Shemekia Copeland is used to singing about "controversial topics."
"For my entire career, I've tackled issues like social injustice, religious hypocrites and domestic violence," Copeland, a now 5-time Grammy nominated blues artist, tells TODAY.com.
Things shifted, however, when Copeland gave birth to her now 6-year-old son.
"I wanted to help fix a small part of this broken world through my music, to make it better for him," she explains. "And it's even bigger than that — I want him to be proud of me. I want him to say that my mom was great and my mom spoke up about issues that make people a little bit uncomfortable."
After becoming a mom, Copeland started performing songs about gun violence, like "Apple Pie and a .45" — a song that references the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead and another 17 injured.
Can't seem to stop the funerals, though we say we can
All we ever got for those families are our thoughts and our prayers
Gimme apple pie and a .45, AK-47 with a shake on the side
How many kids gonna have to die? Gimme apple pie and a .45
Gimme apple pie and a .45, AR-15 and a shake on the side
How many kids gonna have to die? Gimme apple pie and a .45'apple pie and a .45'
Her latest album, "Done Come Too Far," is nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album and is Copeland's 5th Grammy nod. The album features another song discussing the prevalence of gun violence in the United States — "When Pink Turns to Red."
The song touches instances surrounding mass shootings, including the Las Vegas strip massacre that left 58 people dead, and conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who have argued that many mass shootings were "false flag" operations carried out by crisis actors.
The lyrics are emotional, and Copeland says the songs are "very conversational for people who are willing to conversate, not for those who just want to argue."
Some of those lyrics include the image of a little girl killed in her classroom while wearing her coveted pink backpack — a representation of the 20 6- and 7-year-olds who were murdered inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Picked up a crayon drew a smile on the sun
That's when she saw the kid with the gun
Under her desk pretending she was dead
Nothing you can do, when pink turns to red
When pink turns to red, nowhere to run
Pink turns to red, life's over and done
Tears will flow, prayers will be said
But it's too late, pink turns to red'pink turns to red'
For Copeland, singing about school shootings is personal — she recently sent her 6-year-old son to school for the first time in August, shortly after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 fourth graders and two teachers dead.
"I was actually thinking about not putting him in school. I was so terrified, so scared, that I was going to take that experience away from him — that normal experience of just being able to go to school and be safe," Copeland says. "So I thought: 'I'm going to do it.' But every time I take him, I'm scared for his safety."
When she first tried to sing "Pink Turns to Read" start to finish, Copeland says she couldn't get through the song in its entirety.
"It's just too close, you know? I like to consider myself a person who is not an angry person, but I get angry when I think about these things," she adds. "You turn into mama bear."
Copeland believes that through her art she can cut through the politics surrounding gun violence in the country.
"Everybody's always talking about it in the political way. They use sayings like 'gun control,' and it just upsets people so much because the only word they hear is 'control.' That's it. That's all they hear," she explains. "But we put it in a way — when I get on stage — that the one thing we can all agree on is that we want to feel safe and we certainly want our children to be safe."
Copeland says she never thought she would make another song about gun violence after "Apple Pie and a .45," but "it just kept on happening." As she plans on making another studio album, she knows it's likely that she'll have to make yet another song about school shootings.
"I hope and pray that a lot of the songs that I sing at some point will not be necessary anymore," she says. "But as long as they are, I will sing them."