This year in May Sonya Kitchell could be experienced in a few German cities as opener for pop musician Joe Jackson. Before that she had shared the stage with Tuck & Pattie or Shawn Colvin. All the same the artist we're currently talking about is no older than 18 years. However, this American singer sounds much older and much more seasoned than her young age implies...
Sonya Kitchell composes her own repertoire, writes the lyrics and of course sings and plays the guitar. Her songs that deal in a fresh way with the all-important facts of life could make her the biggest discovery in the singer-songwriter scene this summer.
Carina Prange talked to Sonya Kitchell in Berlin.
Carina: Like Joss Stone, you were involved into music and the music business at a very young age. A citation about you says, "Kitchell is an old soul who just happens to be 18 years old". Does it feel strange to be described like this? Why do you think do people attest you an 'old soul'? Did you have that life full of the necessary deep impressions and experiences one should expect by this description?
Sonya: All I can say is that I have often had that feeling of experiencing something before or finding something familiar, that could not possibly be. Or thinking that I understand something, I could not possibly understand. This may be what people attach the 'old soul' saying to. But I cannot deny that I would write love songs as a 12 year old, that I had no business writing and could not possibly relate too, but felt so intensely that I was able to write songs about them. I don't know. My life has been rich thus far, and not so hard, but it's only begun.
Carina: You say, that "my whole life I've been a sponge for everything around me." To soak something up that others have done or thought is something different compared to making one's own experiences, going out into the world and living one's own life. Or isn't it?
Sonya: I believe they are all one in the same and in songs they all come out somehow! When I'm writing a song about someone else, I end up putting my own soul up for display, and vice versa. The point of the statement is that life intrigues and amazes me at every turn.
I find inspiration in other people's stories as well as my own, just like the light falling on a building can trigger an epiphany. Or like listening to someone's footsteps can remind you of a stone corridor. It all pulls at different parts of the imagination.
Carina: So what about your dreams and wishes, what do you want to do in the near future?
Sonya: I want to be a musician. A good one... and content.
Carina: To write your own songs, to write the lyrics in a poetic way. What does that mean to you? Is it comparable in a way to writing a diary and at the same time to write down what your fantasy is about?
Sonya: Songs are very different then diary entries for me. I write all the time. I can write and write in my journal, and not write one song, because songs only come when I'm nearing a conclusion... Or at least they help me get there! In a journal entry I can complain, muse and mope as much as I want but songs have to be concise, to the point, and mean something to you or do something for someone. A diary is an outlet and songs have to have a little more, I think. Songs need to trigger something, diaries are the thoughts after and before.
Carina: To grow up in a very creative home without television and lots of nature arounddid that help your own creativity to develop?
Carina: Sheila Jordan and Rebecca Paris have been your teachers in singing and voice-training. What did they give you on the way for your musical and personal life? Are you besides that generally self-taught in singing?
Sonya: They gave me encouragement, and through that, confidence. Besides teaching me how to phrase and sing a song like it was a letter, and everything else they taught me... they really just made me believe that I could do it! Which is the best thing a teacher at that point in my life could've done. I've had a lot of teachers, because as you mentioned before, I try to be a sponge and take in everything I possibly can. My teachers are really important to me.
Carina: And when did you start to play the guitar in addition to the piano?
Sonya: When I was 12.
Carina: You write lyrics about themes that are interesting for young people as well as for adults. To write something that is in a way "mass-compatible"how do you do that? Are there general emotions and feelings that we all share as human beings?
Sonya: Yes. Human emotions are universal... so as long as you're writing a song and being true, someone should be able to relate to it.
Carina: You once mentioned you would like to be more politically activeyour next album, will there be songs that relate to that?
Sonya: Most definitely. I would say a good portion of the songs will at least have some kind of political, questioning undertone.
Carina: To write lyrics that are lively and spiriteddoes one have to be a good observer concerning the people around you? Or do you just have to look inside yourself?
Sonya: Both. You just have to pay attention to something and feel strongly enough about it to write.
Carina: And besides all that, how much time do you have for going to school or studying at a university? How much time is left to share with your friends and for other things to do in your spare-timebesides music?
Sonya: I graduated High School early and I'm not enrolled in a College yet. Time for my friends? Well, there's not to much of that right now! But I make a lot of phone calls, and when I'm home I spend every second I can in the company of people of love.
Carina: You wanted to learn to play the cello some time in the near futuredid you start already?
Sonya: I have two waiting in my room back home. One is mine...
Carina: To come back to your new album: what are the stories behind the following songs? "No Matter What", "Tinted Glass" and "Words"?
Sonya: People. Mistakes. Figuring things out.
Carina: Does the song "Let Me Go" feel more like an act of deliverance or does it have a feel of melancholy, too?
Sonya: It feels like a song I've been singing for a while that's not about the same thing anymore, but I can relate it to other things, because that's how the songs go... they change and develop and I understand them more and in different ways as I do my own growing.
Carina: Your idol for a long time was Joni Mitchell and one of your favorite artists was Richie Havens.You have been part of the Carnegie Hall-Tribute concert for Joni Mitchellhow did that feel to be part of that event?
Sonya: It was an incredible honor.
Carina: Is having idols dangerous for an artist or is it an inspiration? Are there other artists you admire as well?
Sonya: I admire so many people and I would say it's both encouraging and discouraging but mostly it spurs you on. I love to see live music and go to other shows... see what other people are doing. How can I be better? There are always so many ways in which to grow, it can be a bit daunting, but at the end of the day that's what keeps you going
CD: Sonya Kitchell - "Words Came Back To Me" (Velour Music/Emarcy vel-0501)
Sonya Kitchell im Internet: www.sonyakitchell.com
Velour Music im Internet: www.velourmusic.com