Sonyae Elise is the winner of Bravo’s songwriting competition, Platinum Hit. Contrary to her fellow competitors, Elise didn’t play instruments or read music but she had been preparing for that moment forever. The New Jersey native, who is currently based in Los Angeles comes from a musical family who always encouraged her talent. By age 14, she was already working with production duo Midi Mafia and honing her craft.
These days Elise is high on the release of her latest mixtape, Lady Rebel, Vol. 2. She’s also still floating from her recent victory, which makes her $100,000 richer and landed her a publishing deal with Sony ATV and a recording deal with RCA/Jive ant Writing Camp, but she says this is only the beginning. VIBE caught up with her to dish about Kara DioGuardi, the competition and what’s next on her agenda.
How did you get involved with Platinum Hit since you were already doing your own thing?
That sh-t just fell into my lap to tell you the truth. It was the right time. I was living out in L.A. around this time for a year. Every night all I was doing in the studio recording myself, using Pro-tools and writing all night. So, I was unknowingly preparing myself for the show. I went to New York for about a month to kick it with my family and do some stuff out there, then I got a call asking “Do you want to be on a writing show for Bravo?” I said “Hell Yeah,” because it wasn’t a show with drama or fights. It was strictly focused on the writing. So they said, “Well if you come into the office tomorrow and we like you, you’ll be leaving this weekend type of thing.” It was really sad because I was the last person added to the cast, and I think other people were lined up for it but it fell through. So it was really God’s work because now I’m top three and I feel like I made it this far and I’m super souped. I’m glad I made it this far and didn’t drop everything to get voted off the first weekend. [Editor’s note: Sonyae Elise is the winner].
What were the judges like on a more intimate level?
Jewel is a sweetheart, but I’m the type of person that needs tough love since I’m so rebellious so, Kara was the best set of match for me. They had four types of judges, three consistent ones and one that was different every week. It just helps all of us individually. We’re all crazy musicians, unique in all our ways, so we need different types of attention. So, we all grew so much from the different type of judging. The judge that fit me best and whipped me into shape, my fairy godmother, was definitely Kara. She got into my head and helped me a lot. I think the thing I learned most from the show is my strength and weaknesses. That was the coolest thing to me. I knew I was good and I know I wanted to do music, but to know your lyrical content is deep and you’re good at that and to know you need to work on your melodies is important. It helps you to create songs better and to make a hit, if you will. Or if you’re just being creative, musical, or quirky, you will be able to digest so that’s what I learned from the show.
Describe your sound and what you bring to the table works for you?
Because I’m super raw and I think my rebellion and my inability to play an instrument works for me when people thought it was disadvantage, but I think it worked for me really well. My rawness definitely caught the attention from the first--I think my inability to play an instrument and my confidence made them pay attention. I was focused on good talent, and everyone else had all these melodies around their stuff, and I was able to clearly focus on content and catchiness and I think that immediately caught their attention which was a good thing. And me being able to keep the essence of who I am and not let all the judging alter everything I’m doing, because I was there for a reason. They liked something about it. So, I think a lot of people got caught up in the judging too much and they got pumped up in the head. I was very clear about why I was there and after seeing what they like, I was like “Cool, I’ll keep that,” then adjust and grow from what they tell me. I think that helped me a lot as well because people were altering their choices on what the judges liked. But I’m like, if I like it, I’m going to keep it. My attitude too, I can’t be pushed around. I think they thought I was going to cause drama, but I’m quiet, I just keep to myself and drop jewels as much as possible. I got to speak my voice and it was always heard.
If it ever came to you being either a songwriter or an artist, would you choose or would they live together in harmony?
Harmony. I want to be an artist, that’s just because I’m most comfortable performing on stage. From naturally acting and it feels right. So, I’m definitely always going to communicate what’s in my heart. If I can’t do that, then there’s no point in performing. So, I’m going to be writing for other people but also for myself. I have no problem because if the song is hot, I will sing it. I’m always going to write. I will go crazy. It’s my therapy so I will always write.
What else are you working on right now?
I have two mixtapes out, one I put out last summer: Lady Rebel Vol.1. A couple of days ago, I put out Lady Rebel Vol.2, but I call it LRV2 because it’s shorter and cleaner and it’s cute. I’m really proud of the growth from Vol.1 but number two shows clear growth. Vol.2 is way more focused. You know when an artist comes out and is all over the place? Vol.1 was dope but there was a lot going on. Vol.2 sounds like one clean and clear artist who can rap and sing and it’s so pleasant. Everything I do is from the heart and what I’m going through at the moment but it’s so focused. It’s definitely for the ladies but guys like it too.
What do you want people to take away from you and your music?
At the end of the day, I always tell people I am writing music first of all to keep myself sane because it’s my therapy, so for the people that can relate to it, it’s the things I’m going through, it’s a plus. I’m writing to cleanse myself and run through the earth and not blackout on people. I want people to take away a feeling, I never want anyone to look into my sh-t and say “This is good. She can really sing.” I want them to walk away either crying, laughing or the extreme of what they feel. I want to evoke emotion and be able to heal some people and all the good stuff that comes with it. But, that’s why I do it to heal and for people to relate and think about situations in a different way. I want to evoke emotion and allow people to feel some type of better.
Check out Sonye's music at SonyaeElise.com.