One of the highlights of Black Deer Fest this year was seeing Sonia Leigh steal the show on the Friday. With two very different performances, one in a writers round and the other a full band headline set on the supajam stage, many came away with a new favourite artist! We knew this was going to happen of course having felt the same way a few years ago when we first heard Sonia at C2C. Her new record Live in London captures the energy Sonia puts in to her shows and we were eager to catch up with her to find out more about the making of that record which she recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios.
So the new record Sonia Leigh and Friends Live in London is out now, how did you choose the songs for it?
You know I haven’t been asked that question yet, it’s a really great question. I chose some of them because they’re not available anymore like Bar and My Name Is Money, they’re classics that people have been reacting to but they’re no longer available because they were with a previous label, Southern Ground. So I wanted to revive that and obviously those songs have been major players for my career, doing them at Abbey Road was special. Cutting Sweet Annie was a big deal for me because that was a bold move and a scary move because obviously Zac’s the one who made that a hit but I’ve been performing it and people request it and I felt like it was time for me to have it available. I don’t have big dreams for this record, I just wanted to do it for myself and the people that I love and get to play with. It was something fun for all of us and to say hey thanks for hanging with me and being so good to me and touring with me because these tours wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for these musicians letting me stay at their house, putting together the tours, playing for me for like next to nothing so it was really cool to capture that camaraderie. I also wanted to put some new songs on there like Ladder to the Moon and Alabama Bound and to do it in that way from Abbey Road was just really special. The Clair De Lune thing is just because I was supposed to learn that when I was a kid and I didn’t I was too busy writing songs and Jess who played those pieces just nailed it in one take it was incredible. The singalong Ol 55 was just something I wanted to do because it’s such a cool wrap up for my visit to England, I booked the session on January 3rd and I left England on the 5th from a four month tour it just felt like a good song to leave to.
Can you tell us about the recording process because it sounds so professional but you recorded it in such a short space of time, did you guys just have fun with it and see what stuck or was it quite clinical?
Obviously we had a timeline and conducting the players and producing and making sure we didn’t go over our studio time which we did go over a little bit but it was definitely scheduled. It was a last minute decision to be in the studio and actually do it so I put together a list of who was actually going to play on each song, I stayed up all night long and really mapped it out for each player. These are the songs we’re going to do, we’re doing two to three takes then we’re moving on. I think one of the keys to the record sounding the way it is, well three keys, the players - the love of playing together and everyone was getting excited but it was very serious to be honest. When you get in there you’re pressuring yourself like oh s*** I’m at Abbey Road I’ve got to make this amazing so shaking off the heebie-jeebies is one trick. Mitch Dane who mixed the record back in Nashville, he’s one of my favourite people to work with because he listens so well and offers great ideas so I immediately knew I was going to have Mitch mix the record. Chris Bolster at Abbey Road did the engineering, the way they mic up that place… he just did it effortlessly, he could have done it in his sleep. It’s such a legendary room.
We’ve seen you play three times at Black Deer and a few times you’ve said I don’t know what I’m going to do next. Do you still get nervous performing or does it just come naturally because you’ve been doing it so long?
I get nervous every single time, it’s more of the build up to the stage, right before I go on stage it goes away because it’s time to go and I fade into this other place. The build up is where I get nervous. Even today I was thinking the one time in my life where I feel like I fit into the World and that I’m ok is in those moments and I think right now this is where I belong. In my life I’ve had such an odd past and it needs to be known that I’ve never felt like I fitted in not here with the boys, not here with the girls, the different status quo, one families rich, middle class, poor, I didn’t fit into any of that and I feel that with my music too. This morning when I was getting ready I was thinking about this, I don’t really fit into anywhere and I wonder if everybody feels that way, that we don’t belong somewhere but we belong right where we don’t belong. I don’t know if that makes sense but we are the missing puzzle piece to this puzzle that is the World.
What’s next for you?
I’m going to get back to Nashville, I’ve got a CD release party on July 26th with Daphne Willis and Priscilla Renea, check out their music they’re two of my best friends and two of my favourite artists, I’m not being biased. Then I think I’m going to keep writing and start work on the next record, I want to get this side project Rob the Man geared up and get that out pretty soon and hopefully be back in the UK in the fall or winter.
If you haven't already got yourself a copy of the new record make sure you check it out on iTunes, amazon and Spotify and we'll keep you updated with any further tour dates Sonia announces on this side of the pond!