Music

INTERVIEW: Avery*Sunshine

by Maya Aaliya

album cover

The enthusiasm in Avery Sunshine’s voice is buoyant. Her contentment is easily explained by her second album, The Sunroom, already a top ten seller on the iTunes R&B/Soul chart, since its release just days ago. Without any worry of the sophomore jinx that vex other artists, Ms. Sunshine can instead focus on explaining to her mother why all the copies of her new album are sold out at Walmart, which she says laughingly “… it’s a great problem to have!”  By simply saying that I can hear her “smiling through the phone” is understating the effusive warmth that beams through every exclamation. “I feel like a kid in a candy store, really…or not candy anymore, because kids don’t do that…an Apple store! I feel like a kid in an Apple store!” Her humor –smart and whimsical, is arguably a part of her growing success. Affectionately referring to her supporters as “The Team,” Ms. Sunshine gives more to her fans than just music. When appraising her own impact, in view of the new millennial landscape, she thoughtfully replies, “We all have been given gifts and I hope that it encourages any and everybody to hone those gifts, and not try to change them for anybody else. I hope that someone is empowered when they hear the record and they say, ‘Oh, they did exactly what they wanted to do.’”

Basking in her well earned achievements, Avery Sunshine is still none too far from the misgivings of music industry demands. When approaching what her second album should sound like, Ms. Sunshine boldly decided to ignore the pressure and the paradigms for what was in her heart. “I was really concerned about making any album that I thought people wanted to hear. I wanted to do songs that they would play on the radio…that’s what I thought I had to do,” she reveals. “We had a lot of people in our ear at the time [saying] ‘Now that you’ve done that first record, this is what your album should sound like’ –This is coming from people we really respected… I was torn…that’s why it took four years for this record to come out, because I was confused.”

Understandably, at a time when it seems easier for the corporate mechanics to crank out the cookie cutter and familiar, Avery Sunshine appears an anomaly among her rhythm and blues peers. Just check The Sunroom credits. From Motown Gospel recording artist, Anita Wilson, to members of R. Kelly’s band, this dynamic assortment of collaborators is telltale of her complexity. On the one hand, her voice is distinguishable by its stirring force and commanding range, yet, on the other, her sound is indescribable because of its flawless ability to meld genres, styles and standards. Still, Ms. Sunshine credits her writing partner, Dana Johnson, with the candor her songs are known for. “Dana and I, my writing partner, we dealt with that in the beginning about, you know, ‘What genre were we going to stick to?’…I was never able to make a decision…So how about whatever music we get, that’s what we’re going to do. Whatever inspiration we get, that’s it!”

A result of Avery Sunshine’s confidence to move forward is the lead single off of The Sunroom, “Call My Name.” Released through Shanachie Entertainment, Ms. Sunshine maintains her autonomy as an independent artist, but with an industry partner that is home to the likes of Maysa, The Brand New Heavies, Musiq Soulchild and Syleena Johnson. Having not had what Ms. Sunshine describes as the “muscle”  that a record label can provide, she underscores the importance of their relationship, “We had a couple of offers before Shanachie came along, and I am so grateful to God that we said ‘no’ and waited for the right situation.” She reflects, “We were willing to wait. We were willing to pass up all kinds of offers, and the one with Shanachie we just knew it was right.” A testament to her hard work, Ms. Sunshine did not have to settle.

Breaking new ground on tour, from the Eastern Seaboard to London Town. Her fans, most knowing what to expect from her widely acclaimed live show, can anticipate more. “More of Sunshine. More of Feeling Good!” She  continues, “When they come to a show, I want them to feel better when they leave, than when they got there…singing, partying…I want them to jam on the one!” Continuing to be amused by her quips, it is obvious to me that what Avery Sunshine has to offer is more than records. Ms. Sunshine is an experience. While most neatly pin their heart to their sleeve, Ms. Sunshine unabashedly fuses hers into her music. Like any good testimonial, The Sunroom is an outpouring of everything it took to her to get here, and a favorable measure of just how far Avery Sunshine will go.

Avery*Sunshine is currently on tour. The Sunroom is available now.