aking a living out of what one loves to do is the hardest thing in the world to achieve, but songwriter and performer SHONDRA JEPPERSON makes it look easy. Based in Sedona, Arizona, SHONDRA and her husband TOM JEPPERSON run their own production company ENTERTAINMENT BY TOM AND SHONDRA where the two produce live shows and concerts, musical murder mysteries and emcee various events. As an entrepreneur, SHONDRA has married a love of music and performance into a comfortable living that has made her and her company a stand out in their community and the greater Southwest region, but before settling in Sedona, SHONDRA has been an award winning songwriter and a stand out actress in various comedic, dramatic and musical theatre productions.
Despite such a formidable resume and performance history, SHONDRA JEPPERSON - the songwriter - came onto ROCKWIRED's radar with her music video for her song GREED INC. The video and song were nominated for the 2019 LA MUSIC VIDEO AWARD for BEST LYRIC VIDEO. In a competition with over 150 nominees, GREED INC. stood out for its hard rock/heavy metal sound and its message of the ever widening chasm between the haves and the have-nots and the toll it is taking on society. In an era where much of what you hear on the radio is considered disposable, a hard hitting rock tune with a statement is most welcome.
CHECK OUT THE MUSiC ViDEO FOR GREED iNC.
"It was an idea that had been brewing for a while." Says JEPPERSON of the creation of the song and it's eventual video. "I can't think of any other time where I've been so invested in watching the news and seeing everything that is happening. The song is about everything that I've been feeling while watching what is happening in the world. Don't get me wrong. I love money. We need money to pay bills and to travel and to do things that we love , but this song is about how harmful opulence can be and it asks the question "How far are you willing to go?" Are you willing to harm people just because you want more money? Healthcare is a massive industry that is supposed to help people yet it charges a fortune and you've got this situation where people can't afford prescriptions or even antibiotics. These people don't have enough to pay for their care, but at the same time, they aren't poor enough to get help from the Government."
The video for GREED INC. is simple. It shows snapshot after snapshot of the toxic opulence one sees in a time when a KARDASHIAN making a tweet makes the headlines. THE LA MUSIC VIDEO AWARDS also had a category for BEST SOCIAL COMMENTARY and we're left scratching our heads as to why GREED INC. didn't make the cut. EPPERSON credits sculptor ROLAND MARCH for giving her the impetus to get going with the creation of the song and the music video.
"He [ROLAND MARCH] wanted me to write music for a video project that he wanted to put together and this was my chance to get this song out into the universe. It was ROLAND who came up with the title of the song GREED INC. and the rest was me. Unfortunately, ROLAND's video project never came to light but we had this song and ROLAND helped me to produce the video for the song just so we could get the song and it's message out there for people to hear. I'm really pushing this song at the moment, but my goal is to find an artist who could really take the song somewhere."
And who does JEPPERSON envision to take the song to the next level?
"I think someone like DAVE DRAIMAN of DISTURBED could take this song and spin it in his own way. I love DISTURBED and DAVE DRAIMAN is great at what he does. I also think the song would make a good placement on a TV series or a movie."
Being based in Sedona, Arizona. What kind of reactions has she received.
"I have friends who are within the genre of inspirational music. For nine years I was the musical director for the CENTER FOR POSITIVE LIVING SEDONA (A Religious Science Church). I have been quite surprised by the reaction from these people to the song. It's not necessarily a feel good song. It's a heavy metal song and the response from people from the inspirational music scene and in our town of Sedona have reacted very well to the song. I would have to say the reactions have been 99.9% positive."
HONDRA JEPPERSON's story as a performer begins in a most unlikely locale - Amarillo, Texas. "My mother was a singer and musician. When I was a little girl, I remember grabbing a pen and paper and copying my mother's music charts. It was a life that I could see for myself even then. I grew up behind the stage. Even my dad was involved in local theater but it wasn't his profession like it was for my mother. There weren't many opportunities to make a living in the performing arts in Amarillo, Texas. When my parents divorced, my mom and I moved to San Diego where my mom became the first female talent agent in that city. Because of all of the connections that my mother made as a talent agent, I was able to take guitar lessons at the age of twelve and I was in and out of recording studios while I was just a teenager."
Given the girl's performing chops as a youngster, it should've been no surprise that SHONDRA received a scholarship to JULLIARD.
"After attending JULLIARD for one year, I told my mother that I really wanted to do everything that I had to do in order to be a performer. And with my mom being a talent agent, she had me audition for her just like I was any other client. After that she took me on and before I knew it I was getting booked as a single - just me and a guitar - at all of these venues and everything really started happening for me. I had a living before I knew it."
Given her penchant for the guitar and her long, golden mane, SHONDRA was tailor made for a career in rock n roll and in the late eighties she had an opportunity to sink her fangs into the very pop rock sound that had made artists like HEART and PAT BENATAR the big deals that they were back then. With that, she formed the band SHONDRA AND THE SOURCE.
"It was the late eighties in San Diego and I went in a hard rock pop direction with my band THE SOURCE. I actually billed myself as a solo artist because I had about twelve original songs that were recorded for an album (INSIDE FIRE) but the SHONDRA AND THE SOURCE was my performing band we did a lot of covers of songs by BENATAR, HEART and JANET JACKSON and we would play before audiences of ten thousand to twelve thousand. We did tons of shows and I had a single out called HOMEGROWN. Those days were a lot of fun but they were a lot of hard work."
In speaking with SHONDRA, it is not hard to doubt the woman's drive. In fact, it's all too easy to envision the singer mining a certain amount of success in the arena of pop rock, but fame is elusive. As a songwriter, the woman knows no boundaries and has proven herself to be equally adept at issuing hard rock, inspirational music and show tunes, but such diversity can be hindrance when pursuing pop stardom.
"I just love writing music and it doesn't matter what genre it is. I'm just as at home with hard rock as I am with country and western and musicals. But when you're looking for a recording contract it can make things difficult. There were a lot of missed opportunities. I remember producer DON WAS had heard my stuff and he said 'She's great and all but I don't know what I could do with her.'"
Eventually, JEPPERSON took stock an inventory of the her talents and took the entrepreneurial path.
"I learned from working as a single. I learned by watching my mother secure gigs for me and in doing so, I learned to talk to clients and how to write up contracts and market myself. Learned how to book shows from my mother and she taught me how to sell myself and how to get out into the world. I also helped that I was surrounded by great people."
When it came time to settle down with husband TOM and move to Sedona, the couple deemed it necessary to establish themselves in their new surroundings.
"I had performed out here before, but I really didn't know anyone. So before we moved out here, my husband and I really canvassed the area. We started marketing ourselves and introduced ourselves tot people like the Chamber of Commerce. By the time we did move out here, we were booked at all of these venues and functions."
fter all of these years, JEPPERSON's entrepreneurial spirit knows no limits. What is the secret to this sustained success? "The secret is to learn everything that you possibly can. I sing and I act but there were others things that I learned along the way such as running sound. You never know when what you've learned is going to prove useful."
That point was proved when a local incident in Sedona made national news. Self help guru JAMES ARTHUR RAY ran into trouble when followers of his had suffocated an died during a sweatlodge ceremony. When his trial came up in Sedona, a sound person was needed.
"They needed someone to run sound through the court room for that trial and I happened to be available. I ended up being there for three months recording that trial all because I too the time to learn about running sound throughout my career."
"The other secret you need to learn is how to package yourself and your talent. Yes, I understand that this is a passion, but you still have to make money and I love that I am able to make a living at what I love to do."
In addition to pushing the song GREED INC., JEPPERSON has continued to do musical theater. Recently she has starred in the musical comedy-drama HOT FLASHES ON THE TRAIL - a two-woman show. Along with starring in the play, JEPPERSON wrote the the music. The play was written by co-star and EMMY winning writer DEV ROSS. According to JEPPERSON, there are plans in the works to tour the show nationally.
CHECK OUT THE PROMOTIONAL VIDEO FOR
HOT FLASHES ON THE THE TRAIL!!!
With an entrepreneurial spirit that can't be stifled, we are left wondering what is next for SHONDRA JEPPERSON.
"I've got a couple of ideas brewing. That is how new song ideas begin for me but in the meantime, I'm really focused on trying to get GREED INC. out there for people to hear and getting the right people to consider recording it. I've already entered the video into 21 other music video competitions so I'd love to see how that works out. I'm also going ot be working on a new CD that I want to call CLARITY. It's not going to be a metal album. It's going to be collection of songs that are all about where I am now and there will be some social statements in the music. The new music is going to be more acoustic based with just a rhythm section and some slide guitar. We've also got some performances of HOT FLASHES ON THE TRAIL but we would love to turn that one into touring show in the near future. There are a lot of things in the works but getting the song GREED INC. out there is the most important thing for me right now."
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