Artist Spotlight: Shealeigh
At only 20 years old, Shealeigh has already appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, won The Disney Channel’s N.B.T. competition and had a song reach #2 on the Billboard Kids music chart. It’s safe to say that there’s plenty left to do for the Chicago-based singer-songwriter.
We were excited to chat with Shealeigh about what she’s accomplished, how it’s shaped her into the artist she is today and more.
You’ve had quite the journey in the music biz so far. Tell us a bit about yourself and how your music career got started.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of music. CDs overflowed my shelves and filled cases that I stored in my mom’s glove compartment in her SUV. I loved ABBA when I was kid, and I used to sing “Dancing Queen” around the house like it was my job. Music has always been a great comfort to me, and when I started writing songs at the age of about eleven, it felt like I had unlocked another level of music that made me feel whole. Over the years, it’s really never stopped being that for me.
In 2011, you won Radio Disney’s N.B.T. competition. Tell us how you got involved with that and what was it like? What did it teach you about the music business at such a young age?
I had just turned thirteen not too long before I heard from Disney, and I was completely over the moon. I’d spent my entire life waiting to be Lizzie McGuire at the end of the Lizzie McGuire Movie, and I never made it to the Colosseum like Lizzie did, but by the time the show began, I was this person that sang songs that I’d written and people in audiences all over the country knew them enough to sing them back to me, which ended up feeling kind of like the Colosseum to me anyway. I was really fortunate to have those experiences at such a young age and meet so many wonderful and supportive people in the Radio Disney community. I think mostly, I learned a lot about myself and what I wanted so badly in the future, which was to make music and share that with whoever I could. The music business can be really overwhelming, especially when you’re so young, but I think the entire NBT experience really reinforced my lifelong love of music more than anything else.
You performed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and you looked super comfortable on stage. A lot more comfortable that I would have been. What was that experience like?
That was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me. Truly. I remember we got a YouTube message (when those were still a thing) from someone that said they worked for The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and they wanted to know if we could set up a time to speak about potentially appearing on a segment they’d been doing. My mom and I fully lost it in front of our computers, like is this real? But it was, and then I was in LA for the very first time only a matter of months later. Everybody in that Warner Brothers building was so encouraging and kind; I’ve never felt so welcomed into a space before. I met Ellen when I walked out onto that stage, and I was, like, this tiny twelve year old hypnotized by this deeply warm person who made my dreams come true. She was calm, which made me calm, and that was weird, because I’m always very, very afraid and nervous before I perform literally anywhere. And this was on television. But the environment felt so different than anywhere I’d been. It was really special, and I am endlessly grateful to have been able to sing on that stage in front of someone who is still a hero to me.
I’ve listened to your EP, “We All Need To Go Places” quite a few times now and really enjoy the raw sound of it. Tell us about that project and what you wanted to accomplish with it. What has the response been like?
Thank you! For a really long time, I thought that I needed a bunch of other people to help me determine what I should sound like. Production often felt like a game that I didn’t know enough to play. I think that came with being young, too. This project was primarily about proving to myself that I could lean on my ideas when I needed them and that they were, in fact, good enough. This EP was about how from time to time, we have places we need to be, and if we’re lucky, maybe we can get there on our own. After high school, I started writing a ton of new music, and I wondered how I was going to be able to get it out into the world in the way that I’d imagined. Ultimately, I decided to record the songs myself in my living room, just me and a piano — the way that they were born. The songs felt honest and true, and I was so elated that people were finally going to be able to hear them the way that I had in my head. The response was so kind. I remember so many nights I worried that people weren’t going to understand or care about this very prolonged and different comeback of mine, but I am so profoundly thankful for those who waited to listen.
An artists sound changes over time as they grow and experience different aspects of life. How would you say your sound, style and mindset has changed since you started making music.
I think as I’ve grown, I’ve just been more kind to myself when it comes to the process of creating. I’ve learned about what I’m capable of and to be infinitely more confident in that. I’ve learned to be patient and that thoughts and words don’t always come all at once. And that’s okay. I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself or so deeply critical, which can be a really tough, but necessary lesson to learn. When I was younger, I used to start songs, half-hearted, and throw them away, feeling like they were inauthentic or cheesy, which was secretly my biggest fear. But now, I just sit at the piano and I think and I wonder about everything that has happened or is happening and making music out of all of that makes me feel better. I’ve learned that music is supposed to be for me first. I think music is that for me now more than ever before. I started learning to play piano a little over two years ago now. First it was just me fiddling around and then I found a really great teacher who understood all the music that I’d heard in my ears for so long, unable to express what it sounded like. That changed my sound a lot, and also validated everything that I’d been working on in a very meaningful way. It’s been a natural progression, I think, and it’s one that I really value.
How would you explain your music in three words?
Honest, Conversational, Warm
Songfinch: Above is one of our favorite covers by Shealeigh, Kacey Musgrave’s “Rainbow.”
Which artists over your career so far have had the most influence on you as an artist and your sound overall?
Regina Spektor has always been one of my biggest influences. I’ve seen her three times live, and I’d see her a million more times if I could. She’s just so fearless creatively, and I admire that so much. I remember also going to a Beyoncé concert when I was nine, and I’ve been transfixed by her ever since, but I totally was before, too. So, I’m just eternally mesmerized by Beyoncé and everything she does. Her voice and talent and mind are unparalleled.
Who are your top 3 favorite musicians right now?
1. Phoebe Bridgers
2. Adrianne Lenker
3. Moses Sumney
!!! (I’m very indecisive) Maggie Rogers
Anything else that you’d want to let the readers know?
I’m releasing a single called “Landline” on December 14th! It was initially supposed to be a part of a bigger project, but I got really antsy and really wanted to release this song right away. I’m very excited for people to hear it.