by Joey Spehar
Join us throughout February as we spotlight the work of local Black artists for Black History Month.
Singer Stephanie “Stevee” Wellons can trace her personal journey with music back to one defining moment: standing up in her crib and singing along with the jingle in a beer commercial. Or so she says. These days, Stevee sings in a group called Soulful Femme, along with her musical partner, guitarist Cheryl Rinovato. The pair have an undeniable swagger that shines on their “kiss-off” anthem, “Set You Free.” Wellons recently spoke about her musical life and Soulful Femme’s new song “Set You Free” with Morning Mix Host Joey Spehar.
This conversation may be lightly edited for content, clarity, or length.
What’s your musical history up to this point?
My musical history began with a jingle of a beer commercial … I recall standing in my crib singing what I heard on the radio. The real journey began with my mother at the piano with myself and my siblings singing with her while she played. Music was always a staple in our household as well as academics. My dad had a wonderful baritone and would sing to us, too. As time went on, music was an essential part of my life as a kid growing up in the ’60s, ’70s, and into my adult life.
How do you describe your sound?
I describe my sound as “eclectically soulful.” I’m not a big proponent of being labeled. I have been privileged to have been able to perform many different genres of music and I incorporate them into my sound.
Tell us more about the song “Set You Free.” What inspired you to write it?
The song “Set You Free” was written by my friend and music partner, Cheryl Rinovato. I have first-hand knowledge as to the origin of this particular song. There were a few people who were quite toxic and very disruptive in both of our lives. So, these people had to be “cut-off” from our lives and they should never, ever, come knocking on our doors again … or else.
What was the first album that really changed your life?
The first album to change my life was “Are You Experienced” by Jimi Hendrix. Blew my mind and changed my life!! I was listening to a lot of Rhythm and Blues, which was great, however, that’s all that I knew at that time. When Jimi Hendrix came into my life, he opened my eyes and my ears to much more! The music world opened up for me right then and there!
Can you talk about what it means to be a Black artist in Pittsburgh?
Being a black artist in Pittsburgh has it challenges. We are often overlooked. I’ve been a part of many music events and have been the only person of color in the entire building. There are places in Pittsburgh that I won’t perform in because of racist club owners and there are places here that exclude people of color. Some want to be more inclusive but don’t know any “black bands” or “black artists.” Some are apprehensive about going to places to “check-out” musicians of color. There is nothing to fear folks, just sayin’.
Any other super interesting things about you we should know?
I am a proud mother of two wonderful sons and grandmother to two fabulous granddaughters. I love dancing. I miss the dance clubs and going to cabarets. I love salsa, Afro-Latin, Reggae, Soca, Ska and more I’ll get up and start dancing. Wooo! My body just has to move. I enjoy cooking .. .so relaxing and creative. I meditate a lot, too. I love to teach. I am adjunct professor at CCAC, as a vocal instructor for adults. There’s a lot more to me but so little time. Maybe next time.