Shelly Leatherman shows off her drive and determination on “We Go Hard,” her new acoustic track that’ll motivate you any day of the week. If you’re unfamiliar with Leatherman’s work the song may come off as conceited, but once you get to know her, you’ll see she’s far past earning the right to brag. She’s gone from a studio recording engineer to a live sound engineer to a singer-songwriter on her own without missing a beat! Aside from the bold lyrics on “We Go Hard,” there’s a soft confidence in her voice that only comes with years of success and experience in a cutthroat industry.
“It means a lot as it is a song about me and my team that I would train with in LA, and how hard we all work in the studio,” Leatherman tells TREMG. “I wrote it when I was out in LA and putting in work to be the best performer and vocalist that I could possibly be, pushing beyond my former limits… This crew works harder than any team I know. We are highly driven and dedicated to our purpose, and I’ve never seen anyone work as much or as long as we do.”
In her time as an engineer, Leatherman has worked concerts for the likes of Kacey Musgraves and Shakey Graves, giving her countless lessons in stage presence and performance that have prepared her for her own sets. As a studio engineer and songwriter, she’s collaborated with stars like Amy Grant and Ally Brooke of Fifth Harmony, adding her own elegant yet playful touch to their work together.
“When I’m writing for [and working with] other artists, I like to take the time to get to know them first so that I can help represent who they are authentically as an artist,” she explains. “My goal is to most represent their core values, and guide them according to the highest ideals we can come up with for the song. You have to do what feels good, and clearly it needs to feel good for them, as well, and really hit home. I really love a true heartfelt song that represents the authenticity of someone’s situation or life.”
As far as Leatherman’s own life situation, she works double duty as both a musician and a loving mother to her two children, who she gets involved in her work as much as possible. She doesn’t have to fight to be a singer or a parent, instead opting to do both with grace and ease.
“Both have always been musically inclined and have been going to the studio with me since they were born,” she shares. “They’ve actually recorded me in the studio themselves. I try to teach them as much as possible and get them involved. My son plays saxophone and piano. My daughter is an amazing singer and loves to dance! As much as they have been involved and around music their whole lives, it’s no wonder they love it so much.”
Nashville is full of hard workers and motivated artists like Shelly Leatherman. But from the looks of it, very few people go quite as hard as she does. You can find “We Go Hard” on your favorite streaming services now and get to know Shelly Leatherman on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her website! Keep reading from more for our conversation with the inspiring singer-songwriter.
Congrats on your new single “We Go Hard!” What does the song mean to you, and how does it feel to finally let it out into the world?
Thank you so so much! I’m so excited about it! It means a lot as it is a song about me and my team that I would train with in LA, and how hard we all work in the studio. I wrote it when I was out in LA and putting in work to be the best performer and vocalist that I could possibly be, pushing beyond my former limits. We have a workout program that we created for singers/performers who dance and move around a lot on stage. It allows us to keep our breath and keep moving without being shaky when singing and dancing at the same time. This crew works harder than any team I know, we are highly driven and dedicated to our purpose and I’ve never seen anyone work as much or as long as we do.
Honestly, it almost feels like a sense of relief getting it out there, because I’ve waited so long and worked so hard and when changes needed to be made, we just kept persevering and taking the winding road until we got to the finish line, but we all know, it’s never really done done, we could go on forever with these songs. 😉
Is there a certain lyric in “We Go Hard” that you’re particularly proud of?
Yes, “Team going in, it’s getting deep, crew on point, don’t skip a beat, we go hard.” This is one of my favorite lyrics from the song because it’s all about my team, and they are my inspiration for the song. I’m so grateful to have such a driven family of musical talent around me. I wouldn’t be who I am without the influence of these people pouring into my life, and us leading each other to be our best at all times. That’s what the greatest friends do, they empower and help build each other up, in talents, in thought processes, in strength, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Those are the kind of friends you never let go of.
Who were some of your influences on the song’s sound?
Well, formerly, it was just me and Paimon Jahanbin. We were sitting in the studio in LA and waiting for the guitar player to show up for another project we were working on. The guitar player called and said he was running 30 minutes late, so I told PJ, “crank up the gear, let’s get something rolling, I don’t want to waste 30 minutes sitting around.” I’m really weird about wasting one second of my time. I promised myself that every second I’m not with my kids, that I would be building a legacy and a great inheritance for them.
So, I walked over to the keys, it was whatever bass sound he had programmed already, and I started playing the bassline you hear now, simple but catchy. That lit the fire. We both added a few more sounds, I wrote the lyrics as we went on and then I went in the vocal booth and recorded the lead vocals along with background vocals. We spent 25 minutes total on the song, and were done just in time for the guitar player to arrive. I’m not sure if that was destiny or just pressure from the time crunch. Haha. But, that was that, and we had our pump up, feel good, workout song.
I ended up waiting for a while to release it, and when I went back to LA to film the music video, he suggested that we reproduce it. He was too busy with the Drakes and Post Malones of the world at that time to do anything with it, so Brian Prost and I produced 3 other versions while we waited. I was still indecisive, because I liked the original version best and thought it was timeless, and I still feel it is, but I love this version too.
The stripped-down version for the acoustic sound was actually just a joke at first. Just Brian playing around. Then it ended up being one of the ones we thought was best for releasing a country song. It’s fun and energetic, we kind of just giggled at it at first. It did not start out as a country song, it started out as a pop dance song, but I was shifting gears at the time and wanted to begin releasing a bunch of country tunes I wrote, so we thought we’d use this one just to kick it off, as it’s a good break out song and empowerment song for anyone who listens and especially for a first release, we wanted to keep it fun. It tells a lot of my true character and who I am in the lyrics, but mostly who we are as a team.
In addition to making your own music, you’ve written songs for the likes of Ally Brooke and Amy Grant. How does your creative process differ when you’re writing for other artists rather than yourself?
I mostly recorded the two as a recording engineer, but as far as songwriting, it differs slightly depending on the artist and their preferences. I really enjoy traveling and being alone when I write at times on my own projects. A change of scenery inspires me. However, living in Nashville, I have come to also love and appreciate a good co-write. I had never done a co-write and always wrote my own material before moving to Nashville, but co-writing is a big thing here.
When I’m writing for other artists, I like to take the time to get to know them first so that I can help represent who they are authentically as an artist. My goal is to most represent their core values, and guide them according to the highest ideals we can come up with for the song. You have to do what feels good, and clearly it needs to feel good for them, as well, and really hit home. I really love a true heartfelt song that represents the authenticity of someone’s situation or life.
Before you got into creating music, you were a live sound engineer and got to work with the likes of Kacey Musgraves and Lunchmoney Lewis. Was there anything you learned at the shows you engineered that you’ve carried into your own musical journey?
I was actually a studio recording engineer first, then after working long hours and burning myself out a little from working too much, I decided I needed to get out of the studio and get out and about for a bit, and start focusing on shows, performing and live sound. It’s been AMAZING and was a much needed break!
I learned A LOT, and since I was a kid have been watching shows, studying every aspect of performing, stage presence, etc. I have learned so much regarding what to do, what not to do on stage, how to manage and run a large crew. It’s really paid off to study live music and focus my energy into performing and being on the stage anytime I can. They say, if you can’t beat them, join ‘em! So I joined them! 😄
On top of music, you’re also a mom to an adorable daughter and son! How do you balance work and family life?
I involve my children in everything I do, and they LOVE IT! Both have always been musically inclined and have been going to the studio with me since they were born. They’ve actually recorded me in the studio themselves. I try to teach them as much as possible and get them involved. My son plays saxophone and piano. My daughter is an amazing singer and loves to dance! As much as they have been involved and around music their whole lives, it’s no wonder they love it so much. They beg me to go to the studio sometimes. They also dream of having their own tour bus, and have been on quite a few. It’s super exciting for them!
I think that’s truly key with balancing family and work life, is to keep your family involved as much as possible so they can spend their time with you no matter what you’re doing. Then, we also make sure we take nice breaks in between, getting out in nature and going on trips together. It’s a balance for sure!
What can your fans look forward to in 2022?
In 2022, I expect to continue finishing out my full album. We plan to be filming more music videos and have a lot more authentic country songs coming out. I’m truly just getting started in the country realm, however, I’ve written probably 1000 country songs and that will be my biggest focus, getting those out to the world!
I hope to do a lot of shows in 2022, now that the pandemic has eased up (fingers crossed). 🤞🏻
Is there anything else you’d like to mention that the questions didn’t touch on?
I am just grateful that my fanbase has stood with me for so long, and been patient with me getting my music out to the world. It’s been a huge blessing that it’s being so well received. I couldn’t ask for better fans, and I’m so grateful for their loyalty to me and my art! Life truly is a work of art and I’ve put a lot into it so it’s just an honor to finally be able to share it with everyone and have them love it the way they have been!
I think a big THANK YOU is probably the best thing I could say because I wouldn’t be here without you guys, and the fans!!! So THANK YOU, and I appreciate your dedication, support and thank you so much for letting me share my music with you! It truly means a lot, and is an honor to be able to do what I love every day! ❤️