Take a look behind the scenes of our photo shoot with future country music superstar Chevel Shepherd.
Figuring out how and when to photograph rising country music star Chevel Shepherd for our feature in the August/September 2019 issue was no easy thing. There was a lot to schedule around. The winner of The Voice Season 15 had been busy fielding press requests, giving concerts, planning her upcoming album with the help of Voice coach Kelly Clarkson, and, oh yeah, still going to high school.
There were no issues with the shoot itself, though. “We absolutely loved the experience,” says a completely charmed Shelle Neese of Studio Seven Productions. “Chevel is a prankster on top of being a future country music superstar. We have been keeping in touch with her and her mom.” Speaking of Chevel’s mom, Julie: She keeps an appropriately maternal protective shield around her 17-year-old daughter, screening opportunities and vetting e-mails, signing with a sincere “Have a very blessed day.”
We were lucky to have caught Chevel when we did, because the whirlwind is only going to get crazier. “She is going to be a big star,” Neese says. Shepherd just signed with Creative Artists Agency Nashville and has been traveling to Nashville to work on new songs she’s recording. On top of all that, she’s got a lead role in a movie and has been memorizing her lines.
For now, Shepherd still lives with her family in the city of Farmington, New Mexico, at the junction of the San Juan, Animas, and La Plata rivers on the Colorado Plateau about a half-hour from Shiprock, where we’d originally envisioned the shoot taking place. But the idea shifted from monumental backdrop to vintage music, and Studio Seven Productions arranged to have the photo shoot in Albuquerque, where they could take advantage of Rio Grande Studios for an intimate location with a relaxed retro vibe and Rockin’M Guitars for some fittingly cool instruments.
Rio Grande Studios is housed in a nearly 300-year-old adobe residence turned recording studio through the vision of Kenny Riley and Drew Newman. “It’s a place that when artists come here they can get inspired by the old walls and dirt the house sits on,” says Neese. And there’s some extraordinary backdrop material, including a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette owned by Riley that was given to him by his father, who purchased the car in 1957 and left it to his son about six years ago. “It’s a family gem!” Neese says. Ditto the custom motorcycle Riley built that was inspired by the Corvette.
Mikey Wright of Rockin’M Guitars hooked Studio Seven up with some exceptionally rockin’ guitars for the shoot. (Ax aficionados: That guitar Chevel is pictured with is a custom Fender Telecaster silver sparkle Don Rich model, commemorating the great guitarist who played with Buck Owens. Dog lovers: That adorable puppy she’s holding in one shot is Wright’s 16-week-old red heeler, Callie.)
Born and raised in Albuquerque, Wright started out working in local pro guitar shops and eventually partnered up to become an owner. After playing in top bands on the club circuit, he moved to Dallas to design instruments for a major guitar company. From there it was on to L.A., where he ran the vintage guitar shop in Hollywood and toured with top musicians for almost 25 years. The guitar guru for 13 seasons on The Voice, he’s now back home in New Mexico, where he runs a home repair shop and online guitar shop and gigs with the Memphis P-Tails blues band among others.
Long before the guitars were decided, Neese had worked out what Shepherd would wear. “My first thought was to dress her like Patsy Cline,” says Neese. “She is very petite — just under 5 feet tall.” Neese styled the clothes with the help of Rockin’ B Clothing, whose tagline “Vintage Western Soul” was right on the nose for the look Neese was after — a look, it comes as no surprise, that Shepherd rocks.
“The designer at the Rockin’ B, Jess Snell, is a real sweet girl and very talented,” Neese says. The clothing shop has designed bespoke pieces for country stars Kacey Musgraves and Morgane Stapleton, along with many high-profile projects and events like Musgraves’ video with Willie Nelson for “Are You Sure,” CMT Awards in Nashville, the American Country Awards in Las Vegas, and a lot of Miss Rodeos: America, California, New Mexico, and South Dakota.
Click above to view the behind-the-scenes slideshow.
“The whole rockabilly/retro country vibe was so great because Chevel is a throwback to the Patsy era — and no one who has won The Voice is like her,” Neese says.
Shepherd particularly loved the photo of her wearing a classic green Western-style dress and super-sassy red boots — so much so that she had her heart set on wrapping her new tour bus with it. You’ll see the shot in the August/September 2019 issue — it’s the knockout on the opening spread. Alas, the dimensions of the photo didn’t line up with the tour bus, so it won’t be emblazoned for all to see as Chevel hits the road. But we’ll know, and you’ll know, and we can totally see it.
Read our feature story on Chevel Shepherd in the August/September 2019 issue of C&I.
Photography and styling: Michael & Shelle Neese/Studio Seven Productions
Assistant: Wade Faast
Hair and makeup: Trisha Ramirez
Clothing: Green dress by Rockin’ B Clothing, red boots by Céline, floral print dress by Alexander McQueen, custom-fringed suede boots by Back at the Ranch Santa Fe. Additional: Gertrude Zachary Jewelry, The Wild Rose, Douglas Magnus Studios.
Guitars: Rockin’M Guitars
Location: Rio Grande Studios