Rolling Out talked to Georgia based artist Avery Sunshine recently. We say Georgia based because like many true musicians, she has become a world resident. Avery Sunshine’s music and talent have been seen on the big screen, the small screen, as well as the stage. Her new album is called Sunroom and she talked to rolling out about music, culture and her new album.
Your musical gift is reflective of classic black genres of artistry in music. How do you define yourself and your musical style with Sunroom?
Simply I call it soul music. Because I am a product of all the music I ever heard, learned or practiced. It is all soul music, whether bluegrass or gospel, it’s soul music.
Tell us about your new album the Sunroom. What was your main inspiration for this project?
It was time to do another album. I did my last album 4 years ago and if you want this thing you want to keep making music. When we started this album, we wanted the songs to dictate what it was to be called and it felt like it was a sunroom. We call it ‘Sunroom’ because that’s the place you go into your home to find peace; you can talk about what you want to talk about, you do this in your sunroom. We felt that ‘Sunroom’ made perfect sense because we were able to write and sing about what we wanted too.
What is your favorite track from your new album and why?
It changes so often, but right now my favorite track is “See you when I get there,” which is track 11.
Who are the three biggest musical inspirations in your life and why?
Roberta Flack-For the obvious reasons. She is an amazing singer, pianist and writer.
Donny Hathaway-My brother gave me a collection of Donny Hathaway’s greatest songs when I was about 16. I listened to that album incessantly because there was something about the way he communicated vocally and through that keyboard. It made me feel something and I connect to that still today. There was something otherworldly about his gift, it’s moving.
Michael Jackson-I remember when my parents bought the ‘Thriller’ album; when a Michael Jackson album came out it was an event. I was inspired by his courage to be what he wanted to be, to do what he wanted to do, to sing what he felt like singing. Clearly, musically I was inspired by him, but more so his courage.
How would you describe the image of black female artists today with black female artists that you grew up listening to in regards to music and life?
I am a fan of a lot of the female artists out there today and I applaud them for being courageous as well doing what they are doing. But I am also a fan Diana Ross, Whitney Houston and Patti LaBelle; there was classiness. For example, I remember seeing a piece with Lena Horne and Judy Garland and there was something very gracious and regal about them. I won’t dare say we don’t have that same grace today but I will say that it is different. Maybe it’s because we are more liberated and can say “I can do, what I want to do” and I applaud that to my sister artists out there doing what they want to do right now. But there was a posture to what ladies like Gladys Knight had, those were divas!
What role has music played in defining us as a people and our culture?
It’s our voice. I will say even when I was growing up it was much more conscious. When you think of Donny Hathaway or Marvin Gaye or even Curtis Mayfield they spoke. You could actually figure out what was going on by listening to the music. I was at Ebenezer Baptist Church here in Atlanta last week and the Rev. Raphael Warnock said during his sermon he was” hard pressed to find songs about peace and equality right now. In order for me to find something, I have to go way back and look for it.”
That was something we did in music back then, we talked about literally what was going on. Not just love and sex but there was something very different about that time; that was our voice, that was our expression. The chronology of our existence, you could listen to music and hear that.
What are black people missing by not studying the music of their past?
We are missing the fist pump to make it through. The blue lights in the basement, to be in a space where you could [have] that space you could find when we were not free in other spaces, a space where we could be free. We would be missing clearly a piece of our heritage. Music was our way to teach; I think about the black church, for example, the hymns.
What is your biggest fear regarding black music and young black artists?
We will forget to communicate real things because we have not been in tune with our souls. Our focus will be making music to make money. We will not be focused on to teach, to heal, we will not make music to enlighten.
Do you have any upcoming shows?
We have many upcoming shows including one at the Riverdale Amphitheater in Atlanta, Lincoln Center Out of Doors in NYC, Cleveland, Ohio. I also will be performing on a show in Chicago, Illinois, with Keith Sweat and we may be in Tunisia in a few months.
How can people follow you?
On Twitter: @averysunshine
Facebook : I am Avery Sunshine
What would you like to say to our readers in closing?
Shine as brightly as you can. We’ve all been given that “thing,” that “thing” only we individually have and if you don’t let that thing shine in you the way things are supposed to, think like, the world won’t spin the way it’s supposed to. With that being said we need everybody to shine and I hope that the work that we are doing through our music inspires somebody else. Do what you think you are called to do and if there are only two people that like it, you jam so hard on it that nobody can jam harder.