Fresh from earning her BA in English Literature from Wayne State University this past May, Kierra Sheard is already back in the studio, putting the final touches on her fourth album, “Free” out this August.

The 24-year-old singer, born of royal Gospel roots (she is Karen Clark-Sheard of the legendary Clark Sisters’ daughter) recently released a single, “Mighty” and is ready to get on the road to promote the album. We caught up with Sheard as she was making her way to the ESSENCE Music Festival, where she is honoring CeCe Winans. Your latest album, ”Free” is your first album on your family’s record label. Tell us about it.
KIERRA SHEARD: My brother J Drew Sheard II produced the album and pulled a sense of creativity out of me that no one else has ever pulled out of me. This record is all a personal thing with me. It allowed me to connect with God and people, so I can’t wait for you guys to hear it. It’s not just a churchy record; it’s not just a sob and sad story either. It has the high energy, the urban feel, and a contemporary sound. We took it to church and we rock it good. It’s set to release Fall 2011. We don’t have a specific date yet. You mentioned writing and producing the songs with your brother. What is it like mixing family and career?
SHEARD: We’re not just a family that says, ‘Oh you’re doing good’ and you’re really not. We check each other like ‘No that’s not good. That’s not going to work for you.’ It brings us much closer together. Even having my father as the owner of the label allows us to understand where to do business and where it’s just love and family in a kindred atmosphere. It’s fun. It teaches us to balance things, and at the same time it teaches us not to let business get in the way of our relationship. You wrote most of the material for the album. Tell us about your songwriting process.
SHEARD: I’m an English major and I took a poetry class and that improved my writing skills. I still can’t believe I wrote these songs. Sometimes I still listen to the song like, ‘Maybe I could have wrote this better.’ I’m always listening and being inspired by fiction writers, just trying to challenge myself and think outside of the box. I always pull things out of the Bible and reword them. You’ve also been a few films. Would you like to continue pursuing your acting?
SHEARD: I tried out for a Broadway play, I won’t put the name out there, and it’s very popular now. They dogged me out, saying, ‘You’re horrible!’ I was coming from school and it was a lot on me. I didn’t get it, and it hurt me. I was standing on a street corner in New York, crying like ‘I can’t believe I didn’t make it.’ It challenged me. After seeing how I got through that and seeing how the Lord just opened doors for me to be in “The Preacher’s Kid” [with LeToya Luckett], I want to do more roles. Where will we see you next?
SHEARD: I’m starting a Christian magazine called “K-Magazine,” it’s an e-magazine for young adults and young believers to be inspired in every area of life. I also do a conference every year here in Detroit that I will travel with. Also, Pastor Donny McClurkin, Jonathan Miller and myself are working on new songs for the album.

Kierra Sheard’s fourth album, “Free” comes out this fall. She honors CeCe Winans at the ESSENCE Music Festival today.