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After Leaving Justin Timberlake's Label, A Garage-Soul Singer Forges Her Own Path

NPR Music recently announced the winner of our third Tiny Desk Contest: the New Orleans band Tank and the Bangas. But more than 6,000 other talented artists and bands also submitted video entries to the Contest, and there's a story behind each one. This spring, NPR's Weekend Edition is checking in with a few of those entrants.

The Sh-Booms, of Orlando, Fla., entered this year's Tiny Desk Contest with a soulful break-up song called "Audible." Lead singer Brenda Radney describes the band as "garage-soul," which she defines as "a bunch of fools in a garage — not trying to make pretty music, but just getting together and being creative."

Radney is no stranger to music competitions: A decade ago, she entered a contest whose prize was the chance to sing at the 2007 Grammys with Justin Timberlake. She didn't win, but she did catch Timberlake's ear. He signed her to his own record label, Tennman Records — but after eight years with the label, Radney was ready to move on.

"It just got to the point where Justin was very busy and I felt a bit stifled, so I had asked to be let go," she says.

It was an amicable parting of ways, Radney says, and the experience taught her something important.

"I think when I had the deal, [music] became not fun, and that bothered me. Now, I do this for fun, even though I am broke," she says. "I do sort of wish that I could make this a full-time thing. I know that there are opportunities out there for this to happen, but I need it to be my opportunity, and I need it to fit my needs."

Those kinds of opportunities seem to be cropping up for The Sh-Booms: The band has recently opened for The B-52s and The Roots.

"As it stands right now, Brenda and The Sh-Booms are a thing," Radney says. "We're gonna ride this puppy until the legs fall off."

Hear more from Radney's conversation with Weekend Edition at the audio link.

Lucy Perkins produced the broadcast version of this story.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.