Clarkston, Michigan native Shantel is blazing her trail in Nashville; blending country and rock sounds to create a sound all her own, and people are taking notice.
Within three weeks of being in Nashville, Shantel was offered the opportunity to sing at the legendary Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, and signed a recording production deal with grammy-winning producer Kent Wells.
Shantel’s first two glimpses into her original music, “Break My Heart” and “Real,” have earned her a strong following as she prepares to release music more frequently in the coming months.
Hear from Shantel about working with Kent Wells, the stories behind both of her singles she has released, blending country and rock ‘n roll sounds, when fans can expect to hear more music, and more!
Pro Country: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Shantel: I watched Carrie Underwood from her beginning; from her first chicken-clucking American Idol audition, and I knew I loved her. She just reiterated that it’s okay to be yourself and to go after whatever it is that you want, and that’s exactly what she did. Obviously having the power vocal that she does and the genre she’s a part of has always been catchy to me, and I’ve always loved her music, so she’s one of my biggest influences on me. Dolly Parton was another big musical influence on my career growing up. The women that paved their way in country music like they did from that era up to today, and what they helped country music to be has been such a big influence. It just planted those roots in me.
PC: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to pursue music as a career?
Shantel: I’ve been singing my whole life. I started in church when I was about five year-old. It was always just one of those things that I had in my back pocket. I took myself to Nashville in 2017 for the first time, and I just got up on a stage and started singing, and the guy I was singing with happened to be the booking manager for Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. He offered me a job that night. He said he just needed me to get there, and he’d give me the stage to sing for Tootsie’s and help me start a music career. That encouraged me big time.
I met Kent Wells after two weeks of being in Nashville, and he signed me a week later. So three weeks into moving to Nashville and not knowing anyone, I had a record producing deal and was singing for Tootsie’s. My whole world’s kind of flip-flopped [laughs]. I always say it was a godsend when people ask how I managed to do what I did. I always say that I didn’t do anything, it was just the right people at the right time. It was a huge blessing!
PC: What has it meant to you to work with a producer like Kent Wells, who has had so much success in the industry and worked with a major influence of yours like Dolly Parton?
Shantel: To work with Kent has already been a dream come true. Having that record producing deal was a dream come true. I never thought in a million years that I’d be able to cut a record, let alone in Nashville, Tennessee, with a grammy-winning producer. It’s very humbling, and it’s one of those confirmations from God that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. God has gotten me connected with the right people to be able to fulfill everything.
Kent and I have a great relationship. It’s not a producer/artist relationship like they normally are, he’s like my father in music, or my cool uncle [laughs]. He encourages me to hit that high note that I don’t even know I can hit, but he can hear it, and he encourages me to just give it my all. He’s brought out a side of me that I didn’t know I had in me, so it’s pretty incredible!
PC: Do you think being comfortable pushing yourself is one of the most valuable things you have taken away from working with Kent?
Shantel: Absolutely. He’s brought me so far out of my comfort zone, and he’s put me up with some awesome songwriters who also bring out the best in me. My vocal capacity is more than what I ever knew it to be. Kent is just one of those people who says to live in the moment, and that’s the biggest thing I can take away from working with him; just cherish the moment that you’re in and make the most of it while you’re in it.
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release music for the first time with the “Break My Heart” single?
Shantel: I was so excited! It had been almost a year that we had been prepping for it, so it was such a big feeling of excitement and relief to finally be at that place that I had been working so much towards. It was exhilarating when it finally came out. It was one of those really cool things that I got to check off of my bucket list, and then they said that it was time to do another one afterwards, and I was like, “What?!” [laughs]. It’s been exciting! It’s been cool to listen to Spotify and hear your song pop up on the radio when you’re not expecting it, I love it!
PC: “Break My Heart” is an anthemic, empowering song about protecting your heart. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
Shantel: “Break My Heart” is one of those feel-good songs that you never thought you needed to hear. It’s a powerful woman’s anthem about the type of love that you thought you needed, but instead things don’t go right, and you realize what you do want out of a relationship and what you want out of love, and what you never want again in your life. For me, it was a stepping stone to what you’re worth actually is and the love you actually deserve. It’s one of those “I’m good without you” songs, and I’m humbled that it’s gotten the response that it has. We all go through that kind of thing, so I wanted to be able to relate with people who have also gone through it.
PC: What went into the decision to release “Real” as your second single to follow up “Break My Heart”?
Shantel: “Real” is that goal and that type of love that I actually found once I went through my heartbreak. I wanted to release “Real” second because it’s true. Whenever somebody tells you that you deserve so much better; you don’t want to hear it and want to instantly, but you find it over the years. “Real” is a song that I wrote for my husband, and it’s a song that I wanted to be able to illustrate the kind of love that we share, the kind of man that he is, and that it is out there. It went from a heartbreak with “Break My Heart” to “Here’s the guy that I’m married to and the love of my life!” [laughs].
PC: Throughout your first two singles and previews on your website, you have featured sounds ranging from country to contemporary to rocking sounds. Is it at all important for you to have that level of versatility in your sound?
Shantel: Absolutely. I have so much fun singing rock ‘n roll music. I won’t lie, I came to town not knowing much about rock ‘n roll music. After living in Nashville, I have a whole new appreciation for other genres of music. Rock has definitely been added to the top of my list. It’s just so fun to perform! You can get your band involved heavily and showcase everyone’s talent. It gets the crowd going and gets to them engaged, and that’s what it’s all about! I love having those rock elements in my music and having fun with the crowd, because my biggest goal is making sure they’re entertained.
PC: You have two singles out right now, but when can people expect to hear new music, and what are your plans for the rest of 2019 and beyond?
Shantel: I have a full record that is done and produced. We’re releasing just one single at a time. We’re looking to release the next single in early fall. It’s all a surprise right now, but more music is going to be coming more frequently, and it’s going to be available on every platform you can get music from. I’m also working on video content and just continuing to build my brand. The biggest support is just following me on Instagram and following my music and streaming from wherever you’re from!
PC: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Shantel: It’s time to share my music live now that my record is done! I’m getting booked up for the summer and fall, and always looking for different venues to play and be welcomed into!
*Images courtesy of Velvet Stone Media Group*