Chevel Shepherd grew up on Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings to the point that when music shifted on her stereo, she started to miss those old records.

“I just really appreciated how it was real and so raw," she tells Taste of Country from her family's home in New Mexico. She credits both parents for those early introductions. "I just fell in love and knew that was the kind of music that was what I wanted to do."

The Season 15 winner of the Voice on NBC is just 17 years old, so yeah, her taste in music stands apart from that of her peers. As she begins her career, she's not going to deviate. Staying true to the music her parents raised her on is most important to the high school senior, and one hears it in songs like "Mama Got the Chair" and her new single, "Southern Boy."

“The first time I went to a Professional Bull Riders event ... I was like, ‘Yeah, I might marry a bull rider, Mom,’” she recalls, laughing when asked why she chose to record this song. “So I heard that song and I was like, ‘Yeah, I can relate to that song.’”

"Southern Boy" was released digitally on May 1 and will be included on an album ready later this year.

Cassidy Lynn Alexander and Kellys Collins wrote "Southern Boy," the third song Shepherd has released. She's focused on singing and learning guitar — not songwriting — right now, so picking the right songs is critical. Nora Collins helped fellow the Voice contestant Dave Fenley write "Mama Got the Chair," a song that riffs off the 1985 George Strait hit.

“She really understood the stories that I wanted to tell and how I want my music to sound and the lyrics that I wanted the songs to have," Shepherd says. "She really just understood my vibe.” Other writers on her upcoming EP are more well-known commercially. "Everybody's Got a Story" is a song Kacey Musgraves wrote with Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark for her debut album, but never released. Shepherd says this one and another by the same trio were brought to her by her The Voice mentor, Kelly Clarkson.

Look for more new music from Shepherd this year, but she's committed to the long game. She may move to Nashville, or maybe not. While so many young singers — especially reality show winners — are pressured into making the most of the moment, that's not her plan. She's trusting her gut, which served her well two years ago.

“I was actually going to choose Blake (Shelton)," she admits, thinking back on her audition on The Voice where three judges turned their chairs. "My heart was set on Blake the whole time and then I got out there and after I got done singing and they started talking to me something in my heart was telling me to go with Kelly.”

Since winning, Clarkson has helped fund the young singer'e studio time and been a steady voice, reminder Chevel that she needs to continue have fun and be herself.

“I’m very thankful because I don’t want to give that sound up," she says.

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