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A Few Quick Questions With Sonia Leigh

Our Country

Zac Brown is no slacker when it comes to championing awesome musical talent, and the latest release from his Southern Ground Artists label--Sonia Leigh's 1978 December--is as good proof as any.

Leigh, who is about far from your average cookie-cutter glam female country artist as you can get, exudes an extraordinary raw charm just from her straightforward (almost punk) image and deep, smoky-smooth vocals. However, there's way more to the girl than just how she looks and sounds. She's a self-made and very self-determined musician who left home at 17 to find her fortune, writing all her own music along the way. Her new album, in fact, is largely self-written except for some cowriting from Brown on a couple of tracks.

If you haven't heard of Leigh yet, Brown himself has a mission to spread the word about her--the star took to his website on Tuesday to blog solely about Leigh's undeniable talent and charisma. "When I first saw Sonia Leigh perform, I knew she was a star," he stated. "I, for one, am more excited for you to hear this than anything else I have been a part of in my music career so far."

Them's some pretty big words from Mr. ZB, right? I had the opportunity to ask Leigh a few questions about her songwriting techniques, opinions on women in country music today, and what it's like hanging with the boys at Southern Ground. Enjoy getting to know her better!

Our Country: The Southern Ground roster is composed of artists that defy categorization. You yourself draw from a variety of genres. If you had to do only one genre for the rest of your life--rock, country, blues--and be completely purist about it, which would you choose and why?

Sonia Leigh: I think no matter what box you want to put music into, at the end of the day it is its own genre box called music. It depletes the very nature of its birth to conform it to one type of sound. Therefore choosing one genre would be limiting my freedom of expression. As a writer, I would never not write what needs to be written because it does not fit into a "genre." So I guess that means I can't answer this question!

OC: Southern Ground is a male-heavy roster; you've been hanging with the boys for quite a few years now. What do you think is the greatest challenge about being a female artist in this situation? Greatest advantage?

SL: The greatest challenge is that it takes me longer to get ready for shows. Guys can go days without a shower, roll out of bed, throw on a t-shirt and still look dead sexy. As women, we need a minute to pull it together! The advantage is that people are more willing to help us carry our things around (laughs).

OC: You are fan of classic country women such as Loretta Lynn. How do you feel about how women are portrayed in country music today?

SL: Loretta Lynn kept it real, that is why everyone felt like they were a part of her family. She talks to the audience just like she would if you were sitting at her dinner table. She's very open and not afraid of her own flaws and has a sense of humor about herself. Today's women seem to feel the need to be perfect, sexy, and walk the same line as the next girl. I definitely don't buy into that mess, but the pressures are there nonetheless.

OC: What is your songwriting process--do you get a melody first, or do you come up with a lyrical story?

SL: Songs pop up at random moments. Sometimes it's not very convenient moments, such as when I'm just about to fall asleep and nope--have to get up and write this tune or I'm not going to get a wink at all. Sometimes I'll be strumming the guitar and think, "Hey that's beautiful!" and start in with some lyrics. Other times it just comes out all at once!

OC: You have been playing guitar since you were a little kid. Do you play other instruments besides guitar?

SL: I play a little on the drums and hope to become a better drummer one day. I also play some bass and piano. I'm looking to tweak those skills as well!

OC: You also have been writing songs since you were really young. Do you remember what your earliest songs were about, lyrically? Can you talk about any of your first songs that particularly stand out in your mind?

SL: I once wrote a song about saving the wolves when I was 13. When I was 11 I wrote a song about a little girl whose daddy was in Desert Storm. I also wrote a song about how our earth and natural resources were depleting, around 11 or 12. I wrote a lot about lost love as well. I must have been a hippie child.

OC: Who would be your dream duet partner--any genre, living or dead?

SL: Bruce Springsteen or Beth Hart.

OC: What's your personal favorite song on your new album and why? Which song would you say the person closest to you likes best?

SL: My favorite is "Ain't Dead Yet" because it inspires a spirit of hope and motivation. I also love the production that hints to my Jackson Browne influences. My parents really like "I Just Might." It has such a beautiful Percy Sledge feel to it. I am extremely proud of that track. The guitar solos rip your guts right out. That's the kind of solo you can cry from the pit of your pain to. I say, mission accomplished.

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