WASHINGTON — First order of business: How do you say her name? Is it “Sheila” or “Sha-LEE-uh”? Neither — it’s Shuh-LAY-ah.
You may not have heard of her yet, but the rising singer-songwriter Shelea now has a hit on the Billboard R&B charts with “I’ll Never Let You Go.” Her debut album, “Love Fell on Me,” also includes the theme song from the 2011 motion picture “Jumping the Broom.”
Shelea’s career highlights so far include performances with Stevie Wonder and Arturo Sandoval. Just a few weeks ago, she was at the Library of Congress, singing with the legendary Carly Simon. She’s also collaborated with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Brian McKnight, the cappella group Take 6 and Narada Michael Walden.
Wonder is featured on the title track of Shelea’s album.
“I met Stevie a few some years back, and we did some things live together, but I’m so thrilled to have him on my first album,” she says.
Things picked up steam two years ago, when a tribute video Shelea uploaded to YouTube after Whitney Houston’s death went viral.
“Her music was such an important part of who I became as an artist, as a singer, and I just wanted to do something from my heart,” Shelea says of Houston. “I had no idea it was going to have the viral response that it did.”
Much like Houston, Shelea was born into a musical family, crooning since childhood and honing her skills in front of church congregations in her hometown of Bakersfield, California.
“I thought that was going to be the extent of it, but when I went away to college, I was in this girls group called Forgiven.
“Although we never moved forward with the group, I just got that producing and being in the studio — just that bug of being surrounded by music and I just couldn’t get enough of it. So I decided to kind of go on my own and do the solo artist thing, and here we are.”
You can hear her live Thursday night at Blues Alley, at 1073 Wisconsin Ave. in Northwest D.C.
Find out more at Breath of Life Records. And hear her in the videos below: