Vixen Initiation: Avery Sunshine Discusses The Downside of Rising Artistry And The Double-Edged Sword Of Soul
Aptly named Avery Sunshine, this soul singing diva (in all positive senses of the word) is a ball of good-hearted warmth and energy. The singer/songwriter juggled a lot during our hour-long interview that ended up being more of a girl-talk than a business-oriented chat, and VIBE Vixen was able to get a taste of what rising soul artists deal with on a day-to-day basis. A world-traveler, a mother of two and a Pennsylvania native, Ms. Sunshine is passport pimpin' and providing relatable storylines set to soulful tunes for the music lovers and, of course, the women who've "been there, done that." -Niki McGloster(@missjournalism)
Explain how you’re feeling about the tour and fans’ reactions to the album.
It’s incredible, especially when you set out to do this, and you don’t know whether people are going to like your music. I always tell people that you either have to be completely led by God or crazy to do this kind of stuff. [Laughs] This is not for the weak at heart at all. We did the Jools Holland show in the UK. It’s kind of like a late night show, but, instead of having actors on it or whomever, it’s all about musicians. What they do is have a bunch of artists from all over, and we sit around in this circle and one-by-one do tunes. So, we did the show and we looked on Twitter and one kid says, ‘The only reason Avery Sunshine is on there because they needed to make their racial quota.’ [Long pause] Deep. This thing is deep. People are like, ‘Oh, you’re great,’ and then you get a sting like that.
Wow. That kind of thing jolted you.
It does, but I know that we still got a long way to go with race relations, and you can’t let everything you hear bother you. I do understand how a lot of entertainers say, ‘This is too much for me,’ or say, ‘I won’t get on Facebook or Twitter.’ The pendulum swings both ways. As bad as it can be and as good as it can be.
Would you say those comments are the worst part of the business for you?
You know what? The worst part of the business for me right now is this in-between stage where nobody really knows you and having to keep a real job. You know what I mean? That is hard. It is hard to do your regular gig and then go on the road. It’s the balancing [that’s] really, really hard. ‘Cause you know the children have to eat! It’s rough, but it’s getting better. If we want to see the fruits of our labor, we have to hang in here, through this rough period. But what’s so ironic about it is I’m having the best time of my life right now!
Do you have plans of signing to a major label?
I enjoy being indie, but I can’t say. I have learned to not say never because I know what we like right now, but I can’t say that if a major said, ‘Hey, we got a great deal for you,’ that we wouldn’t check it out. There are pros and cons to everything.
With the international and domestic audiences that you’ve encountered, have you seen a difference in appreciation for music?
Absolutely. Here, we’re inundated. You can go to Anywhere, USA and find somebody who sings likes me or better, and it’s just not the same thing in other countries. With that being said, of course when they hear Aretha Franklin sing, ain’t nobody gettin’ it over there like that. In no way am I saying there are a million Aretha Franklin’s in the world because there are not, but there are a lot of people that can sing. There’s Patti LaBelle, Anita Baker [and] Chaka Khan. There’s a wealth of singers here.
What do you feel about R&B and soul singers nowadays becoming these pop artists or changing their sounds to fit a mainstream audience?
Soul singers will always have a place in music. We are that voice, that real voice, that comes from a genuine, natural place. Hence the name “soul,” you know what I mean? If we don’t sellout trying to make ends meet sometimes or trying to be famous, we won’t lose it. But on behalf of soul singers trying to make it, we are competing with the folk with the radio hits. We’re competing with that, and the issue with that is, if you’re not making any bread, how can you even eat to make music?
…Such a double-edge sword.
Yes, it is! It’s like, gosh, I don’t really want to sellout, but the only way that I can sellout is to do this tune that they’ll play on the radio. That’s not really, really who I am, but in order for me to get out here and get gigs, I’m gonna have to do this so people can hear me. Please believe, I’ve had a couple of stations that told me I don’t have anything on my album that they can play on the radio. But if we let that get to us, we’d be out knocking people’s doors down! [Laughs]
When soul singers do take that leap of faith, it seems like they’re losing what their fanbase loves about them.
It’s hard because, in addition to having to sellout a little bit, there’s the evolution thing as an artist. For me, the struggle is the new songs [coming out] in July. Use the same formula? Is that going to be boring? Maybe I should reinvent myself?
It seems like such a battle, but you seem to be moving along quite nicely. You’ve been touring with singer Rahsaan Patterson and have upcoming tour dates with B.B. King!
First of all, meeting Rahsaan was a dream come true. I’m serious. To get the call, ‘I want you to do these dates with Rahsaan Patterson,’ I mean… We’ve done four shows together, and we have another one coming up in July. It works; people like our show together, and Rahsaan is amazing. At the end of his set, he always calls me onstage. And if he never does it again, it’s fine! It is such a compliment.
That’s awesome. Are you equally looking forward to performing with B.B. King?
I adore B.B. King for a different reason. I adore him because he was one of those who paved the way for the rest of us. He got to perform for people years ago, but he had to go through the back door! What? And [he’s] still playing well into his eighties. We got the call in November, and the president of our label in the UK, Peter Robinson, set it all up. I’ll be opening up for thee B.B. King at Royal Albert Hall in London. So, not only am I opening up for a legend, but I’m opening for him in a 5,000-seat venue; a place where The Beatles have performed.
Dope. Now, let’s switch gears a bit. “All In My Head” is a hot record about a woman dreaming up these realities that aren’t actually taking place in her relationship. What made you write that song?
The point of writing a tune like that is to poke fun at how silly we can be. They not all cheating. They don’t all not love you. You don’t look terrible. Stop it! We have to tell ourselves that. I realized our baggage and the stuff we’ve dealt with prior to [our current situation], and dwelling on that stuff keeps us from enjoying healthy relationships. I have to give it up to Erykah Badu; she’s a prophet! A prophet! [Laughs] When she said, ‘Bag lady…’
What do you think it’s going to take for women to get those thoughts out of their heads and believe that they’re beautiful the way they are and that they deserve love?
Sometimes, we want to point the finger at [men] after we’ve been hurt, so we’ve got to get right. We just have to decide that we’re not going to live that way. And it’s really not as hard as we think it is, you know? Change your mind immediately.
I totally agree with you. And along with the other things black women are dealing with, there’s always a constant battle of beauty and what’s fashionable. Tell me why did you decide to rock such a low fade.
This is the second time I did it. I did it in college, and this time I did it because I have a daughter who has a lot of hair. Between doing my hair and hers, I was getting stressed out, so I cut mine off.
Do you think it’s foolish for women to put such an emphasis on their hair?
I used to, but I know it’s deep for us. I wish that it didn’t, but hair does, to an extent, define them.
Lastly, what do you want fans to learn, through your album, about Avery Sunshine?
I want them to feel better. I want them to know that it’s okay to talk about how you feel.