ierra Sheard-Kelly has a whole new outlook on legacy these days.
It’s early Tuesday afternoon in April. The gospel vocalist, known to the world as the daughter of Karen Clark-Sheard of The Clark Sisters, is on a call with Rated R&B, detailing how her perception of legacy has matured over the last year.
“Once upon a time, [legacy] just meant everything to do with money, and the success that the world said was legacy,” Sheard-Kelly explains. “[Now], legacy for me is you leaving your mark in the world, but not with the selfish desire for just your family or your blood.”
The fruits of Sheard-Kelly’s fresh outlook about laying down a permanent footprint stand on the faithful shoulders of her grandmother Willie Mae Sheard, who transitioned last year. The selfless life her grandmother lived became an example of how to share yourself with a world outside of your own.
“She was always talking and encouraging and looking out for other people outside of her bloodline,” Sheard-Kelly recalls. “She didn’t look to be in the spotlight. She looked for opportunities to serve and to give to people that were not a part of her family.”
“That inspired me because I was just telling a friend that there are some people that I may never see again that will have remembered my grandmother because of how honest and generous she was.”
Sheard-Kelly’s ability to be as openhearted as her beloved grandmother unfolds through the pages of her first book Big, Bold, and Beautiful: Owning the Woman God Made You to Be, out April 13.
The book was inspired by candid and therapeutic journal entries that “came from an honest place,” Sheard-Kelly says. She stumbled across the opportunity to write the self-empowering memoir after going through a forgotten email.
Though inking a book deal had not been something she thought out for herself, she knows that “all things will work together for the good of those who love the Lord.”
Sheard-Kelly finds it challenging to narrow down one chapter in the book that she considers the most reflective. “It depends on the day,” she says.
Determined to answer the question, she flips through the book’s table of contents and comes across “Say Less,” which is chapter 26. “I’ve been working on my tongue,” she says.
Something else that Sheard-Kelly has been working on is the newly issued deluxe edition of her self-titled album. Available now, the 20-song project is an expanded version of her number-one album that was released last year.
Realizing that some consumers’ “attention span nowadays is different” and they’re “running through music like water,” Sheard-Kelly added five bonus tracks to the acclaimed album to keep her devoted followers well-nourished with more messages of hope and inspiration.
The original Kierra album was nominated for a handful of esteemed honors, including Best Gospel Album, at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.
With appearances from Missy Elliott, Sir the Baptist, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Le’Andria Johnson, and her brother Jacob Sheard, the favored album also had faith-based songs that put her at the top of the Billboard charts, such as “It Keep Happening,” her first lead and third overall single to claim number-one victory on the Gospel Airplay turf.
For the deluxe edition, Sheard-Kelly makes additional room for two special guest features: her mother and the gospel legend Karen Clark-Sheard and super-producer Camper.
In our interview with Kierra Sheard-Kelly, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter talks more about Big, Bold, and Beautiful and the deluxe edition of her self-titled album. She also discusses working with super-producer Camper and why a love album could be in the future.
Right now, Camper is one of the go-to producers in R&B. He worked on your latest deluxe track “Out of My Mind.” What was the experience like collaborating with him?
It was so easy, authentic and fun. Liberating. It was a brother-sister chemistry that we easily walked into when we got in the studio. [It’s] one of my favorite collaborations. We stay in touch now. Literally, we act like siblings in supporting each other. I totally think that we’ll have more work together in the future.
Another new song on the album is “Something Has to Break,” featuring your legendary mother Karen Clark-Sheard. You guys closed out the 2020 BET Awards with a performance of this powerful record. What moved you to put this version on the album?
So many of my supporters and listeners were raving about it. They were like, “Oh my God, she gotta release that.” So, what better thing is there to do than to give the people what they want? It’s super special. It’s my mommy. She’s my best friend. I was floored at how she delivered on this song. If I know what it did for me, I can only imagine what it can do for others in their personal space.
How do you think these new songs will add more value to God’s assignment for the overall album?
I think [they’ll] add to this body of work because I’m still making declarations. Many times we feel like we can stop making declarations, but these songs are moments where we can connect together. I think because the culture is trying to encourage more individuality than it is covenant and friendships, companionship, relationship. They say, “Oh, remove all toxicity out of your life,” and it’s like, “Yes, remove the toxicity,” but try and find the relationship or the connection that are pushing you into destiny. Sometimes those connections can happen with some of our favorite influencers through music, or through a declaration that we just can connect with, or just them telling their story. I feel like the assignment with this project has everything to do with the connectivity. I think that’s a part of the completion of this assignment.
A lot of R&B artists are rediscovering their love for gospel, releasing respective projects like PJ Morton and Kelly Price. Do you ever think you’d ever step out on faith and record an R&B album?
I could see myself doing that for sure, especially now that I’m married. There’s a different letter that I’m now writing to myself as a wife [and] to my husband — the King that he is in my life. I absolutely can see myself writing a love song to him or having an album that is of love songs for him.
Who are some of the artists that you would like to join for that particular project?
I would love to work with H.E.R. I was up early this morning, cleaning the house, with my candles lit, blasting H.E.R. through the house. I would love to work with Lucky Daye and Kelly Rowland. She’s just fun. I don’t know what we would sing, but I just love Kelly. I would even like to do some work with Michael Bublé.
Circling back around to Big, Bold, and Beautiful. No one should read the first chapter of your book on an empty stomach. What’s that one dish you’ve learned from your family that you can confidently cook?
My mom’s macaroni and cheese. I think I got it. I don’t have to call her for that one. It’s good. It’s not runny. It sticks well.
What do you hope people, particularly young women, take away after reading Big, Bold, and Beautiful?
First, I’m hoping that they take away that the priority should be being in alignment with God and knowing your purpose on the earth. If you’re not clear of your purpose, you’ll allow people to speak to your being, and it’ll cause you to go into depression or anxiety. You’ll doubt yourself so much, so removing yourself from up under the thumbs of the opinions of people and owning who it is that you are. See what God is saying. See what heaven is saying about your being versus what people say.
Don’t feel like you have to have it all figured out as you’re growing into adulthood. When we remain a student at heart, solutions will want to come into your space. It won’t be hard for you. I also would love to encourage them. The book is called Big, Bold, and Beautiful. That first word ‘big’ came from a space of insecurity until I owned it and came out with the clothing line (Eleven60). My insecurity may not be your insecurity. My big may not be their big, but whatever it is, find out why God put that as a part of you and figure out what answers you may have for the world.
Nearly a year ago, you were perfectly cast as your legendary mother in The Clark Sisters: The First Ladies of Gospel. It was nominated for multiple NAACP Image Awards. Has that starring role opened other doors for you in the acting world?
It absolutely has. I’m currently working on a script with a very familiar influencer in inspiration. I’m really excited about that. I’m hoping that maybe my name is in some other rooms. I would love to do more films. I’m excited to put the work in.
Stream the deluxe edition of Kierra Sheard-Kelly’s self-titled album below.