Armed with a new album recorded at London’s Abbey Road studios, Sonia Leigh is cruising to the top and bringing her rowdy friends.
Nashville singer-songwriter Sonia Leigh captured our hearts back in 2016 with her soulful voice, country swagger, and sweet Southern charm. We recently caught up with the artist (and a group of her talented pals) enjoying a rare moment of downtime in Music City.
Between the 2017 release of Mad Hatter and the much-anticipated Sonia Leigh & Friends Live in London – Studio 3 Sessions due out June 15, she has been as busy as a bee.
New Musical Territory
Leigh’s last studio release Mad Hatter is a dynamic compilation of songs that capture her diversity as an artist. From the sunny pop banger “Waste the Day” to the outlaw country growl of “Jack is Back,” the album is a reflection of where Leigh has been as an artist while simultaneously delving into new creative territory.
“I wear a lot of hats in music, I love to make all kinds of music and Mad Hatter was me giving myself permission to experiment,” Leigh says. “I got to express that side of me as an artist and a writer. I did a lot of those tracks here in my room just trying to learn.”
In addition to recording and touring, Leigh recently did a stint aboard the Melissa Etheridge Cruise.
“It was incredible. I learned how to play guitar and studied Melissa’s songwriting coming up as a young gay female. When I was fifteen I wrote the fan club and I said ‘I hope to see you at the top,’ and the next thing I know I’m hanging out with her and we’re tour mates and its kind of surreal,” Leigh says.
Ready to Go Live
With number one hits “Sweet Annie” and “Goodbye in Her Eyes” (recorded by Zac Brown), and tours with country legends Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, and modern day stars like Eric Church, the time seemed right to record a live album.
“It was kind of a last minute decision on my part. I thought it might be nice to capture this moment. I had been in England for four months touring. I’ve played with a lot of musicians over the last five years in England and this could be an opportunity to get everybody together and capture that,” Leigh says.
Recording in such an iconic space made famous by The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and other rock royalty was a dream project for Leigh.
“Abbey Road is a vibe place. I was like ‘Let’s see if we can pull it off,’ so I called a bunch of people I have played in a band or toured with and we got them all to come down to the studio, I think it was twenty of us total. We went back to the joy of making music together,” she says.
Sonia Leigh & Friends is a thirteen-track album including recuts of songs from Mad Hatter in addition to songs from earlier in her career including “My Name is Money” and “Sweet Annie” and, in true Leigh form, an unexpected, yet gorgeous cover of the classical song “Clair de Lune.”
“I’m really excited about it,” Leigh says. “I wanted it to be honest. I didn’t want bells and whistles; I just wanted to capture the joy of musicianship again. If there’s a mistake, you know, sometimes mistakes are great. There’s energy with live performance that you can’t really get with a click track. When you go see a band live as opposed to a record, that energy is there. There’s a camaraderie that a live recording captures.”
The album itself can really only be described as magical. With the sound and talent of each musician coming through the recording, it is a true testament to the type of intimacy that develops between players after years of working together. Highlights include “Sweet Annie” (the vocals alone on that track are enough to stir the most cynical of music listeners), “My Name is Money” and the dramatically pared-down version of “Jack is Back.”
“I haven’t gone too far from my original roots and my waters and I haven’t forgotten who I am. It’s a recap of where I have been and where I’m going,” Leigh says.
And we are happy to come along for the ride.
Sonia’s Playlist: When asked what she is listening to these days, Leigh is quick to throw out a “who’s who” list of her friends and fellow artists
Kree Harrison, “This Old Thing”
Audra Mae, “Open Arms Ft. LP”
Daphne Willis, “Do It Like This”
BONES, “Girls Can’t Play Guitar”
Shelly Fairchild, “Mississippi Turnpike”
Kacey Musgraves, “Space Cowboy”
Halsey, “Bad at Love”