Whitney. Cher. Adele. Aretha. There are those select few who only need one name to identify them. Singer, songwriter and pianist Sheléa seems poised to enter that rarified atmosphere. She has performed at the White House for the Obamas. Stevie Wonder, a friend and mentor, plays the harmonica on her hit song, “Love Fell on Me,” the theme song for the Angela Bassett film, Jumping the Broom. Quincy Jones asked her to be the first vocalist at his jazz club at the Palazzo Versace Dubai. She has a sultry sound that blends traditional pop, jazz, R & B, and soul with a contemporary edge to classics and a classic touch to contemporary pop standards.
Sheléa began her musical career as a child, playing a wooden piano from her sisters and singing in the church choir. That makes it truly fitting that she portrayed gospel singer Dorinda Clark Cole in the 2020 Lifetime biopic, The Clark Sisters: The First Ladies of Gospel. She has said that hearing Natalie Cole’s album, Unforgettable…with Love, was the inspiration for her career as a singer and she first began to think of music as a profession at Oakwood University, from which she received a degree in music with an emphasis on piano. She told singersroom.com that her college experience set her on her path. “That was my first time being immersed in music culture like that, with late nights in the studio, writing and producing,” she said. “That’s when I felt like, ‘I want to do this on my own.’”
Sheléa started as a songwriter/vocalist with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. She wrote and produced for Chanté Moore’s album, Love the Woman, and recorded the soundtracks for Hotel Rwanda, Akeelah and the Bee and Be Cool. In 2008, she teamed up with the Grammy-winning group, Take 6, singing “Someone to Watch Over Me” for their Grammy-nominated album. Her debut album, Love Fell on Me, not only featured Stevie Wonder, but had Brian McKnight and Narada Michael Walden on board, as well. It charted for more than 22 weeks on Billboard’s R & B list.
While Sheléa had considerable success in R & B, she was noticed in other arenas and genres. She was invited to the White House in 2012 to honor Burt Bacharach and Hal David with the Gershwin Prize. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2017 with a tribute to songwriter Jimmy Webb and performed at the Library of Congress for ASCAP’s “We Write the Songs.” She impressed legendary songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman during the rehearsals; they wrote many of Barbara Streisand’s hits, and her 2019 album, Pretty World: Through the Eyes of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, has songs picked for her by the duo and features Stevie Wonder and Kirk Whalum. Also in 2019, Quincy Jones produced a PBS special, Quincy Jones presents Sheléa. Her body of work knows only two imperatives: great songwriting and singing.
The artist believes in giving back. In 2012, she joined Herbie Hancock, Patti Austin, the South Adrian Children’s Choir and others at the Kennedy Center for the UN International AIDS Conference. She is a staunch advocate for female empowerment and as a member of The Recording Academy, has shared her insights with high school students on the value of music, the craft of songwriting, vocal technique and professional development.
You may not yet know her name, but you will. A chance to hear her perform live, in the intimate setting of The Lyric, is a special treat you won’t want to miss.