Sheila Groves-Tracey comes back to Sonoma County with new music
When she was a little girl, Sheila Groves loved to sing, and formed her first band, called The Bunnies, of course, when she was just 7.
As a young adult she sang with country bands, until landing other jobs in the music business, ranging from booking acts for venues such as Petaluma’s Mystic Theatre to managing artists such as Sonoma County’s David Luning.
Her singing took a back seat to these often stressful and time-consuming endeavors, she said in a recent phone interview from Redding, where she moved nearly two years ago with her husband, a retired CHP commander.
Now going by Sheila Groves-Tracey, she said something changed after the devastating Carr fire struck her Redding neighborhood during the summer of 2018.
After being evacuated during the fire, Groves-Tracey was talking to her husband about her “terrible sense of direction” and she said, “You know, I have a broken compass.”
She thought: “That’s a cool line for a song.” By the following morning she’d completed the ballad.
“So then I started writing another and another. It wasn’t like I said to myself, ‘I’m going to be a singer-songwriter.’ It just kind of happened through circumstance.”
Last August, a year after the Carr fire, Groves-Tracey released “Broken Compass,” (under the name Sheila Tracey), a five-song EP that’s remarkably accomplished.
Her voice is full of feeling and emotion, yet Groves-Tracey remains confident and assured as she navigates songs such as the title track and “I Will Dream.” She sees her music as a mix of country, Americana and folk.
“It’s great to have Sheila out front singing again,” said Brian Griffith, music director for KRCB Radio. “She has been a force behind the scenes, booking most of the North Bay’s biggest music venues, and with ‘Broken Compass’ she has come full circle.”
Like a conifer’s seeds activated by a fire, Groves-Tracey says her creativity was sparked by her move to Redding as well as by the fatal conflagration.
“It’s one of those stages in life when I want to discover myself beyond what I do for work. Who am I beyond Sheila the talent buyer?”
Groves-Tracey had brought national touring bands to Napa’s Uptown Theatre where she served as general manager and booked the talent for the first BottleRock festival in 2013.
She even acted in local plays at venues such as Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse and Rohnert Park’s Spreckels Performing Arts Center, and she owned Penngrove’s Twin Oaks roadhouse for a few years.
But the hard-driving Groves-Tracey downshifted two years ago.
“When my husband retired (after 34 years in law enforcement), he wanted a more carefree life, and I want to have that with him. Life is short, and I want to have these adventures with him,” she said.
So she gave up much of her work in the North Bay and moved with her husband to Redding because it’s more affordable.
“Because I’m not working as much, my creative side came back. I realized when I was writing the songs that this is something I really loved when I was young,” she said. “Now that I don’t have the stress I had in my life, I feel like my creative side got unleashed again. I had stopped singing in bands and hadn’t even sung around the house very much.”