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Interview: Sheléa's Fabulous WORLD: THROUGH THE EYES OF ALLEN & MARILYN BERGMAN

Sheléa graces The Wallis stage with her one-nighter Pretty World: Through the Eyes of Alan & Marilyn Bergman June 25, 2022

Interview: Sheléa's Fabulous WORLD: THROUGH THE EYES OF ALLEN & MARILYN BERGMAN

A protégée of Quincy Jones and mentored by Stevie Wonder, singer Sheléa graces The Wallis stage with her one-nighter Pretty World: Through the Eyes of Alan & Marilyn Bergman June 25, 2022. Sheléa shared remembrances of her many high-profile events in her life leading up to her Bergmans tribute.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Sheléa!

Your June 25th show at The Wallis Pretty World: Through the Eyes of Allen & Marilyn Bergman must have evolved from your 2019 album Pretty World: A Tribute to Allen & Marilyn Bergman. What is it about the Bergmans that motivated you to create an album and a concert of their songs?

It was a chance meeting at an ASCAP event that started our most tender and musically rewarding relationship. I had been fans of their work, but when they heard me sing one of their songs, they wanted to collaborate on creating a tribute album. They literally handpicked every song - some never before released. I'm drawn to their songs because they tell such a simple yet poignant story about love and humanity.

Interview: Sheléa's Fabulous WORLD: THROUGH THE EYES OF ALLEN & MARILYN BERGMAN When did you first hear an Allen & Marilyn Bergman song?

I'm not sure when I heard their first song because they've written across genres. But the first one I knew they had written was from the Yentl soundtrack, "Will Someone Ever Look At Me That Way." And I just fell in love with their songwriting.

Is there a favorite of theirs you hold most close to your heart?

There're too many amazing songs to choose a favorite; but "What Are You Doing the Rest Of Your Life?" is so dear to me - especially now that I'm in love. :) I think of their love story as well. They loved each other with an eternal love. And the lyrics reflect that.

This is not your first time performing at The Wallis. You were part of A Tale of Two Sisters honoring Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad, and you were featured in The Wallis' virtual Sorting Room January of last year. What is it about The Wallis that keeps you coming back?

The Wallis has one of the best sound systems ever. As a singer/musician you REALLY appreciate that. Everyone is always so welcoming, and it's such a joy to perform there.

You started singing and playing piano as a child growing up in Bakersfield. Besides publicly declaring Natalie Cole as your original impetus that spurred you into a singing career, who else were you early influences?

I listened to a lot of Gospel music: The Winans, Commissioned, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Yolanda Adams, Aretha Franklin. I had to play catch up with other genres later. But I wouldn't change a thing.

Did you ever get to meet Ms. Cole?

Interview: Sheléa's Fabulous WORLD: THROUGH THE EYES OF ALLEN & MARILYN BERGMAN I did and I'm so grateful. I was performing at The Songwriter's Hall of Fame Awards, a tribute to the late Hal David. And she was there attending the show. She said I was the "real deal." And I've always held that close to my heart.

You started your professional career performing the theme song for Jada and Will Smiths' sitcom All of Us in 2003. What lucky stars brought you into the Smith's universe?

I was working with a guy named Omarr Rambert, who worked closely with Will and Jada. I was one of many who submitted to sing the theme song for "All of Us" - and I was blessed they chose mine!

What factors led to Stevie Wonder becoming your mentor?

I was on an album by Take 6, The Standard. Stevie, being fans of the group, heard it and immediately wanted to meet me. Our connection was immediate. I went on tour with him; he's played on all my albums. We bond deeply over our love for God and music.

Quincy Jones produced your 2019 PBS concert special Quincy Jones Presents: Sheléa. What cosmic forces conformed to make you become Quincy Jones' protegee?

Rickey Minor (who I met through Stevie Wonder) was producing a show that was taking place at Quincy Jones' home. And he asked me to be a part of it. I remember performing and, when I finished, I slowly opened my eyes and there was Quincy giving me a standing ovation. Soon after, I did a two-month residency at his new jazz club in Dubai. He continued to nurture my career, which helped me secure my first PBS special: Quincy Jones Presents Sheléa. We've toured the world together, and he's poured so much love and wisdom into my career.

Your YouTube video singing a medley of Whitney Houston hits went viral and led to the Grammy Museum booking you in 2013 to perform as part of her tribute. What do you remember of that event?

Interview: Sheléa's Fabulous WORLD: THROUGH THE EYES OF ALLEN & MARILYN BERGMAN Narada Michael Walden saw that video and immediately wanted me to do that show with him. I remember being extremely nervous because it was packed with DIE HARD Whitney fans. But once I got started, I just felt so much love! And I remember them saying: "You have the spirit of Whitney... but we love you for YOU - Sheléa." And that has always stayed with me.

Let's go back a year before that. Tell us about singing for the Obamas at the White House.

Performing for President Obama and First Lady Michelle at the White House - twice... has been the most rewarding and proudest moment of my career. The historical implications alone were incredible. But they were both so warm and kind to me and my Dad. They sent me a handwritten note thanking me for my performance. And I got a Christmas card from them every year for some time afterward. I remember feeling like I was in the middle of a history book. And my Grandma, who lived in Birmingham during the Civil Rights Era, was so deeply proud. And I gotta say... The East Room had a great sound system! :)

What's give you more gratification: nailing a complicated piano piece? Or singing a song that brings tears to a listener's eye?

Wow! That's a hard one! But I would have to say, bringing tears to a listener's eye has the edge. I always want my music to make you feel something. Anyone can impress you with their musicality - but very few can bring that emotional impact. And that's what I'm always after - emotional impact.

What is in the near future for Sheléa?

Interview: Sheléa's Fabulous WORLD: THROUGH THE EYES OF ALLEN & MARILYN BERGMAN I just finished filming a new movie, Lineage. After starring in the critically acclaimed biopic, The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel, I caught the acting bug! So, I will be continue to act as well as release new music and tour! I'm making my Royal Albert Hall debut in London this coming August! I'm beyond excited for that! I feel like a new chapter is being written, and I'm loving every bit of it.

Thank you again, Sheléa! I look forward to experiencing you take on the incredible Bergman's canon.

For tickets to the live one-nighter June 25, 2022; log onto TheWallis.org/Shelea



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