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Aux Cord Privileges puts Puget Sound musicians in charge of the stereo to share their music, their story, and pick one of their favorite local artists to entrust with the aux cord.

Tacoma musician Shaina Shepherd embraces her solo act

Rachel Bennett
Shaina Shepherd/KNKX graphic

I chose Shaina Shepherd to start off this series because the first time I heard her voice I was shell shocked. Shepherd’s voice is one that makes you stop in your tracks. It’s powerful and conveys more emotion than some sentences can. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that she would be the perfect person to kick off the new KNKX series Aux Cord Privileges.

Born and raised in Tacoma, Shepherd honed her voice at church singing in the choir. She continued to study music in college, and eventually moved back to the Pacific Northwest where she fronted the rock and roll band Bearaxe before going solo.

“I would say that, that positioned me in a space where I really got to have some incredible live show experiences and feel like what it feels like to have an audience come back at you and how that changes your art,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd never intended to pursue a solo career. But as she took on some solo gigs to make some extra money, she discovered a sound that she wanted to develop. And with the pandemic putting things on pause, she said that made the choice for her.

In July 2020, Shepherd released her first single “The Virus” and followed it up with “Harambee.” Both songs were reflections on what was happening around her at the time. “The Virus” references the pandemic but also how disconnected we’ve all become from one another.

“I was raging in my apartment like everybody else, struggling to feel sane, and I focused on writing a song that was just about like, what I felt at the time,” Shepherd said. “I never expected this pandemic to last as long as it lasted. I probably wouldn't have put that song out if I didn't think that it would be over within a couple of months.”

“Harambee” means “put all together” in Swahili and was written with the events of the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest in mind.

“I wrote it about my sister and I wrote it for like a whole bunch of my friends who were African-American and part of the Black diaspora that we really rallied together as a community in the music and art world after CHOP,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd’s singles made a splash and garnered the attention of Ben London, a local musician and head of the nonprofit Black Fretwhich supports other local musicians. This connection led Shepherd to cover two classics; “A Change is Gonna Come” and “Never Be Another You.”

The latter was used in Nordstrom’s holiday campaign and benefitted Africatown Land Trust. Sub Pop Records released the single and it received much acclaim.

Shepherd went on her first solo tour in March where she played shows across the country ending at Treefort in Boise, Idaho. Shepherd has a slate of shows over the summer including the Thing! Festival in Port Townsend.

Next up in Aux Cord Privileges is Da Qween, a queer nonbinary rapper who Shepherd can’t get enough of.

“They are an amazing rapper, an incredible songwriter, a fabulous producer, and I think that their work represents the culture nationally,” Shepherd said. “You don't see that a lot in town — where there's a connection between perspectives of Blackness in the Pacific Northwest and perspective of Blackness in other parts of the world.”

The aux cord has been passed.

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Grace Madigan is KNKX's former Arts & Culture reporter. Her stories focused on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.