615 Spotlight: Petrella Celebrates 25 Years as the 'First Lady of Country Soul'


This week in The 615 Spotlight, we take a look at a career that has ran the gamut during her 25 years in the business. Petrella, dubbed The First Lady of Country Soul, is out with a new album entitled "Shine On Me."

"I'm really excited about it," the singer tells Billboard. "I wanted to include a lot of people in the celebration. When I realized that I had worked 25 years in the country music business, I thought it was an important milestone." 

The album is her first musical project in six years. "In 2007, we came out with 'Hundred Proof Woman,' and I was able to get some investors together. We worked a distribution deal with Warner Brothers / CMG Distribution, which helped to spread awareness of my music."

The new project reunites her with her first producer from the late 1980s. "I got back with Jack Gale. I thought he would never produce again. He had been going through a lot of things, but he came out of retirement for me, and I appreciate it."

Petrella is very aware of the significance of her being involved in the country genre. "There aren't a lot of women of color in the business. I celebrate that, but I do wonder why I don't see more people like me. I don't get it. I love country music, and that's what I grew up on. I tease people all the time that my daddy's barber shop was next door to the honky tonks, so for me, I don't see why it's so unusual," she says, also allowing that getting to remain in the game is something she is proud of. "Staying in it, and going places where people enjoy the music that is definitely a highlight."

The singer also celebrated a major coup in 2012. "Last year, I had the opportunity to do the Pasadena Playhouse. They have what they call a small intimate theater that they allow independent artists to work inside this theater. I produced six shows that were all based on my music. We had one night where there were songwriters, then one night we had Lula Washington and her dance group. Her group came in and joined me on ‘Eighteen Reasons To Live, Laugh, and Love,' which is basically a story about me being in country music, and we used some of the songs off my albums. We did six shows, and invited a lot of people in the industry to come out and see me."

Petrella, who has shared the stage with acts from multiple formats, including Gladys Knight and Tracy Lawrence, has just issued a new single to radio. Titled "One," fans might also remember it as being the final duet between George Jones and Tammy Wynette in 1995.

"When Jack brought it to me, and told me that Ed Bruce told me to try it on for size, I was so impressed with the song. I love that sentiment. You always think that you would want someone to feel that way about you. It's a great song."

The veteran performer is putting on her traveling shoes to visit radio, and take the new album on the road. "We're putting as much as we can behind it, because we would love to have it heard by more people. I've been playing the grass roots for so long, and I have no problem with that. But, I would like to see some of my songs get introduced to a bigger audience. I just want a shot to have more people hear me and more fans!"