“It feels like I´m walking on a thin line and I´m skating on thin ice” – don´t we all know the feeling of being too cautious, too hesistant and playing too small, when really we have so much more potential within us? This is exactely what Sonia Leigh´s catchy new rock-anthem “Thin Ice” is about. A powerful encouraging song that reflects our self-made inhibitions that keep us from living up to our calling.
The Nashville based ever-creative artist who is known for blending Country, Americana, Rock, Pop and Hip Hop has checked off quite a few bullet points that are typically found on an indie artist´s bucket list. A writer of #1 hits (“Sweet Annie” as well as “Goodbye in her Eyes” by Zak Brown Band), sync placements in TV shows like “The Good Wife” and “Queen Pins” and touring the world with icons such as Eric Church, Melissa Etheridge, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson and more. Sonia is a shining light in the Nashville musician scene.
We are super excited to share this inspiring chat with Sonia. Sit back and learn from one of the best!
Sonia, big congrats on your recent release “Thin Ice”. The song is all one could wish for when it comes to a “no more excuses” kind of anthem. Tell us a bit about your personal relationship with the song and how it was created.
Thank you very much and thank you for taking the time to show me some love. “Thin Ice” came about one evening in L.A. I was with one of my songwriting partners and best friends Daphne Willis. We were out in L.A working on our E.P. for our duo project TYGR TYGR. I had been feeling discouraged and the inspiration wasn’t there for me. I felt blocked. We were discussing life and our careers and I was damn near in tears and picked up the guitar and just was strumming on the guitar and I just kinda hummed “and it feels like I’m walking on a thin line and I’m skating on thin ice…” and I knew I’d just broken the seal. It was how I was feeling, the frustration and tension of being on the verge of falling in. How it feels to be shadowed by your weaknesses, insecurities, and demons. Wanting to face your self doubt and kill it and believe in your power again. I just kinda kept mumbling lyrics and they started pouring out. We finished that song that night and I knew I wanted it to be the backbone for the sound of my next record.
Wow! Thanks for sharing that! Your voice stood out to me, while listening through your catalogue. You seemlessly blend various style influences into your records. What bands and influences informed your musical DNA growing up and today?
Growing up I was first exposed to old country and southern gospel because of my dad and grandparents. They all played music and I listened to them and the music in church was always drawing me in.
But I also like some rock because my mother liked some rock as well. So from Hank Williams Sr. & Jr., Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, The Mckameys, Alabama, CCR, Stryper, Bruce Springsteen, and early teenage years more rock like Led Zeppelin, Ozzy, KISS, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Dr. Dre, Snoop, Beastie Boys, TESLA, Jackson Browne, Melissa Etheridge. Then teenage years, Grateful Dead, Nirvana, Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Hole, NIN, 2-Pac and it just keeps going on and on. So much music has inspired me through different journeys of my life it’s so hard to pin point just one group it all has shaped me.
I so love so many of the artists you mentioned as well! Let´s discuss songwriting a bit, shall we? You are an established and seasoned writer. What comes first for you usually? Lyrics? Chords? Melodies or Grooves? What´s your go to method?
It really varies, sometimes I will think of a really clever lyric and sit down and strum on the guitar and some chords come and a groove starts and then a melody comes. Sometimes I start playing and lyrics come to me, sometimes I make a beat and music track on the computer and write to that.
What is harder – starting a new song or finishing one?
That is a great question, I guess it depends on the song. Some songs come to me and write themselves and they come fast, sometimes songs start and they are like pulling teeth and tricky to write.
You write for yourself and for other artists. How do you decide which songs are “yours to keep”?
Most of the time I know if I am writing for an artist’s project so I will write more toward what their vibe is and listen to what they wanna say. I am super open for artists to record my songs if they feel inspired to do so even if I wrote them “for me”.
That´s cool! You were born and raised in beautiful, sunny Georgia, but moved to Nashville for the love of music. What makes Nashville a special place to you?
Nashville is the only place I have been to with the kind of community it has collected. Most are super helpful and supportive and willing to lend a hand or point you in the right direction. There are countless resources for artists here, so many talented writers and artists at the tips of your fingers. Nashville is diversifying musically so a lot of genres are starting to hail from this area other than country.
You co-wrote two number 1 hits for Zac Brown Band (big fan here by the way!). How did this writing gig come to be and what was the experience like to find your songs on Billboard Country Airplay charts?
Zac Brown Band and other co writers such as Wyatt Durrette finished writing both of those songs on a tour bus while traveling to our next show while on our Zac Brown Band nation wide tours. We would pass time on the road sitting on the bus playing music and writing. The first time I heard “Goodbye In Her Eyes” on the radio as a number 1, I was driving to the hospital to be with my mother who was in her last days and about to pass away. I sat and listened to that song at a red light and cried my eyes out, because it was such a bittersweet moment. I was hearing a song I wrote that had gone #1 for the first time but on the way to say goodbye to my mother. It completely changed the song for me. I am super lucky humbled and thankful to be a part of both of these tunes. I am proud to one apart of them.
Oh wow, that gave me goosebumps. Sorry you had to go through that in a time that you were supposed to celebrate. Back to now! You are currently also involved in various musical projects, amongst which is your Hip Hop/Rock duo formation TYGR TYGR (that you mentioned) with Daphne Willis, which goes to show that you are a true wild and free spirit when it comes to breaking out of genre boxes. How does your songwriting process differ when writing for these different genres and so you easily switch forth and back?
TYGR TYGR is special because Daphne and I write so well together, we ping pong lyrics back and forth and do not settle until we are both feeling super 100% about them. We both like to dig for the best melody, and create something unique together. We wrote this E.P. with Jason Mater who did the engineering and production and he really brought the music to the table and we would write lyrics while he was building the music. I love working with them both because we all get excited and work hard to get something fresh and outside of the box. I follow my heart when I am writing for each project and always make sure to craft the lyrics carefully no matter what I am writing for.
We are all about a “community spirit” here at Song Brewery. What is one tip you would pass on to emerging songwriters who are still at the beginning of their career and trying to branch out?
Always write from your heart. If you continue to connect with your truth you will continue to be authentic and original.
What are some future milestones you are working towards?
I hope to be on a major tour again one day. I would also love to get back to the UK and tour again. I hope one day to be on Saturday Night Live 🙂 I want to perform and do the skits! Right now I am focused on building a team. Finding the right management, booking agent, and getting my record finished.
That all sounds great! Last not least: What is your favorite lyric line you´ve ever written?
“If you open up your heart and let it all pour out, I’ll wrap you up in stars if it all falls apart and the sky hits the ground” -“Give You Love”- Sonia Leigh
Beautiful! Thank you so much for your time and for your music, Sonia! Keep on rocking!
Thank you so much as well and I will! I hope to see you at a show soon!
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