With season 15 of “The Voice” wrapped, marking Kelly Clarkson’s second year bringing an artist to victory, some might wonder what magic she’s working. In the show’s 15th installment, 16-year-old Chevel Shepherd walked away with top honors under the guidance of Coach Kelly. Earlier in the season, her team shared with AXS just a few of the things that made their “wise and hilarious” leader so wonderful. They praised Clarkson for being “cool” and down-to-earth, reminiscing how at one point, she even took her team for an outing to an escape room.
“She’s so supportive and she’s just herself. She wants to make sure you’re having fun, to make sure that you’re doing okay, and make sure you’re not stressed out,” Shepherd told AXS about Clarkson after her win. “She wants to see you succeed and she’s so supportive, it's just awesome."
AXS: So, let’s go back to the blind auditions. Kelly turned her chair right away, then you got Blake, and then you got Jennifer. Adam even called it basically a four-chair turn. What was it in your heart that told you Kelly was meant to be your coach?
Chevel Shepherd: Something inside my gut was telling me to go with her and I had to listen to it.
AXS: During your blind audition, Kelly Clarkson compared you to Dolly Parton and Sarah McLachlan. How did that make you feel to hear that?
CS: It makes me feel awesome to be related to country stars and legends.
AXS: Now, I know you’ve been inspired by other artists in the country music genre, but are there any artists outside of that who have influenced you? Who are your biggest inspirations?
CS: The only artists who have really inspired me, have all, pretty much, been country artists. Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert; I have a ton.
AXS: Kelly Clarkson just did a song with Dan + Shay. She even mentioned that to try to win you in the beginning. How did it feel to go through this journey and end up closing out the show with their No. 1 song, “Speechless?”
CS: It was really, really cool that I got the chance to sing with someone like them. They are really, really nice and they can sing their butts off. They’re just amazing.
AXS: Who were you most star-struck to have met on the show? Was there anyone who performed with any of the other contestants that you were in awe of?
CS: You know, I don’t know how I keep my composure. But, most of the time I wasn’t star-struck. I did get to meet Rascal Flatts and I did get to meet Dierks Bentley. That was really cool.
AXS: Your performances were incredible and so was your wardrobe. What was your favorite performance and which was your favorite outfit?
CS: My favorite performance. Oh goodness, I loved them all. They were all super fun. Each song I sang was completely different from any of the others. [Some of] my favorites were “Blue,” “Little White Church,” and “You’re Lookin' at Country.” My original was [also] one of my favorites. As far as the clothes go, I loved them all. They were all gorgeous dresses and awesome jeans. All the boots; the boots were my favorite part. Every outfit I have to wear boots.
AXS: What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself so far on this journey?
CS: I’ve learned how much I truly love to perform, and sing, and be in front of people. I’ve always loved to do it since I was little but just performing and showing my emotions; showing why I love country music and showing my true self. I love it.
AXS: What kind of music do you hope to create going forward?
CS: Of course, classic country music. But, I wouldn’t mind adding some contemporary country, like Miranda [Lambert] and Carrie [Underwood] do. They have modern country music with a classic country twist. That’s awesome.
AXS: Do you feel like you want your music to have a message? Like a certain kind of feeling listeners take from it after hearing one of your songs?
CS: Storytelling is my favorite part about singing. I love making people feel all of the emotions in the song and making them feel who I am through the song. So, I’d love to just create music. No matter if it’s up-tempo or slow tempo, I want to have a story to it.
AXS: As of now, what’s next? Maybe a tour with you, Kelly [Clarkson] and Brynn [Cartelli]?
CS: Oh yeah, maybe! Of course, I’m going to go home and be a normal teenager for a little bit. Then I’m going to start working right away with Kelly on making an album.
AXS: What’s something that everyone should know about being on “The Voice?” What was the biggest takeaway from your time on the show?
CS: Enjoy every second of it. It’s super, super fun and you create such amazing bonds with all of the other contestants. And just to never give up. Always stay positive.
AXS: What was the most important thing Kelly has said to you? Maybe something she offered to you that you can pass along to others?
CS: Kelly’s always told me to be myself and to have fun. To not worry about winning or not, to know that you’re doing your best and you love what you’re doing; that you love your art.
AXS: What would be one message you’d want to get across to anyone reading this?
CS: Follow your dreams and you can do it, too. Don’t let anything get in the way. Always have fun and stay positive. Always follow your dreams in whatever your heart desires.