Chevel Shepherd has her eyes on bigger prize

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FARMINGTON — Even though she is just 16, Chevel Shepherd already is learning to adjust to the demands of life as a celebrity.

The Farmington High School junior advanced to the third round of competition on the NBC talent show series "The Voice" on Monday, winning her "Battle Round" competition against fellow Team Kelly member Mikele Buck. It was Shepherd's second appearance on the program, as she won her "Blind Audition" round competition during an episode that aired on Oct. 1.

Both those episodes were taped over the summer at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Shepherd was obligated to remain silent about how she had fared on the program, even after she returned here in late August to begin classes.

Given the chance on Wednesday to finally talk about her success, Shepherd described how exciting her experiences on "The Voice" have been, and how optimistic she is about her future – not just on the program, but also about her planned future as a country music singer.

Shepherd said she spent much of her summer in Southern California, flying home briefly between the taping of her two episodes. Preparations for her "Battle Round" competition required her to learn and perform a duet with Buck, and their "coach" for the segment, singer Kelly Clarkson, worked with them for several days leading up to the taping.

It was Clarkson who chose the song for the duo's performance, and she selected "You Look So Good in Love," a tune written by Glen Ballard, Rory Michael Bourke and Kerry Chater that became a No. 1 hit for country megastar George Strait in 1983. That choice initially may have been a little uncomfortable for Shepherd, who described herself as a George Strait fan but said she had never heard the song until Clarkson presented it to her in rehearsal.

"She told us that she chose it because it was older country and she wanted to see what we could do with it," Shepherd said during an interview on Wednesday.

Strait's cover of the song is regarded as a straightforward love song, but Shepherd said Clarkson told her and Buck, a 39-year-old Army veteran, she envisioned the two of them giving it a slightly different interpretation – perhaps a father-daughter or uncle-niece perspective.

Ultimately, Shepherd said, she came to embrace the song and greatly enjoyed the challenge of performing a duet for the first time in her life.

"Kelly is so awesome," Shepherd said. "She gives great advice, and she really works with you. She wants to see you grow as an artist."

Shepherd said her time in Los Angeles preparing for her "Battle Round" experience was spent mostly working. But she did have time to hang out with other contestants on "The Voice." And she even got to rub shoulders with pop superstar Mariah Carey, who serves as an adviser for the series.

"She's so nice. She's so pretty," Shepherd said. "She's very smart, and she's a kind human."

Experiences like that are becoming more and more common for Shepherd as she advances on the show. She said she has been overwhelmed with classmates expressing their support and pride in her at school, and the traffic on her social media platforms has grown exponentially. Something as simple as going to the grocery store in Farmington or going out to eat with her family has become an exercise in learning to deal with fame, as she regularly is approached by fans and well-wishers hoping to snap a selfie with her, she said.

"It's so surreal," she said. "I've got to look myself in the mirror and tell myself I'm really on 'The Voice.' I've met so many great people and made so many great bonds."

Her journey on the program is not over. Next up is are the "Knockout Rounds," which start next week, and if Shepherd survives that competition, she'll advance to the live episodes, when an interactive voting feature allows viewers to have a say in who carts off the top prize.

Regardless of how she fares for the rest of the season, Shepherd has plans to use her success on "The Voice" as a launching pad for the rest of her career. She said she already has been approached with performing opportunities outside of the show, though she declined to go into specifics. She said this experience has made her determined to follow her dream of heading to Music City and becoming a country star.

"I really just want to start touring and start singing," she said. "I want to move to Nashville and sing with different country artist in a whole bunch of different states."

Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

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