I have been lucky enough to spend some time…
with Sonia Leigh. The Nashville-based artist talks to me about her new single, Walking in the Moonlight, and the tour dates she has coming up – there are a few U.K. dates she is especially pumped about. I ask about her music tastes and which artists, she feels, have contributed the most to her.
The Country singer-songwriter assesses the state of the U.S. and how she feels the nation is doing; artists she advises we listen to – a bit about how she will be spending Christmas and the remainder of the year.
SONIA LEIGH PHOTOS CREDIT: Anna Webber
Hi, Sonia. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi! I am just getting over the excitement of my first leg of shows in the U.K.!
Had a lot of band rehearsals: getting the band ready for the upcoming tours. Friday night was a blast - it was the first show kicking off my U.K. tour with Country Music Week. I got to headline at the Borderline and we had one hell of a show! The turnout was fantastic and everyone was in high spirits - was a great start! Last night was my first show on the Broken Witt Rebels tour. We kicked that off in Liverpool at Studio2 Parr Street.
Seriously; a smashing night - and it’s just the beginning!
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hi. I’m Sonia Leigh; I live in Nashville, Tennessee. My music is a bit like Bruce Springsteen, Joan Jett; Fleetwood Mac, Johnny Cash - but with a Pop twist. I guess you could say I’m a wildcard in this music industry.
I’d say I’m the Mad Hatter.
Walking in the Moonlight is your new single. What can you tell me about its background?
I began writing and engineering Walking in the Moonlight in my bedroom. I have a fascination with the moon. I crawl onto my roof all the time to look at the moon, drink wine and just think: it’s my happy place. This song has such a sweet, simple and innocent approach to love - it’s cute yet passionate.
It has very poetic lyrics and kind of paints this scenario. It’s probably the most ‘Pop’ song I’ve ever released. I wanted to put this song out as summer comes to an end. The solar eclipse just came and went - and we’ve had some beautiful full moons this year!
It felt appropriate.
You have written big songs for the likes of Zac Brown Band. You are now a solo artist. Do you prefer stepping out on your own or do you still write for other artists?
I love performing and doing my own thing - but I do still write for other artists; I’ve got a song called Funk in the Country on Big and Rich’s new record! I’m excited about that. I’ve had my songs recorded by other artists, as well (that you will soon hear about). I love writing music: it’s who I have always been and who I am.
Can we expect an E.P. or album in the coming months?
I’ll release a couple more singles and then my new record, Mad Hatter, which I co-produced and co-engineered. I am hoping to release by the end of this tour. I’ve just launched a Kickstarter campaign. You can get involved and help to support the record release and my U.K. tour. You can reorder the record along with loads of goodies:
The U.S. has seen a lot of turbulence and upset the past few days. How does it make you feel, as a musician, seeing the kind of scenes that have been in the news recently?
I am heartbroken and angered....
I’m embarrassed by (some of) humanity right now: we as PEOPLE should be. This is out of control everywhere - not just in America. However, I refuse to live in fear. I won’t be cornered into a cave. My love goes out to all that are lost every day all over the world due to violence and hatred. All we need is love.
I am sad to say my hope for harmony has taken a hit.
Steering away from that and I am interesting finding out how Country music came to you? Which artists were you exposed to as a child?
I grew up listening to Hank Williams, Willie Nelson; Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn; Alabama etc... and as time went on…Hank, Willie and 1990s Country were how I learned to play the guitar. My father played the guitar and I begged him to teach me chords. He taught me G, C and D and, once I got those down, I immediately began writing my own songs. My whole family were musical so I was surrounded by music.
I took the ball and ran with it as soon as I learned how to play the guitar.
Nashville is where you are based. I guess it is the perfect place for an artist like you. What is the vibe like there?
I moved to Nashville five years ago from Atlanta, Georgia. I have made so many wonderful friends in the music industry there - so much talent in one place. It’s a very tight community. There are certain places the songwriters go after their day of songwriting to unwind. I like knowing we all have the same heartbeat. Nashville has its own heartbeat and its music - and a good night out drinking, of course. L.o.L.!
Most everyone out there knows each other - because we’ve written songs together at one time or another. You get close to someone real quick in a room writing about some serious subjects, sometimes. It’s kinda like we’ve all seen each other vulnerable.
Is it easy to put into words what it is about Country music that hits your heart? Why, do you think, the genre resonates inside of you?
All genres resonate with me...
What is great about Country, in particular, is the storytelling; the vulnerability and directness of a lyrics. If you notice the difference between Rock and Country are the poetic elements. If you get too fancy with Country it doesn’t work.
Best to just keep it simple and come right out and tell it like it is.
I believe you are coming to the U.K. to tour with Katy Hurt and Friends and Broken Witt Rebels. How did that come about and are you looking forward to it?
I met the 'Rebels about a year-and-a-half ago when we were on a bill together for a Time Out magazine event at the Jazz Cafe. We hit it off. When they asked me to be a part of this tour, I jumped and the chance - because I knew it would be a blast and I’m a big fan. Those guys are going all the way. Katy Hurt and the Healers are like a family to me. We had a blast playing shows together this summer so we decided to make it a small tour in between our 'Rebels dates. They will be my band on the 'Rebels tour. We had our first run of shows with these guys and they are just an incredible band and individuals. They’ve treated us like gold.
We are kicking down ass together on this tour!
Have you been to the U.K, before? Any particular dates you are especially looking forward to?
I have toured the UK quite a bit: it’s kind of become my second home! I am really excited about all of the dates - especially the Broken Witt Rebels...because this is the first time
We’ve gotten to tour together. We are having a blast so far! I am excited about our Birmingham show and to see where Danny (the lead singer for B.W.R.) is from. He’s offered to show us around his hometown - so I’m looking forward to that.
IN THIS PHOTO: Jacob Thomas Jr.
There…that should keep you busy for a minute. Ha!
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Darkness on the Edge of Town - Bruce Springsteen
Because it’s honest it’s raw - and it’s Rock and Roll. I learned a lot from listening to and watching Bruce perform.
Blood on the Tracks - Bob Dylan
It’s one of the greatest, most well-written records ever. I never get tired of it.
All Eyes on Me – 2Pac
I relate to the struggles of 2Pac - plus the production on this record Is dope! 2Pac was a fantastic writer. He was a poet he just wrote about what he saw - and he was brilliant at connecting that with all kinds of audiences.
These are my go-to records - although, it’s so hard to leave out Fleetwood Mac and Sia etc... just so much great music that inspires me in different ways.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Be you: there is no one else like YOU. Speak Your truth - and don’t apologize for your art.
Christmas is approaching. Do you have plans already or will you be busy working?
I am planning to go to Lucca, Italy to spend with my friend Carmen Vandenberg and her family! I went the year before last and it was the most relaxing, beautiful time.
I figured it would be the perfect ending to a long tour.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Hurricane - Bob Dylan
It’s one of the most well-crafted songs: it’s a movie in a song. You wanna learn how to write a song?! Study the imagery in Hurricane.
Thank you very much for having me today!
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