Atlanta-based artist Sonia Leigh is a master storyteller, whose truly-American songs are about the struggles and joy of daily life. Her sound melds classic country with rock and blues, and even sometimes has a thick, funky swing.
Having been playing guitar since she was ten, Leigh left home at 17 with only a trash bag of clothes, her guitar, and fifty dollars. Her first album was 1998's Remember Me, and her latest, 1978 December, came out in September on Southern Ground, the label of popular country artist Zac Brown. Ahead of her show tomorrow night, January 18, at Whisky a Go Go, we spoke with her about her success, and about country music in L.A.
How has your first album with Southern Ground been different from your others?
The magnitude of the collaboration with Zac Brown and everyone associated with Southern Ground Records has allowed me a safe place to showcase who I am as an artist.
Were there any particular influences you hoped really come through on the work?
I hoped to show my love and influence of the late Sean Costello on “I Just Might.” He inspired me in everything blues. I also pinched a little from my admiration of Jackson Browne and even requested a slide type solo in the name of the great David Lindley on “Ain't Dead Yet.” I had that melody note for note in my head when I wrote the song . I had to have it exactly that way on the record.
Some folks may not be aware of L.A.'s country music scene, though we have a great one. Are there any artists you particularly admire or would like to see in the crowd?
I have always met amazing writers and artists in L.A., so many giving and helpful people when I have played and visited. I love L.A.! I would love to see Brian Wright, Sally Jaye, Jay Nash, and Tim Acres. Also Meiko who is a good friend of mine. Maybe I can get them all to do a song with me.
Richard Lewis and his wife made it out last time we played The Whisky and I love those two to death! If Jackson Browne came out that would make my head spin for sure! Also, well it's a no brainier, Slash. I just read his book and really respect him as an artist and a survivor of the musician's life. Dawn Thomas who is an amazing writer and singer.
Where else in L.A. have you played?
I have been honored to play quite a few spots in LA in the past, places like Room Five, The Hard Rock Cafe, Hotel Cafe, The Gibson Theater and Zoey's Cafe in Ventura Beach. I love this place and the owners. They named a sandwich after one of my songs! In addition, I actually played on a music yacht called “The Three Hour Tour” with Katy Perry and other LA artists just months before she shot to stardom. I remember hanging with her and her father the whole time. We just hit it off. She was pretty cool.
Are there any observations about Los Angeles in your songs?
“Ain't Dead Yet” is all about California. I have always written about California, even before I ever came here. I was a Southern east coast writer dreaming about California when I was 13 years old. Go figure!