10 Questions with ... Sunny Sweeney
July 13, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Sunny Sweeney's first album was the independently produced "Heartbreakers Hall Of Fame," first released in 2006. Signed to Big Machine in 2007, after establishing herself on her home state of Texas, "Heartbreakers" was re-released nationally. In 2009 she segued to Republic Nashville, part of the Big Machine Label group, releasing the single, "From A Table Away" in 2010. It came off her "Concrete" album, which yielded two more releases, Staying's Worse Than Leaving," and "Drink Myself Single." Sweeney signed with Thirty Tigers last year and has recently released "Bad Girl Phase," the debut single from the "Provoked" album.
1. Sunny, thanks so much for taking the time for 10 questions. You have a new label, single and album; let's start with the single, "Bad Girl Phase." Autobiographical, or anecdotal?
I would have to say "Bad Girl Phase" is both autobiographical and anecdotal. It was not written by me or for me, but when we were looking for a couple more songs for the record, Luke [Wooten] came in one day with this song written by three friends of mine -- Jessie Jo Dillon, Shannon Wright and Brandy Clark -- and said, "You have to hear this! It sounds like it has you written all over it." So, he played it through once, and I said, "If that song isn't available, that is a cruel joke." ! I think most women, if they are free to admit it, have had a period of their lives when being "good" has not gotten them very far. I love the verse about a "good girl in a gone-wild stage," because she's still a good girl but may be fed up with feeling like her life is not too great at the time. I fell in love with it the first time I heard it, mostly because it felt autobiographical. We have all been in this boat.
2. The single is just one of two songs on "Provoked" NOT co-written by you; Brandy Clark is a co-writer on it but it really feels like a Sunny Sweeney song. Is that what you felt when you heard a demo?
That's exactly my sentiment! I thought if it wasn't written for me, then thank God I was just lucky enough to find it.
3. OK, now to the album title, "Provoked." I see songs on here called, "Uninvited," "Backhanded Compliment" and "Everybody Else Can Kiss My Ass." Tell me, what (ahem) "Provoked" all this attitude?
The attitude has always been there. People who know me know that I love comedy and sarcasm -- that's how we were brought up -- my whole family is like that. My life is not Mary Tyler Moore, but more Rosanne Barr, so when I am getting over bad phases in my life, I can't pretend to be Mrs. Cleaver. I have to laugh, cry, write, and ultimately sing about the crappy stuff. If I wrote a song about butterflies, nobody would believe me. "Provoked" is actually a positive term to me. If I had not been provoked, I would not have gotten anything positive out of the last few years.
4. Talk about how the album was funded with Pledgemusic.com and the charitable tie-in with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
Initially, I was so scared to do this. What if nobody contributed? But my fans are so amazing -- and I am not just saying that! Through the last seven or eight years, I have come to realize that in order for this business to work, the fans are truly the only thing that matters. I will never be able to make them realize how much it means to have them be a part of my album, so I will just try my damnedest to fight my way to stay alive in this business. They really have and continue to give me strength. Plus, part of the proceeds go to benefit CASA, which is a cause very near and dear to my heart.
5. We saw a quote from you about this album, describing it as, "A journey from nearly hitting bottom and losing everything personally to regaining my footing and being able to find not only my true self again, but real happiness." Holy cow. What happened?
Timing has always been my best friend and my worst enemy. When I finally got my big chance with a large label and it looked as if I was finally having a modicum of success, my first marriage was completely falling apart. That takes a toll on your physical and emotional wellbeing no matter the circumstances. I always say, "I wouldn't wish divorce on even my worst enemy. Well, OK, maybe my worst enemy." It's a cycle, so when you quit taking care of yourself, everything else also suffers and falls apart. I made some choices that were not good and ended up with a very different life than what it looked like on the outside. Even though that was a low point in my life, it was exactly where I had to be to see where I needed to go.
6. It's been three years since you put out "Concrete." In between you dabbled in radio, cohosting "America's Morning Show" with Blair Garner on the NASH-branded stations. After being an in studio guest at radio many times, did you enjoy the experience of being on the other side of that equation?
In a way, it feels like "Concrete" came out yesterday and in another way, it feels like it came out every bit of three years ago. I started making plans about "Provoked" during the release party for my last record. On that day, I knew that the path I was going to take would put some unexpected detours in my way, detours that were both good and bad. One of those good detours was being asked by Blair and John Dickey to be a part of AMS and of course there are some great people working behind the scenes in that building and I just love Terri Clark and Chuck Wicks. But honestly, it was a grind. I went from finishing playing honky tonks and chilling after shows and going to bed at 3:00 am to getting up at 3:00 am and starting my day. I'm not sure I ever got used to that schedule, but I was learning so much about being on the other side of the microphone from Blair, that I didn't notice the grind until it was time to get back in the studio and record. And I had to give 100% to that if I wanted to make the record that you're now listening to. In the end, I learned a lot about the radio business and it takes a special person to be a great jock. I've recently started doing interviews at stations to promote "Provoked" and I have to admit, it's kind of cool going into a station now knowing what's happening around me from both sides of the microphone.
7. You are a modern-age woman who is a hip, savvy, cool and clever songwriter. And yet you have a very retro, 'old school' feel to your music. How do get both of those into your music?
Thank you for saying I am hip, savvy, and cool -- because really, I am so nerdy. That is very sweet of you to say that. My mom says I have always had an old soul. I've always been obsessed with "old" music -- Loretta, Merle, Jessi Colter -- I tell people my iPod would bore them. The first songs I remember singing from beginning to end were "Lucille" and "Against The Wind" and "I'm Not Lisa." I happen to really believe that these artists were very progressive for their time. Hell, Loretta got banned from radio for some of her songs. So, yes, my bar show started out as covers of those types of artists, but it has evolved. My hope, however, is that their influence continues to show through my music.
8. You've had success at radio previously, so I wondered if you could chime in on the challenge of female artists truly breaking through right now. Why do you think it's so hard and what are your expectations top that end, with this new album?
My grandfather played music as well, and he always tried to emphasize how it was not just all fun and games. He was always worried about his granddaughter going to these bars until the wee hours of morning and running with musicians. I was only there to make my mark and make fans like what I was singing about. Ultimately, that's all you leave behind. When we are all gone someday, our songs will still be here. So I think what you sing is the most important part, and I know there will be people who want to hear it. Yes, it is hard right now, but that is the business side of it. All I can control is what I sing and hope people will want to hear it.
9. OK, back to the album for a second - we have to ask about "You Don't Know Your Husband." That has to be a cheating song, right?
It's the opening song on the album. It's such a fun song to sing live, because it cracks me up to see people's faces and hear the laughter just when I introduce it. This is, after all, country music. It wouldn't be the first cheating song ever sung!
10.You're about as Texas as Texas can get - but you did spend some time in New York. What do non-Texans not get about people from the Lone Star State.
I spent a couple years on a break from college living in New York City. I was not very good at school, and I just needed to re-charge. One thing I know they do get is our accents. I got more free beer just because of how I said "Bud Light." But I did go back and got my degree in public relations.
1. You live in Austin, correct? The city has a theme, "Keep Austin Weird." What would happen if it somehow stopped being weird? Would the city still be safe?
Yes, I live in Austin. I don't see it getting "un-weird" anytime soon. As far as the safety of the city, I leave that to my husband, a police Sergeant with APD.
2. Strangest name of a honky-tonk you've played in Texas.
I have played them all! The best was at Woody's Tavern in Fort Worth when they wrote on the marquis "Sunny's Weeney." We were almost through the entire night before we figured it out."