Heed Exclusive: Avery*Sunshine Invites Us into “The SunRoom”
There’s just something about Avery*Sunshine. Her name will capture your attention, her warm personality will make her a friend in your head, but its her big, soulful voice that will definitely make you a fan. With deep gospel roots, no one is more surprised than the singer/songwriter, born Denise White, at the path her life has taken. “I never thought I’d be doing this” she admits. “I knew that I’d be doing something in music, just not as an artist.”
Hailing from Chester, PA, Avery*Sunshine, a trained pianist since the age of 7, honed her skills in church, acting as musical director and singing with various choirs. Stepping out as a performer was something that she never pictured herself doing. “I really did not think my voice was special enough to be an artist. I grew up listening to Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross, people whose gifts were amazing, and I thought, if that’s what it means to be an artist, then I don’t have that.” It wasn’t until she met songwriter/producer/classically-trained guitarist Dana Johnson did she feel confident enough to step out on her own. Johnson, who has worked with many notable acts, including soul artists India Arie, initially met Avery as a part of duo, DaisyRew, with Maia Nkenge Wilson. “We worked at the same church, and one night they played and sang some songs and I was just blown away.” Upon the departure of Wilson, Avery partnered with Johnson and continued to record what would eventually become her debut album. “We kinda pivoted back and forth on whether it would be a gospel record, would it be an R&B record,” explains Johnson, “eventually we just said we’re going to do stuff that we like.” In 2010 Avery independently released her self-titled debut album, an ear catching gumbo of gospel, jazz, and soul, which garnered hits such as “Ugly Side of Me” and “All in my Head”.
Four years later and after having shared stages with some of the most recognizable voices in the industry today, including Ledisi, Rachelle Ferrelle, Kem and Musiq Soulchild, Avery is fresh off the release of her sophomore album, entitled the ‘The SunRoom’. The twelve track LP, with the first single, “Call My Name” leading the way, finds Avery unabashedly singing to listeners about love, family, life and God over her piano laced tracks. A beautiful, feel good record with a hint of a retro vibe, ‘The SunRoom’ delivers exactly what fans have come to expect from Avery and her right hand man. Without much pretense the two went about recording the same way they did the first time around. Revealing that most of the album was written on the road, in hotel rooms around the country, backstage at shows and even church, the formula was once again simply to create meaningful, relatable and passionate music. “My phone’s been vibrating every time we get a tweet. It’s been crazy! I can’t believe the response” gushes Avery. “Yolanda Adams sent a tweet. Liz Warfield sent a tweet. PJ Morton tweeted. Countless fans who cared enough to tweet. It’s huge and we are both just grateful.”
With many questioning the sustainability and relevance of the R&B/Soul genre, Avery is quick to point out that relevancy is not something she ponders about when headed into the studio. “I don’t think about staying relevant because that would drive me crazy as an artist. I let my partner think about that.” Foregoing any gimmicks, the duo is set out to make art, music that speaks to them first and hopefully connects with listeners. “So many of us are missing the mark trying to be what we think music needs us to be rather than just being. I truly believe that if you’re true to yourself it’ll speak to somebody.”
The journey that Avery and Johnson have both undertaken has forged some lessons not just about the music industry but life in general. “The hardest part about doing anything is stepping out and doing it. If you have a concept or an idea about something, you don’t have to wait until you have the perfect situation,” Johnson advises, “just do it, make sure you’re passionate and spend time doing it.” With two albums under her belt, a perpetual tour which has allowed fans across the world to experience her thunderous voice and ivory stroking up close and personal, Avery remind us that doing what you love is rewarding in and of itself. “I would not trade this for the world. Doing what you love, to me, is one of the easiest and most satisfying things. When you’ve been called to something, the path is laid out, you just have to be obedient.”
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