Houstonian Tales: Shonnie Murrell
Shonnie Murrell. Photo: Erica Nicole
I’ve found that no matter how many shows I attend, no matter how much I dig into the depths of the Houston music scene, there’s always an artist that seems to slip by from time to time. It’s just how it seems to go, which is possibly how myself and everyone else missed Houston’s Shonnie Murrell. Star of the BET series Season of The Tiger, an accomplished performer with her own signature line of drumsticks, and even a song credit with Drake, Murrell has been making waves since the mid-2000s. After catching her perform at Nightingale Room, I was blown away at with her intense drumming coupled with her stellar voice, and left feeling that she’s an artist every Houstonian should know about. Now with a new television show in the works and live performances being booked, the Louisiana-born and Houston-raised artist is gaining steam and headed to reach people outside of the 713 area code.
Free Press Houston: You were born in Jonesboro, Louisiana but you were raised in Houston, correct? What high school did you attend here and what brought you back here after college?
Shonnie Murrell: Yes, that’s correct. I attended Sharpstown High School in which I made a numerous amount of history over there. After college, I just wanted to come back to establish my music and travel the world. Houston raised me.
FPH: You were the third female in the history of Grambling State University to be named Master Drill of their famed Tiger Marching Band. Has there been another since you graduated and did you ever consider staying there and leading the team after graduation?
Murrell: There has been one more after me and we had a long conversation on what it takes to be in that position. I actually have certain individuals — females on the drum-line — that I mentor every year, mainly freshman who are having a hard time adjusting. They are hand picked by my band director who is my mentor Dr. Edwin Thomas.
FPH: You were featured on the BET reality series Season of The Tiger. Was it strange going from being a student to being on camera?
Murrell: No, it wasn’t strange due to the fact that when you are apart of the “World Famed” Tiger Marching Band, you constantly have cameras on you. But I will say that often times I would forget that I had a mic on!
FPH: Since the Tiger Marching Band is such a male dominated group, was it difficult to lead? Did it solidify your drive behind performing as an entertainer?
Murrell: Oh my god, yes! I really had to carry myself as a male and be extremely hard on everyone every single day and I could not let anyone get away with anything. It most definitely did solidify my drive as being an entertainer they made me stronger and made me realize if you want work hard for it. Blood, sweat and many tears!
FPH: You’ve opened for Lil’ Wayne and Rick Ross, you’ve performed alongside Al Jarreau and Miki Howard, and you’ve appeared in tracks with Drake and Warren G., to name a few. Has it ever felt like you’ve arrived or is it hustle from start to finish, no matter what you’re doing?
Murrell: I have been truly blessed with all the great legends that I have encountered. No, I have never felt as if I arrived, still the same me all day, everyday. Plus, my village of people who raised me would not ever allow me to get beside myself! I have no choice but to remain humble in this industry which will take people a very long way.
FPH: As someone who has their own line of drumsticks, another TV show in the works, and is well known as a multi-instrumentalist who can sing, dance, and rap, is it difficult to find one path to focus on as an entertainer and artist?
Murrell: No, it is not difficult by far. It’s really fun and exciting when you’re able to do more than one thing in this game. Now it’s like you have to be able to have so many things going on at once to stay afloat and other things on top of those things. Many options and I zone in on all to perfect my talents.
FPH: I know that you are driven by the ability to empower women in the music industry as well as in all walks of life. Do you have any advice for women or anyone who are getting into the music industry?
Murrell: I have so much to say on this one. To all the artists I would have to say do not sell yourself short, trust your intuition, especially ladies, you do not have to sleep your way to the top, just work hard, never be anxious for anything, and perfect practice makes perfect. Two major things I will say is to be sure to believe in yourself because there will be times that you will not, and lastly, keep God first in everything that you do.
FPH: You went to college on a scholarship for drums, correct? Now that schools have begun cutting marching band funds, what can people do to make sure that schools still have the funding to keep a marching band going?
Murrell: Yes, I went on a full music scholarship as well as academically. As a former band teacher who had nothing at this last school I worked at, I will say to pull in as many of your connections as possible! Fundraising is the ultimate key, getting parents involved and being sure that the staff is supports you 100 percent.
FPH: When I first saw you perform, I was reminded of the legendary Sheila E, except I don’t remember her having as strong of a voice as you do. I know you were just featured on a track with Houston’s Genesis Blu, but will we see a full length album anytime soon?
Murrell: Oh yes, I get that quite often. She is one of my mentors as well. I have received her blessings as well as a few pointers. That’s like my God-Mom in my head. Thank you for the compliments. Absolutely, I am currently working on a full length album as we speak with my band, my management company BPM Music Group LLC, producer Eric Williams of Intervals Music Group, super songwriters and more. We will also be recording everything live, video shoot and listening party all at once. It will be invite only so I hope to see you there.
You should definitely keep an eye on what Murrell has going on in the next year. With a resume that stands out, and credits with some of the hottest artists going, Shonnie Murrell is proof that sometimes, you can do pretty much everything and still stay under some people’s radar.