Road Warrior Princess

Cheryl Wheeler keeps spinning.

Somewhere between Lubbock and Austin, singer/songwriter Cheryl Wheeler has pulled off into a roadside rest stop to do a phone interview. It's a travel day and she's driving nearly 500 miles to her next gig. A Yankees fan, her goal is to arrive early enough to catch some of the Yankees/Mariners baseball game.

"I'm not going to have any time off to speak of until Thanksgiving," she says of her self-imposed touring habits. "I'm always out. I love it."

She does get home to Massachusetts occasionally. "Once I had six weeks at home," she says. "I loved that. In summer I like to take some time off, stay at home and look at the weeds."

Wheeler's well-crafted tunes have been covered by Peter, Paul and Mary, Dan Seals and Maura O'Connell. Suzie Bogguss had a No. 1 hit with Wheeler's "Aces."

Wheeler's songs tend to cleave into two categories. There are the serious and achingly emotional songs, such as "75 Septembers" and "Aces." Then there are her weird and quirky tunes, like "Is It Peace or Is It Prozac?" and "Potato" (sung to the tune of the "Mexican Hat Dance"). In "Estate Sale," she sings about the morbid joys of rummaging through the collected property of a person's life.

"That's how life is, isn't it?" she says of the polarities of love and laughter.

Wheeler's songwriting, like much about her, tends to be spontaneous and from the heart.

"It's not a very conscious process," she says as trucks rumble in the background. "I write whenever the Song God picks me. Sometimes I'll go a whole year without writing. Sometimes I'll write seven songs in two weeks. If there's a pattern, I've never noticed it."

Her stage shows move smoothly from belly laughs to ballads. Her stories between songs are as entertaining as the songs themselves. She jokes that she has the ideal job. "Where else could I find a job where people applaud you just for showing up?" she asks.

When at home she reacquaints herself with her dog, takes walks and mostly reads. For her 50th birthday, she got a tractor. "I mow a lot," she adds. "I spend a tremendous amount of time mowing."

Mostly, though, she is on the road, earning a living singing her songs each night in a different city or town.

"I have no idea what I'd be doing if I weren't doing this," she says as she gets ready to start driving again.

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