New Music MondaySHEL on Teaching Women How to Be Fearless

SHEL is incredible. The quartet of sisters blend live instrumentation with soul-stirring harmonies to create music that stays with its listeners. From “Stronger Than My Fears” to “When the Sky Fell,” SHEL creates soothing music—perfect for playing while meditating—that speaks to common experiences, including being afraid, falling in love, and finding our purpose.

Their music is a testament to their upbringing: Sarah, Hannah, Eva, and Liza were raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, by a musician father and their stay-at-home mother. She homeschooled the sisters, who were all born within five years of each other, and made sure their curriculum included music. Each sister honed an instrument, including the mandolin, drums, violin, and piano, which convinced their father to turn them into a musical group.

Eventually, SHEL signed a deal with Republic Records, but later escaped the “artist protection program,” according to Sarah. They’re now independent and free to create that music that feels authentic to them. They’ve recently released their second album, Just Crazy Enough, and are using their eclectic sound to reach a new fanbase. Here, they discuss their background, crowdfunding their albums, and the importance of being fearless.

I’ve read that you were all encouraged to embrace music by your parents, who were both creatives. How did your parents’ early belief in your musical ability inspire you to seriously pursue a career as musicians?

It didn’t hurt that our parents were booking paying gigs for the band when some of us were barely in double digits, so we were professionals before we knew what that meant. The doors kept opening, and our parents encouraged us to walk through them, and they walked through with us right up until our youngest member, Liza, turned 18. Really, they raised us in a home where music was a way of life.

You crowdfunded both Shel and Just Crazy Enough. Is it important for you, as a group, to fund your own musical ventures? Does that independence allow you to have more freedom in the music you create?

Absolutely. It helps us stay true ourselves and to our fans, and it gives them a chance to be an invaluable part of the project. We do as many things ourselves as we possibly can, including making our music videos and graphic design. Our team is small, but mighty. We’ve learned not to underestimate the power of the people who believe in us.

Your “Stronger Than Your Fears” video seems to be an ode to people taking risks and leaps. Each of you came to music differently, with Sarah even dropping out of college twice. How do you all push back against fear?

We don’t run from the voices in our heads, we try to understand them. For example, if you’re afraid of inadequacy, it helps to look outwards and ask questions. Fear is only frightening if you remain trapped in your head, engaging in a one-sided dialogue with it. I tell people I trust about my fears and try to learn what is true or false about them, because I think it’s important to understand fear, we shouldn’t allow it to dictate to us in the isolation of our minds. We should expose it to the jury of people who know and love us.

You haven’t been wearing makeup to empower young women to embrace their natural beauty. How did you collectively decide on this? What are other ways that women musicians can empower young women to be more involved, especially politically?

We often wear makeup, and for the most part, we really enjoy it and it’s part of our show. But while we’re traveling, or hanging out with friends and family, we tend to go without. We often post photos with no makeup and looking natural. In response, a mother wrote us and thanked us for sharing pictures without makeup, because we were setting an example for her daughter. That made us more aware of the unhealthy standards of “beauty” that girls and women are bombarded with on a regular basis. We just want to encourage women to look and dress however they want.  Feeling comfortable with who we are, with or without makeup, that’s what matters.

On the subject of empowering one another and making a difference politically, perhaps what the world needs is just that, being comfortable with who we are [so] we don’t have to take it personally when someone has a different opinion. If we try to understand and respect one another, then we can find common ground through kindness and understanding—for ourselves and others around us—that is empowering, and maybe that’s what we need right now.

Who inspires SHEL musically? What artists have influenced your sound, which seems to be a pleasing mix of harmonies, live instrumentation, and lyrics that truly resonate?

We have pretty eclectic taste between the four of us. We love classic rock: Led Zeppelin, The Who. Classical music, some jazz, techno/dance, world music, etc. But The Beatles are definitely our band idol and Sting is one of our heroes.  

What comes next for SHEL? Where can the Bitch community find you performing?

Right now, we’re preparing to shoot another video in Colorado, touring around the U.S. and spending time writing and recording our next album in Nashville, Tennessee! You can find more info about our tour and connect with us at

Invest in SHEL:

Buy the Just Crazy Enough album on iTunes or Amazon.

Stream Just Crazy Enough on Spotify.

Go to one of their concerts in Colorado.

Join the Just Crazy Enough challenge on social media.

by Evette Dionne
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Evette Dionne is Bitch Media’s editor-in-chief. She’s all about Beyoncé, Black women, and dope TV shows and books. You can follow her on Twitter.

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