When Sheila Marshall decided to pursue a music career, it didn’t take long for the alluring, bluesy-voiced Texan to gallop from Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo performer to top 10 finalist on TV’s “Nashville Star” talent show, singing with Willie Nelson and Rodney Crowell. Her rootsy, Texas-tinged country rock has since won over Lone Star radio listeners — she’s had three singles rank on the Texas Music Chart — and live audiences from Alaska to Kuwait. With the Feb. 5, 2013, release of her EP, SHEILA MARSHALL, and its first single, “Can’t Let Go,” she’s ready to reach even more fans.
SHEILA MARSHALL, her follow-up to 2009’s WHAT IF I WAS, further showcases this Houstonite’s passionate vocals and accomplished songcraft. Produced by Ken Tondre (Kevin Fowler Band) at the Compound Recording Studio in Austin, it features renowned guitarist David Grissom on “Can’t Let Go,” a sexy, slide-filled rendition of the Randy Weeks song made famous by Lucinda Williams, though Marshall’s groove-filled country-funk version is more likely to conjure visions of Bonnie Bramlett.
“I never even thought about recording the song, though I’ve been playing it forever,” Marshall says. But when Tondre heard her perform it, she recalls, he told her she needed to put it on the sc. “He talked me into it.”
Marshall, who grew up in the East Texas town of Nacogdoches, has been drawing such reactions since she fronted a rock band while attending Stephen F. Austin State University. That’s when her love of Williams, Nelson and Patsy Cline merged with new-to-her artists such as Led Zeppelin and the Band, giving her voice a bluesier tint and even more soul. Playing the Houston rodeo and other high-profile sporting events built her fan base, and her acoustic EP, BEAUTIFUL FOR SITUATION, earned her a national Budweiser sponsorship. Then came “Nashville Star,” the CD MAKES PERFECT SENSE and the Texas-embraced single “Radio.”
Matchbox 20 guitarist Kyle Cook produced her next album, WHAT IF I WAS. They got together after a colleague passed some of her songs to the rocker. “He liked my music, so we ended up meeting in Nashville and we just hit it off,” she says. “We’re still friends now.”
Marshall landed two more singles (the title tune and “I Ain’t Yo Baby”) on the Texas Music Chart, and the pair were invited to perform at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. For longtime road warrior Marshall, that was one more stop in a list that includes appearances across Texas and throughout the states — including Alaska and Hawaii — as well as Europe and Japan. She’s also entertained U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait.
Cook was unavailable when Marshall was ready to record again, so she sought producer recommendations and clicked with Tondre. In addition to “Can’t Let Go,” they recorded a handful of ballads and up tempo tracks, many co-written by top Nashville and Texas tunesmiths.
Bobby Terry (Faith Hill, Kevin McGraw) helped Marshall pen “Missin’ You Like This” and “Tonight.” She shares credit for “Trouble” with two writers who also perform on the EP: Fowler guitarist Paul Eason and Sounds Under Radio’s Lang Freeman (whose songs have been heard in “Spiderman 3” and “The Vampire Diaries”). She also covers Freeman’s “Fight,” along with “What I Just Said,” by Stephony Smith, Nikki Williams and Liz Rose. Marshall and band guitarist, Scott Steinsiek, co-wrote “Calling My Name.”
It’s a fortuitous title. Because when listeners in Texas and beyond get a chance to hear Marshall’s latest tracks, it’s a safe bet they’ll do exactly that.