Interviews

Shelley Gaines

Shelley Gaines

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Meet Shelley Gaines, a woman with a passion for singing the praises of Jesus with style and flair.

If you haven't had the opportunity to listen to her debut CD, The Gift (Tommy Boy Gospel), do so at once.

Not only will you be impressed by her obvious talent as a singer, but that she also imparts a musical message to those whom some say need to hear the Word most: our youth!

As I prepared for this interview, I listened to the entire CD not once, twice, but three times. After each hearing, I grew to appreciate the CD more and more.

You'll find that there is not one song that is the same in terms of style - but the message remains the same.

If you're the type that doesn't limit yourself to the varied ways God allows His gospel to come across, then this CD is definitely for you. Shelley Gaines has chosen to dedicate her time and talents to the Lord. She has been rewarded with the successful release of The Gift.

We had the chance to fellowship and she graciously shared some thoughts with regard to her unique family circumstances, her vision for The Gift and her personal feelings about her career.

Kassandra Dasent: Describe your childhood growing up in San Diego, CA. Did you spend much of your time crafting your voice as a child?

Shelley Gaines: Yes, I did. My mother, I guess she realized I could carry a tune. When we'd be with one of her friends who played the guitar, she would have me singing hymns.

So I started singing when I was 3 or 4 years old. I started singing in a choir when I was six in my godfather's church where I grew up.

I've just been singing my whole life. I've always gotten involved with community groups, choirs and bands. All my teachers were professionals and they taught me a whole lot about voice. So I've had a lot of voice training from just going to regular schools.

KD: From your bio I know that a wonderful family adopted you at the age of one along with your sister; you also acknowledge the presence of your biological grandmother. What can you share to others of your positive adoption experience?

SG: The only time I ever met my biological grandmother was when I was one year old and she was a good friend with my adopted mother. After the adoption process was finalized, I don't remember ever seeing her again.

I thank God it turned out the way it did because my adopted mother was in the church and raised me in the church. That's how I got to know the Lord.

KD: Were you welcomed into your adopted family, assuming there were children already present?

SG: Actually, my adopted mother couldn't have any children. I was a single parent adoption. My adopted mother saw that my sister and me had to stay together.

She wasn't going to take just one of us; it was either both of us or nothing. We were her foster children for 6 years until she was able to adopt us.

She adopted me when I was in the first grade. She ended up also adopting one of her nephews; she just wanted some kids. As well she adopted my other sister (not my biological sister) a girl named Yvonne.

So she adopted four children all together; but after you grow up you lose touch. My biological sister (Cheryl Gaines) and I, we've always stayed in touch.

KD: Listening to The Gift, I got the sense the songs were carefully and deliberately chosen to reach a particular segment of the population. What was the vision for this CD? What did you want it to achieve?

SG: The vision I had was to put as much of me in it as possible. Although I probably wouldn't be considered within the 19-21 year old group, those are the kids I want to cater to.

I have a lot of nieces and nephews. I know what they like and what draws them. There's a lot of music being made for young adults and for traditional people but not for kids.

They like to dance and move.

They learn the sound and eventually they're going to learn the song and the message. My thing is whatever it takes 'cause they gotta be reached - they are the future.

The young people have to be reached because what's going on out there is just ridiculous.

KD: What was the defining moment when you knew that you wanted to be a performer? When did you come to accept the Lord in your life? At what moment did you accept that God wanted to parlay your talents into His ministry?

SG: I knew I was going to be a performer and sing professionally when I was close to seventh grade. Every summer I used to baby-sit my cousin in L.A. and his mother had so much music. I had so much time on my hands to the point where I was listening to music day and night, day and night.

I started to aspire to be like some singers.

Back then I didn't know that the Lord was putting that passion in me for His purpose. Ever since I've had a passion to sing professionally and to be out there as a professional.

Then as I got older I started wanting to do it for God. I was seventeen when I accepted the Lord. After He came into my life I started wanting to go in His direction.

I've had my ups and downs since. We all fall and get back up but I think from that time on has been a time of Him really preparing me and giving me the experiences I needed to be in this place right here.

KD: Knowing that God puts people in our lives for many reasons including the opportunity for us to learn and grow, I would ask, how instrumental was Tonex in the development of your CD?

SG: If you read my bio, Tonex and I did a demo about five years ago. He took it and shopped it as a demo and that's how this came about.

Working with Tonex was an experience that helped me to grow. I wasn't used to being in studio; I was used to being out singing live.

I learned so much about music, so many different terms, so many ways about the music business by just hanging out with Tonex.

One thing about Tonex, he'll take what you have, and I feel like I'm kind of blessed with talent, and he'll take it a little step further and really blow your mind with it.

He's a genius and I have fun working with him. He'll take part of a song and say 'that's good, now let's add this to it and hype it up'.

He's awesome and I couldn't think of a better producer that I'd want to work with ever, other than myself, than Tonex 'cause he knows where you want to go.

KD: What gospel artists have been an inspiration to you vocally and, by their works, have encouraged you in the ministry of gospel music?

SG: Oh, I have so many. Yolanda Adams right now is the most inspirational to me because I see her realness, her willingness to get out there being who she is.

She is not trying to conform to maybe what the secular world wants to hear and she still has crossed over. Out of all the performers I would have to say Yolanda Adams and Tonex are really inspirational to me.

KD: You mentioned Tonex gave you lots of advice in terms of the industry itself. How did you prepare yourself to enter the gospel industry, which is growing by leaps and bounds and increasing in complexity, legalities and logistics with regard to contracts?

How do you keep focused on the quality of your ministry while meeting the needs of the record label, their executives, promoters, etc?

SG: I have people working with me to help me stay on track because it can be mentally straining. Sometimes when you're trying to do this business, you have to make sure you meet this deadline, make sure this is happening for you and then sing on the road too.

My manager, Lisa Turner, and my booking agent, Earl Dean, help me a lot. They keep me together as a new artist and just really learning the business.

KD: How has the road been for you since the release of your product in July 2000? How have you found the experience of being "professional" as opposed to being independent?

SG:You know, people look at you different and with a little bit more respect because you have a product out.

But as far as being a new artist, I'm finding that it's a slow build. People have to get to know you, they have to know who you are when they send for you.

I'm finding the record company has been trying to get me out there. They're putting me in magazines, arranging different interviews and things for me so when people see this little burgundy CD cover, they'll say 'okay we know who she is'.

Right now, I'm doing a lot of promotional work. I did a rally with Fred Hammond last month in Detroit and I also sang at the Gospel Music Workshop of America in the Tommy Boy Gospel showcase.

So they're putting me out there and they want to put me out right; for longevity. I understand that and they broke it down to me.

Sometimes you wonder 'well I see everyone else everywhere' and but it's one of those things where I have to be patient and have my own agenda through my manager, my agent.

I can't depend solely on the record company to put me out there.





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