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Sheela Tucker Singing the Soul of Syracuse

She walked in. Cute as a Disney bug. Bubbly in her enthusiasm. Seemingly bouncing. Hugged everybody, chit chatting …

This was my first impression of Sheela Tucker as I met her arriving to a show we were both playing. Bouncing. I remember wondering, “How is this petite lady a soul singer?” One has to push a lot of air to be a soul singer, after all. We made our introductions, and even shared a tequila or two and fast became pals. “Let’s see what she can do,” I thought.

Sheela Tucker is the dynamic front-woman for Atlas and Brass Inc., and her side project Little Queen that showcases music by HEART and Pat Benetar.

It’s good advice to not judge a book by its cover, because, well … she belted in such a way that I thought two things, instantly: 1) Man, I sure am glad she ain’t my mom yelling at me, and 2) Man, this lady is blowing the roof off the house. This chick can sing! Sometimes powerful things come in petite packages.

You know her as the dynamic front-woman for Atlas and Brass Inc., one of Syracuse’s busiest and most popular R&B groups going. You may or may not know she also has a lil’ side project Little Queen that showcases her penchant for covering HEART and Pat Benetar; and, she stays busy with sit-ins and extra-curricular work all over central New York.

She’s a busy singer, but, she was good enough to take some time for me. So, being a tequila buddy and all, we decided to slow sip some tequila and do an interview.

Chuck Schiele: Thanks for doing this interview Sheela. Salut!

[clink!]

Sheela Tucker: Oh my God, what is this stuff? I love the red bottle?

CS: Corralejo, Añejo. I like to sip it.

ST: Mmm. Oh I like this!

CS: How did you get started in music? How long have you been singing?

Sheela Tucker: It sounds so cliché but I’ve been singing since I was about 6. Growing up with 4 older siblings and having parents that played music daily, sparked my passion early on. But, I was extremely shy growing up.

CS: Yeah. Shy. Mm hmm. Who are you working with currently?

ST:  Brass, Inc. band which, honestly, has to be one of the best horn bands playing in this area, right now. I also have my own band, called Little Queen. We are a 1-hour opener band covering songs of HEART and Pat Benatar.

CS: You say your music path started at 6 years old. Whatcha been doing all this time?

ST:  Although I did sing as a child as early as 1st grade, I was a very shy and timid kid right up until I was in my late 20s —and started singing ‘professionally’ at age 40. I did play clarinet early on, beginning in the 3rd grade right up until about 10th grade. I let someone borrow my clarinet and she left it at school. I regret not getting it back, because I would still play it if I had it. I had a strong passion for singing, but never believed I could do anything serious because of my shyness, until I tried karaoke.

CS: Right. Shy. Mm hmm.

ST: That was a very strong and powerful tool for me to conquer my stage fright. It got me in to the band Atlas, starting out as a sub then becoming their permanent female singer in 2002 until 2006. I led my own variety band, AboutTime Band for 5 years, and now I’ve been in Brass Inc. almost 5 years. I’m actively involved in Paul Davie’s “BeatleCuse,” as one of the ‘Fab Femmes’, an all female group that has been a popular addition to his yearly event. In past BeatleCuse shows, I  did back up for national artists, Mark Hudson, Gene Cornish, and Earl Slick. I have been involved in the popular “Tribute Tuesdays” at The Ridge as a lead singer on songs of Carol King, and Stevie Wonder, in addition to doing back up for the Jamie Notarthomas Band. And one of the best experiences was singing back-up for Bernard Fowler and Earl Slick at the Ridge’s Rolling Stones Tribute night.

CS: Sounds like a lot of fun. What inspires you as a singer?

ST: The ability to feel the story in a song, no matter what type of song it is. I’m still quite shy in a way, I still feel a bit scared to be in front of people.

CS: Mm hm.

Tucker with Atlas and Brass Inc., takes the spotlight for one of her dynamic performances.

ST: But when that 1st song starts, I am someone else. Music heals me, at least for the time I’m on stage. I say that because I have fibromyalgia and have been in constant pain since 1996. When I sing and dance, I am free from pain and stress, it just takes me to another place.

CS: Ah! Once again, proof that music is the best medicine! Will you please share with us, some of your better memories from your days as a singer?

ST: Each and every performance. The way a song transforms me as if I lived it and wrote it. People of all ages, all backgrounds coming together in one place for one night having fun, singing and dancing together. Every musician, and singer that has had me come up on stage to share their spotlight with me when it was their time to shine but gave it to me for that one special moment. Those are my best memories, and there are many more to be made.

CS: How about a funny war story from gig life?

ST: I’m not sure how to answer that. I don’t think war and funny can be in the same sentence, but I think I know what you mean. Don’t think I have any that I can recall, which must mean I tend to look past it in order to move on. But, from where I stand on stage, I’ve seen plenty of funny and bad things out there, which I’m sure we all have, but I stay in the song.

CS: Wow. Cool answer. How bout this? What is your best advice for those getting into the music biz?

ST: Patience, Positive action, Persistence, and Plan B is what will make your dream come true. Respect those ‘seasoned’ musicians who have been in the biz for years and take their advice. Keep an open mind and cautious thought to what others say and how others play, and remember every moment is a lesson. It will teach you how to be and not to be. Don’t be fooled by those who tell you that you can only get somewhere through them, you can get there yourself with a lot of self-respect, and self-drive. Be honest and when it’s your time to shine, your passion will fuel your light.

CS: (Smiles at this reply … ) Thoughts on the Syracuse Music scene?

ST: The music scene is a versatile explosion of talent constantly evolving and revolving. I wish all musicians (as well as their sound techs) got paid much more than what they do and more venues made sure the gear and instruments are protected and secure before, during and after a performance. One of the best things about this area is it’s many talented musicians and singers, and there are so many we don’t get to hear as much as we would like.

CS: How about you? Whats in your near future musically?

ST: I enjoy being in 2 different types of bands. Brass Inc. is a high energy band and I dance from start to finish. But, I have another side of me that most people my age rarely get a chance to see, and that’s the rocker in me. Two of my favorite female singers were and always will be Ann Wilson of HEART and Pat Benatar, so my band Little Queen is a one-hour opener covering their songs. They are passionate about their songs and I am passionate to sing their songs. I look forward to the 2018 BeatleCuse show as one of the lead singers of the FabFemmes. I love doing harmonies as much as I do singing lead, and hope the opportunity comes along to help others in their studio work on covers or originals. I’m still learning.

CS: How do we find you?

ST: I now have a website: www.sheelatucker.com

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.