Before we dive in, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Sonni three times over the past five years or so, and she’s always blown me away.
The first time was at a festival in Pennsylvania. There was a light rain and I was walking around taking a look at all the vendors when I heard this music in the distance. It was groovy, fun, and the perfect mix of jam band, reggae, and rock, with a dreadlocked leading lady with vocals that sent shivers down my spine. The closer I got, the more I fell in love with it, and after it ended, I found out it was Sonni Shine and the Underwater Sounds.
The second time I met her, she dedicated a set to me and the young lady I brought with me after chatting us up at the bar. Which was the now-closed The Note, Bam Margera’s bar in Philly. She solidified just how cool she was here.
Finally, the third time, I ran into her at Bowery Electric in New York City. Literally. Grabbing a beer from the bar, I walked over to her and asked her what time the doors to the downstairs opened, realizing after making eye contact that it was the singer of the band I was there to see. We laughed. She somehow remembered me. She gave me the set time.
Now, years after the original introduction, she’s going out on her own and needs our help. Sonni’s getting ready to record and produce her ninth studio album with 13 songs ready to go. The only thing missing is the funding for such an endeavor.
Here’s the Indiegogo campaign video and direct link to where you can help her make it happen! Deadline is September 14th!
Now, without further adieu, meet Sonni Shine!
It’s Always Sonni Shine in Philadelphia
First off, how did you get your start in music?
My aunt has been a professional musician my whole life. When I was around eight years old, she gave me her old amp and microphone, and then got me a classical guitar to learn on. I taught myself. Always writing songs, right from the start. Mostly sappy R&B songs about love and betrayal. You know, typical eight-year-old subject matter.
You’ve been playing all over the place for years, what’s your favorite show/festival ever?
When the Underwater Sounds opened for John Brown’s Body and Groundation in 2013 at the Blockley in Philly I felt like I could die and go to musician heaven. That was a TOTAL career high for me. Groundation has inspired me SO much and just to talk with those guys and be a part of the magic they create on stage… It was incredible.
Also, I have to say, my other number one is the Underwater Sounds’ final farewell show. We packed out Underground Arts in Philly and it was just the most meaningful, magical party… Everyone that ever loved our music was in the crowd. Lots of tears and laughs that night. My heart was so wide open and I felt the most gratitude I’ve ever felt.
There are 13 songs ready to go on the new album, what should listeners expect out of it?
Left to my own devices, I would just write heady guitar riffs all day so there’s a lot of those on the record… But it’s essentially an R&B record. R&B and Motown are what I grew up on, so I feel like I flourish in that space. Other influences are definitely there.
I’ve been gigging in reggae bands since I was 16, so reggae shows up in the rhythms and the song sentiments. The record deals with a lot of conflicting themes; loving the landscapes of my country but still ashamed of my government; wanting to live my life as an artist and a gypsy but also wanting to make a home with someone. It’s a record about feeling all the feelings.
What’s your go-to gear? It looks like in the Underwater Sounds video above you’re rockin’ a Gibson SG and a Gretsch hollow body in the newer one?
I grew up always playing acoustic guitar, so gear is still something I am wrapping my head around. I guess I could say being a “gear head” is one of my #lifegoals, if we were talking in hashtags.
Right now I have my three babies at home though; my Gretsch hollow body, Gibson Les Paul, and Takamine Jumbo Acoustic-Electric. It’s been fun having them all to write with; they all bring different styles out of me. They’re my buds.
What’s the most incredible connection you’ve made through your music so far?
It’s hard to pick just one. What I LOVE is friends, fans, and bands you have met on the road that pop into your life at random times.
We played a gig in Vermont and one of our fans from New Jersey just happened to be there. We played with Roz and the Rice Cakes in Brooklyn at Goodbye Blue Monday’s years ago, and then proceeded to trade gigs and support each other for years after that!
I just love those connections… that’s what it’s all about. Seeing your web intertwine with other peoples’ and other artists’. It’s meaningful. It’s bigger than yourself.
Do you have any pre-/post-show rituals?
I try to always practice yoga the day of a gig. It’s grounding and it frees my breath. I always do my vocal warm-ups, usually in the car on the way to the show. Honestly, after the gig, I usually just want to chow down, have a beer, chat with people at the show, and then go to bed, in that order. A real TREAT is taking home dessert from the venue and then eating it at home in my PJs.
What are your thoughts on the Philly music scene? Do you think you’ll ever leave?
Oh Philly, my sweet city! This is the longest placed I’ve ever lived. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, something else pops up. I started to feel stale here and then, just this past year or so, so many great players, opportunities, and communities have come my way to inspire me. I think my roots will always be here; though I’d love to have a touring schedule and maybe live half the year in southern California… Philly summers and Philly winters are brutal, with a capital B.
You can only have five albums on a desert island, which do you bring?
Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Bob Marley & the Wailers’ Survival (that kind of fits perfectly!). These days Kendrick Lamar makes me feel like anything is possible, so I’d probably take his new one, DAMN. Ani Difranco’s Reprieve. Hiatus Kiayote’s Choose Your Weapon.
Who would you say your biggest musical influences have been?
Bob Marley. Ani Difranco. Erykah Badu. Beyoncé. Sublime.
Is there anything you want to tell the Jukely audience that we haven’t gotten to?
It seems a little silly to be making a full-length record in this current music industry. Folks have said, “Why don’t you put out a single and see how it goes?” or “Why don’t you make two EPs?” Then someone told me, “If you have a novel in you, why write just a chapter?”
I feel that at this point in my life, I’ve spent a lot of time playing it safe in the music biz, doing what I thought would be the best decision from a marketing or branding perspective. I don’t want to do that anymore. Living a life as an artist is hard enough, why make it any harder? If I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do it staying true to me, not trying to keep up with the latest way people are digesting music.
So yes. A full-length. 13 songs. It’s a body of work, and it’s about to go down! Full-length albums are making a comeback, mark my words!
Thank you so much, Sonni! <3
Thank you for having me! I’m so thrilled to be a part of this.
If you’re in the NYC area, check her out on Monday, August 28, for FREE at Silvana’s in Harlem.
AND BACK HOME IN PHILLY ON…
AND THEN ONE MORE
Album fundraiser starting at 8pm sharp and playing the ENTIRE NEW ALBUM on
Sunday September 10, at Wake Up Yoga Rittenhouse (2030 Sansom Street, 3rd Floor).
Go out tonight, and any night. Jukely is a concert subscription that gives members guestlist access to hundreds of music events – for one price. Whenever you want to go out, you’ll always have something to do. Learn more and sign up at jukely.com.