Soulful Femme is a Blues, Funk, Jazz duo from Pittsburgh, made up of two women: Stevee Wellons (vocals) and Cheryl Rinovato (guitars). Their debut album, “It Is Well With My Soul” was released June 4th, 2021.
Vocalist Stephanie Wellons, aka Stevee Wellons, has been performing in the tri-state area for the last 25 years. She is known for her high-energy stage presence and performance. Stevee has performed with numerous area bands. She currently teaches and coaches voice at numerous CCAC college campuses in the area. Formerly, she taught at the prestigious Afro-American Institute (AAMI), in the Homewood Area of Pittsburgh. An experienced recording artist, Stevee has recorded in Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago and Baltimore. Stevee Wellons Band won the 2015 Blues Society of Western PA’s Blues Challenge and represented Western PA at the 2016 International Blues Challenge.
Studying Applied Music with a 2nd major in Arranging and Composition at famed Berklee College of Music, Cheryl Rinovato began her musical career as a studio musician throughout New England. Since moving to Pittsburgh, Cheryl has pursued her musical career as a professional musician for numerous area bands and has done extensive studio work. Cheryl has also been the recipient of the prestigious Jim Weber Award, given to blues guitarist of the year, three times, in 2012, 2013 and 2015. She is a Delaney (out of Austin, TX) endorsed guitarist with 2 signature guitar models
Stevee and Cheryl have performed with Shemekia Copeland, Ana Popovic, Samantha Fish, Tas Cru, Miller & the Other Sinners, Joann Shaw Taylor, Tommy Castro and Mike Zito. 1 In Music finds out more about the band from Cheryl.
1 In Music: What is unique about you and your music?
Soulful Femme [SF]: Soulful Femme is a female duo, born out of the need to interpret Blues and Soul in OUR OWN UNIQUE STYLE. We come from quite a diverse musical background which blends incredibly well. Our arrangements and song selections are the same as when we perform with a larger ensemble, and our strong, audience participation-style stage presence commands respect and has created a loyal fan base.
1 In Music: How do you prepare for such performances?
SF: We are always highly prepared in terms of setlists and knowing our audience beforehand. The arrangements flow in the live setting and that’s what makes us unique….we let the music and the audience take us wherever it naturally flows.
1 In Music: Who influenced the shape of your music and what type of music do you listen to?
SF: Stevee’s influences vary from Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye to Julie Andrews and Funkadelic. My influences are also varied, ranging from Duane Allman and Tower of Power to Jerry Butler and Frank Zappa.
We both love Funk, Jazz, R&B, Fusion, Soul and Blues. Our CD, “It Is Well With My Soul” has been categorized as soul/blues although there are blended styles and something for everyone’s taste.
1 In Music: When did you realise you were going to make music professionally?
SF: We both have been performing from an early age and knew early on we wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry.
1 In Music: What type of music do you listen to?
1 In Music: Who, to you, is the most undervalued music artist?
SF: That’s a difficult question because there are so many performers that many folks are not even aware of. We both love Lettuce, Snarky Puppy, Shayna Steele, Joe Robinson, Mike Zito, Allen Stone, Laura Chavez... the list could go on indefinitely.
1 In Music: What do you do when you don’t do music (creative or otherwise) and that you are passionate about?
SF: Stevee teaches voice as an adjunct professor and I am an avid reader and enjoy exercise.
1 In Music: Success to you is…?
SF: [Success is…]
Getting our music out to as many folks as we can.
We want to share our passion for performance and writing with the audiences out there yearning for something new and different.
1 In Music: What would you tell anyone who starts out?
Learn your craft !
Find a mentor you can trust to guide you through the indusrty
Learn the BUSINESS of music:
Professionalism, networking, knowledge and mastery of your instrument, value of timeliness.
1 In Music: Could you tell us a little about your latest release?
“It Is Well With My Soul” was inspired by the hymn, and bookends the CD, comprising of 12 tunes (all original with exception of the hymn). Our release date was June 4th and has been in the top 10 on the RMR Soul/Blues charts ever since. We have Joanna Connor (Chicago blues woman) and Bernard Allison (son of Luther Allison) on the CD as well as Grammy winner Rick Witkowski producing and engineering out of famed Studio L. All material and arrangements are original with the exception of Ribbon, wrote and co-sung by Mark Byars, our co-writer out of FL. The album is a testament to the pain we all suffer in this life. Truly blues worthy indeed!
1 In Music: Any upcoming projects?
SF: We are now working on writing our second CD as we prepare for our upcoming tour.
1 In Music: Cheryl, thank you so much for sharing. Where can we hear the sound of Soulful Femme?
SF: Soulfulfemme.com and on all streaming platforms