Shemekia Copeland to bring fiery blues power to Homer Center for the Arts
Shemekia Copeland will return to the Center for the Arts in Homer on Thursday night, ready to showcase the powerhouse vocal style that has made her one of the most acclaimed artists of her generation.
Best known as a blues singer, Copeland has been branching out in recent years to incorporate country, zydeco, soul, and rock influences into her growing repertoire.
“I just like American music,” she said in a recent interview from her home in southern California. “But if it comes out of my mouth, it sounds like the blues because it’s me. But I love using all forms of American music. If I make a record, I don’t feel like I should be limited in any kind of way – I want to be able to use all of it!”
Following in the footsteps of 2019’s “America’s Child” and 2020’s “Uncivil War,” Copeland once again enlisted the team of Nashville producer-arranger-guitarist Will Kimbrough and lyricist John Hahn (who’s also her longtime manager) for 2022’s “Done Come Too Far,” another eclectic and timely package of songs.
“I’m so fortunate to work with the geniuses that I get to work with,” she said. “These songs are tailor-made to me, but I have everything to do with them from beginning to end, and that's what makes it so special.”
She added: “I’ve always felt that there’s a difference between people who write songs and songwriters. So many people fancy themselves as songwriters when, really, they’re just people who have written a song. And that’s me – I have written songs. But I am not a songwriter. Some people are masters at it, but that’s not me. And I’m okay with that. I don’t have to do everything. Some people want to do everything. I’m okay with delegating.”
As the daughter of well-known bluesman Johnny Clyde Copeland (1937-1997), it would seem that Shemekia was destined for a career in music. That’s not the case, though.
“Oh, no, I never wanted to do that,” she said. “I thought my dad was nuts, going out in front of people and performing, and coming in all hours of the night and I'm like, ‘No, no.’ I did not want that for myself. Then it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks when I was around 15 years old; I remember thinking ‘Oh my god, this is what I want to do with my life.’ It was like a calling, except I didn’t become a nun.”
Now 43, Copeland released her first album, “Turn The Heat Up!” in 1998 and has since performed all over the world, including an appearance at the White House in 2012.
Copeland notes that when she became a mother – she and her husband Brian Schultz have a six-year-old son, Johnny Lee – “it absolutely changed me in every way.”
“It’s funny, because I wanted my son when he gets to be older, to say ‘My mom was a badass, my mom was brave, my mom would talk about things nobody else would.’ I want him to be proud of me,” she said. “And he already is, and that's what makes me happy. I want to set an example for him about being original and not conforming.”
That’s in line with some wise words imparted by her father and another music legend.
“Some of the best advice I’ve gotten started with my dad telling me to always be original,” she said. “And later on, Dr. John said to me, ‘Don't conform to the music business, make the music business conform to you.’ The more I have leaned into that thought, the better I feel when I look in the mirror at myself. I feel good about me, and about what I'm doing.”
While her three most recent albums have met with critical acclaim, Copeland is looking to explore new musical terrain with her next project.
“I’m in the process of getting that figured out, but I can’t wait. Now that this is what everybody expects from me, I have to do something different,” she said with a big laugh.
If you go
Who: Shemekia Copeland
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2
Where: Center for the Arts, Homer
Cost: $26-$32, available online here