Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Nashville based singer/songwriter Sonia Leigh is getting ready to release her eagerly anticipated studio album, Mad Hatter.
In recent months Sonia Leigh has been winning over a whole raft of new fans (or her Fam ‘O’ Leigh as she affectionately puts it) during an extensive UK tour. Throughout this time Leigh has showcased her talents in the capital during Country Music Week, as well as hitting the road with the likes of Broken Witt Rebels, Joanne Shaw Taylor and British country star Katy Hurt and The Healers. The latter of which also backed Sonia throughout the tour.
National Rock Review recently caught up with Sonia Leigh whilst in the UK to talk about her new album Mad Hatter, her musical growth and the British country scene.
NRR: You’ve got a new album coming out called Mad Hatter, could you tell us a little bit about the album and the inspiration behind it?
Sonia: Well basically this is my first attempt at producing. I started kind of like in my bedroom making tracks and working with Logic Pro to just learn a little bit more about producing and engineering so that when I was in the studio I could have a little bit more knowledge of how to communicate with my producer. Also, it’s been a really creative outlet for me to grow as a writer in so many different directions from hip-hop to rock to funk to you know country, whatever rock n roll, pop. So it’s definitely given me a lot of freedom to experiment with my artistry.
So when I started going into the studio and talking to different producers I was playing them these tracks and they were really loving what I was doing. Basically, all I needed was just a little bit of help getting them from point A to point B. So I collaborated with a couple of different producers on this record and just added on to what I was doing on most of the tracks.
On top of that, it’s been such a healing record for me, because I went through kind of a really bad break up. So I kind of wrote those from rock bottom back up to the light. To be fair and 100% vulnerably honest with you, it got me through a lot. On top of that, I got to really learn a lot and expand my style.
NRR: In terms of your musical style, listening to the album your sound has evolved somewhat, it’s definitely a lot broader than country. It’s got elements of pop and rock and all different kinds of things. So was that a conscious decision to kind of incorporate all of those different sounds or did it just happen organically?
Sonia: It really kind of happened organically. I try to write for the song and just experimenting with things that hit home for me that made me feel the music. I’ve been in country music for a while and I think that what this has done for me is given me such a fresh, exciting perspective on how to create. So you are going to hear a lot of like samples and things, but some things I did myself in my room.
I collaborated with Mitch Dane, and some of the guys from Drake – two producers from his camp Jazz Feezy and Scena did “Mind on the Prize” with me along with Frank Romano who has done a lot of pop stuff… Then I did some different stuff with Mikal Blue out in L.A. who has worked with Celine Dion and Mariah Carey. I’m not trying to name drop, I’m just trying to say I got to work with some people that are outside of the country genre that let me kind of spread my wings. I’ve always been a very forward writer, thinker and musician, it’s good to step outside of the mundane setup, for me it’s fun.
NRR: This album, it shows the evolution of your sound and your musical growth. I just wondered to what extent do you feel that you have to keep on pushing your own creative boundaries?
Sonia: Honestly like I said, I just want to be true to each song. It doesn’t mean that I won’t ever make another country record, I think that I’ve got a rock n roll record in me. I don’t think that I could be shoved into one genre because I would just probably get very bored. So I don’t know, I don’t know how far to go.
NRR: You’ve recently released a new single from Mad Hatter which is “Walking In The Moonlight”. I just wondered if you could tell us a bit about that song and the story behind it?
Sonia: Well the thing about this particular song is that it’s probably the most pop song on the record. I started the track in my room, just honestly and innocently trying to learn how to find my way around Logic Pro. I started with the beats and things and just kind of swung the mic around (sings a bit). It just kind of reminded me a little bit of Lorde and kind of like Japanimation type sounds that you would hear. But I also am very, very linked with the moon, I often times climb up on top of my roof back in Nashville and just sit and have a little wine and just kind of look up at the sky. I wanted to put this out before the end of the summer and fall to get us out of this harvest moon season. There were so many full moons and then the solar eclipse happened so it just felt like the right time to do that.
NRR: I just wanted to talk to you about the country scene in general in the UK because there’s been a real groundswell in country music here right now, especially with festivals like C2C and Country Music Week, we are seeing all of these big and also emerging artists from the States performing on this side of the pond. Have you been surprised by the growth and popularity of country music in the UK?
Sonia: Not at all, I started coming over here and started doing things when people in America didn’t think there was a scene here. I would go back home and I would call my friend who runs CMT television back in Nashville and tell them that there’s something going on over there, like I know that country music is blowing up – I knew it, I felt it, I saw it happen with C2C the first year and what not.
I think that people are definitely zoning in now, you can see how all of the artists are starting to come here and see the growth. I think that people are seeing that country music isn’t as traditional as it used to be and I think that the country music scene here originally kind of thought that that was what it was about. They didn’t see how much it had progressed. I think that now it has become popular because maybe it’s not as traditional, it’s becoming cooler with the younger audience.
Mad Hatter by Sonia Leigh will be released on 12th January 2018. You can also pre-order the album today via iTunes.
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Header photo: Anna Webber