Atlanta native Sonia Leigh has been bringing her unique style of music and powerful live performances to fans for over a decade. Recently relocated to Nashville, Sonia is readying the release of a new EP after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Sonia graciously took the time to chat with us about Counting Skeletons, her fans and what's ahead.
You have been making music for over ten years. Can you give us a little background on what drew you to music as a profession?
Sure. My father played guitar, wrote songs and sang, as did my grandfather. There were a lot of musicians in my family on my father’s side, including an uncle who played the drums. I was raised in a Pentecostal church as well, so there was always music around. I started guitar at the age of five, but really started learning around the age of ten, when my Dad started teaching me. I started writing songs immediately after that.
Do you have any particular musical influences?
Initially it was my dad, watching him play and sing. We listened to a lot of Willie Nelson, CCR, Hank and a lot of old time country. Then in my early teens, I was into rock and roll. Really, I love all kinds of music. I write all kinds of music. I’m a diverse artist.
Your music definitely cannot be pigeonholed into a specific genre. How do your diverse influences impact your sound?
I’m constantly evolving as a writer and an artist. As times change you get influenced by the music around you and what you’re exposed to. I’m continuously growing and as life goes on I get inspired by different things.
You are a BMI award winning songwriter for co-writing “Goodbye In her Eyes” and you also co-wrote the #1 song “Sweet Annie.” Is co-writing something you enjoy?
Initially, I was a writer for myself, but as I was out on road touring with other musicians on the label and touring with Zac, I would get to collaborate. I moved to Nashville a year and a half ago and have gotten into co-writing a lot more, which has been a growing experience. I am stretching my legs and learning to become a writer in that aspect [writing for others].
You recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for your new album. That speaks to a very loyal fan base.
You know, my fans are the ones that encouraged me to do it. When I parted with Southern Ground my fans still wanted new music. They were the ones that let me know about Kickstarter. They told me they had my back and wanted to help me make a record. They were really behind me and I am so thankful. My fans are just amazing. I love them.
Can you tell us about your new album?
It’s called Counting Skeletons, which is also a song on the album. It is a collection of work about different moments in my life and throughout my career. I thought Counting Skeletons would be a nice reflective title.
We just finished the artwork for the album. The hard copies of the EP will be in Thursday [April 17th] and the EP will be available at the show that same night when we play at the Exit/In in Nashville. I haven’t even announced that it will just be available, so it will be kind of a surprise.
How many songs are on the EP and how involved were you in writing them?
It is a six song EP, which I hope to have available on iTunes. For those who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign, I am doing something special. They will get four bonus tracks along with their EP package. In July, I plan on going back into the studio to start work on a full length album.
I wrote all of the songs on the EP. For the bonus tracks, I have one co-write with Zac Brown and one with Nick Cowan.
You mentioned that your sound is evolving. How would you describe the sound of the EP?
We joked around in the studio that it is “du wop/pop rock,” which is interesting. But for this particular EP, the sound is more pop/rock. I really wanted to capture moments in my writing. I worked with Eric Massey and Jordan Lemming in the studio and our philosophy was just to let the songs breathe and be whatever they were meant to be.
Your last album [1978 December] was released on the Southern Ground label. You are releasing Counting Skeletons independently. Can you talk a little bit about the freedoms and pressures releasing an album as an independent artist?
I was an independent artist before Southern Ground, so I learned how to handle, manage and book myself. Right now I am building my team and getting to the next step. There is definitely more freedom when you do things independently. You can create and release music however you want; it doesn’t have to be within any guidelines. I’m free to be an artist and I’m enjoying it.
You have toured with Zac Brown Band and Eric Church and have played with Loretta Lynn.
I got to meet and play with the queen a couple times. Loretta Lynn is a sweetheart. I’m so lucky and thankful to have been able to meet and play with her. My first concert when I was five years old was a Loretta Lynn concert. At that moment when I saw her for the first time, I knew that was what I wanted to do. To be able to share the stage with her was a big moment for me.
Do you have any touring plans for the year?
I am touring regionally at the moment. I know I have a lot of fans on the east coast that really want us to come back up there, so we are working on that. I think once we get a full length record out touring plans will fall into place.
What are you currently listening to?
I'm really all over the map when it comes to music. I think the new Eric Church record is great. There is an artist out in LA, Ben Burgess, who I like a lot. I also listen to a lot of European artists as well. Josh Kumra, an artist who is from England, is coming over to do some shows with me. I’m lucky to be able to play with people who I not only know, but am a fan of; that’s the best part of what I do.
Sonia Leigh will play the Exit/In in Nashville on April 17th and Eddie's Attic in Georgia on April 18th.
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Watch "My Name is Money" below.