There’s healing in honesty.
Avery Sunshine is without doubt a talented singer, songwriter and pianist. Her progression and accolades in the industry can attest to that. But, to me, what makes her artistry even more attractive is that she’s a storyteller. She has something to say – substance. I guarantee when you experience her live, more than just lyrically, but in her impromptu stage interludes, you’ll connect with her story.
She writes about it, records it and then invites you in for further conversation.
“There’s so much hiding. It’s almost encouraged,” she said during our recent phone conversation. “I’ve seen so much of that and it’s a little depressing and I vowed not to live like that. There’s so much healing in talking about our situations. It makes the load lighter.”
Ms. Sunshine has an openness about her that can become contagious. She emerges with energetic light, and refuses to allow adversity to shade her breakthrough. The rarity is that sense of safety within her openness. For the everyday folk, we shield self while adjusting and adapting to “new” which usually comes connected to more people – yikes! To get to that vulnerable space and be okay within our personal journey and then share it, takes time.
“It’s very natural for me,” Avery says. “I like to talk about what’s going on. It helps me cope in the times I need to cope. It may seem funny, but it’s real. Of course, there are some things that I don’t just want to blurt out; some things are private. But for the most part, I always feel better after I talked about what ever ‘it’ is.”
Relax. Relate. Release.
The Music. The Voice. The Truth:
“It’s so sad that all the baggage I had made me feel things that weren’t real…” –Avery Sunshine, “All In My Head”
The 2010 release of Avery Sunshine’s self-titled debut album offers 13 songs (bonus track included) of sincerity. Even when the subject matter gets a little heavy, you can still hear her releasing and feel her smile by the end.
She’s conversational on record as well as on stage. Part of that comes from the person she is naturally. The other part comes from wanting to build, share good music, and move a crowd.
“When I first started [performing] it was a nervous reaction. So I had to get people, who couldn’t or wouldn’t sing, to sing. How do you get them to do that? You come up with jokes. You break the ice. And it’s become a part of who I am.”
She adds, “I find that [performing on stage] is where I feel most comfortable talking to people and getting people to laugh and laugh at their situations. Still deal with them but laugh at them too.”
I met Avery Sunshine in 2011 during Dedry Jones’ The Music Experience with Ledisi. At the time, however, I had no knowledge of the extent of her artistry. It was a good night that became even better when Ledisi called Avery to the stage toward the end. The energy surged as the dynamic vocalists traded off soulful vocal rifts. The talent was raw and vibrant.
Then her presence swept me again when I heard ‘Ugly Part Of Me’ – repeatedly, I might add; thanks to my former Art Director. The delivery and subject matter caught my attention.
“Wow! That song. That song, she laughs. “It’s that honest thing again. When you’ve been through what I’ve been through and felt like that, I have no reason not to be honest.”
Ugly, like a few other Avery Sunshine songs, has a way of flipping the scenario and any assumptions of what the lyrical may discuss. The single had nothing to do with physical appearance and everything to do with attitude. In fact, she went against the “female code” and admitted to her guy that she was wrong and bugging. Say what!?
You respect it though; her creativity is fascinating and fresh.
“I had a situation after my divorce, I was dating somebody and I was acting like a monkey,” she admits laughing. “And I said, I ain’t even going to fight him on it, you’re right!”
“We have to take our hands off the wheel sometimes and relationships will really test that.”
A natural talent, a big part of the artistry we receive from Avery Sunshine comes from the growth she experienced following her divorce – a subject she doesn’t shy away from talking about often.
“I have to say going through my divorce was one of the best things that happened to me. It helped to burst my creativity; a deeper creativity.”
And we’re oh-so grateful.
Earlier this summer, Avery blessed the stage at the Essence Festival slaying her heartfelt vocals and making fans adore her even more, and giving new listeners a reason to stay tuned.
This weekend, Chicago will welcome Avery Sunshine along with Raheem DeVaughn to the Westside Music Festival taking place at Douglas Park, August 24-25.
“I’m so excited. When they told me it was a free concert, that’s amazing. I think about opportunities like that to have fun with my children and being loved and meeting people and everybody having access to the art. I applaud Westside Music Fest. It’s not just about the music; it’s about connection and connecting. I am grateful to be apart of it.”