Monday, June 12, 2006
From the Vault: Interview with Kierra "KiKi" Sheard
Something About that Name
by LaTonya Taylor
The daughter of Karen Clark Sheard, Kierra "KiKi" Sheard was born into one of the most talented families in gospel music—and into the latest generation of singers influenced by Dr. Mattie Moss Clark and her daughters, The Clark Sisters. A gifted vocalist in her own right, Kierra—Dr. Clark's granddaughter—made her mark early, joining her mom on the album Finally Karen as a 10-year-old, and winning a 1997 Stellar Award for Children's Performance. Fans have listened to her artistic development through other mother-daughter duets on Second Chance (2002) and The Heavens are Telling (2003)—and watched her high-energy performance on her aunt Dorinda Clark-Cole's self-titled DVD. In September 2004, Kierra Sheard, 17, made her debut with I Owe You. I spoke to Sheard about her family's influence, her dreams for her first album and the process of growing into her own sound.
How did this album come about?
Kierra Sheard: It's something that I have prayed for, for a long time, and it's really a dream come true. My parents saw that I could sing and they saw that I had a gift from God, and the potential to do more than simply sing, but also to minister to people. So we prayed about it, sent some demos out and pursued a record deal.
You sing about testimonies in the song You Don't Know. What does that song mean to you?
Sheard: Before my mom recorded Second Chance, she had a minor surgery procedure. But she developed complications, and the doctors gave her a two percent chance to live. The family thought she was going to die.
I didn't have much faith in God at the time, and I'd decided that if she didn't make it, I was going to live however I wanted to. But with God, all things are possible. He answered my prayers and took the load from my shoulders. My mom recovered.
That song says that we all have a testimony, something God has done for us that only we can share. Something only we feel. I chose to give the album the title I Owe You because I really feel that way about God. I owe him everything. He saved my mom, he gave me the chance to record this album, and he's kept me in his arms.
You were 10 when you sang with your mom on Finally Karen. You're 17 now. How have you grown as an artist since then?
Sheard: Now that I'm older and have experienced more, I'm really able to feel what I'm singing about. When I was younger, I didn't really feel as much—I was just singing! But now I'm able to say that God has really brought me out of some things. So I'm not just this child who is singing an older person's message. I'm able to sing what I've lived through, what I've gone through. And of course, my voice is more mature now, too.
What are some of those things you've lived through?
Sheard: I've gone through a lot of things that people my age have gone through. I've been through situations that forced me to learn who my true friends are. I've had a broken heart. I've seen friends drift away from God and end up having babies, or on drugs. My mom's illness challenged me a lot.
That's why I thank God for keeping his hand on my life. There's really no telling where I'd be without him. There have been times I've wanted to drift away from him, but he didn't let that happen.
A lot of people will see your album and they say "There's Karen's baby. That's Dr. Clark's granddaughter." But what would you like listeners to know about you on your own terms?
Sheard: I'd like them to know that I've sung with Mommy and Auntie Dorinda, but that I'm very serious about my own ministry. I have fun singing, but I want it to be more than that. I want to worship God and minister to young people.
It's true, my sound has a little bit of Auntie Twinkie, my mom, Auntie Dorinda. Then again, there's a little Mary J. Blige, or whoever. Everybody says I sound like somebody!
I try to learn from everybody. I've watched my mom and my aunts and how they minister to the younger and the older people. I learn from different artists, like Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams and Mary Mary. I just pull from everybody, and with my own thoughts and ideas, I hope that makes me myself—crazy, unique, a little silly.
I think a lot of people my age think the only music we can relate to are artists like Lil' John, Beyoncé or Usher. But I want them to be able to relate to me and the things I sing about, too. To see that I'm cool and down-to-earth. I want my ministry to pull them in with gospel music they can relate to—music where you can throw your hands up and wave them around—and to inspire them to minister to one another. I want them to feel like now we have a groove and we have someone who's singing gospel music and now we can relate to the gospel music.
Did you have a hand in the writing process?
Sheard: Yes. I wrote two of the songs—"Sweetest Thing" and "War"—with my brother J. Drew and Trey [Earl Wright III], who's like a brother to me. I think you'll hear more of my own songs on my next album.
What was it like having your brother produce those two tracks?
Sheard: My brother, Trey and I make a lot of jokes, and have a lot of arguments! (laughs) But we work well together. We'll pull different ideas together, and say, I like this. Oh, let's try this. Sometimes that goes smoothly, and then other times, I'm just like "Y'all figure it out. I'm leaving!" Other times they leave me alone and let me do the vocal arrangements the way I like them. So they work with me, and I work with them, and it's cool. We argue, we have good times, we work together.
In the song "Church Nite" you sing about being in church a lot. You're a pastor's kid, too. Were you always excited about spending so much time at church?
Sheard: I love going to church, because everybody there is basically my family. And not only do I have fun, but I like listening to my father, my pastor and being spiritually fed. When my dad preaches, sometimes it seems like he's been looking at what's going on in my life! Well, OK, he has been! He knows my secrets. (laughs)
Church is fun for me, though. Especially Bible study, because my father is kind of funny, kind of like Steve Harvey. So we laugh and joke and learn a lot there.
What are your hopes for this album?
Sheard: Most of all I want my music to minister to people. I want it to encourage them and help them through difficult situations. I want them to pull over if they are driving and get out of the car and shout. I also want them to have a good time listening to my music.