-year-old hand-picked intricately woven story songs and relatable gems with veteran savvy––then made them irrevocably her own.
“Each song is different, and each song represents who I am as a person, and who I am as a country artist,” Chevel says.
Chevel first charmed America in 2018, as the champion of season 15 of The Voice, nurtured by coach Kelly Clarkson. She spent the following year checking off a long list of red-letter firsts, including opening shows for Clarkson, Little Big Town, Brothers Osborne, Lee Brice, and more, along with singing the national anthem before the Indianapolis 500.
Chevel is still making key debuts, but she’s felt at home on stage for more than a decade. Raised in La Plata, New Mexico, a rural community about 30 minutes outside of Farmington, Chevel can’t remember a time when she wasn’t singing. “Gosh, I’ve been singin’ since I could talk,” she says. “My sister and my mom sing, and I always wanted to be like them.” At four-years-old, she entered a local talent competition. One of her early favorites, “Before He Cheats,” was deemed “inappropriate” for a little girl to perform, so she went with “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”––but never really left the music that made her behind. “Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker, Gretchen Wilson––I grew up being in love with that sound,” she says.
Everybody’s Got a Story pays homage to that lineage while carving out a space of its own. The first two singles––“Everybody’s Got a Story” and “Mama Got the Chair”––announce the arrival of a mature new storyteller with an eye for personal detail. Written by Kacey Musgraves, Shane MacAnally, and Brandy Clark, the stout “Everybody’s Got a Story” winds through empathetic looks at different characters and the complex backgrounds that drive them. “Mama Got the Chair” doesn’t just nod to George Strait’s “The Chair”––it adds to the iconic story to create a cross-generational call-and-response between the two songs. “The story I’m telling goes back to George Strait, but it’s from the lady’s point of view,” Chevel says. “I immediately fell in love with this song.”
“Southern Boy” delivers sweet praise for strong rural men, while “Good Boy” is an updated take on young love and parental concern. With roots strings and raspy snare, “Snakes” is a vocal showcase and good-natured warning about boys with bad intentions. Forlorn “Just Like the Circus” waltzes with pedal steel and lovesick helplessness, while spellbinding “The Letter” weaves a tale of devastation and hope.
Now, Chevel is proud and eager to share Everybody’s Got a Story with the world. “I love to sing. I love country music,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to be a country singer, but as I got older, I developed a clear vision of who I wanted to be––and how I want my music to be. This is it.”