The Verse’s Autumn Micketti interviewed Sonny and reviewed his gig at the Prince Albert on Saturday 23rd February 2019.
At first glance, Sonny looks as if he’s part of the greaser gangs that populated American high schools in the 1950s. With his hair slicked back, cuffed blue jeans, and a black t-shirt it would not be surprising if he broke out into a rendition of You’re the One That I Want. However, Sonny has a secret weapon, soul. Imagine taking Ed Sheeran and adding some soul food, that’s where you’ll find Sonny, and I won’t be surprised if you’ll be seeing him headlining major festivals in the next few years. At just 19-years-old, Sonny is a force to be reckoned with.
On Saturday the 23rd, Sonny played at the Prince Albert with the support of two groups from the Brighton Music Society. Before the show, Sonny and I chatted about his new single Sweet Dreams, his family life, and what the future holds for him.
The Verse: What did your family listen to while you were growing up?
Sonny: My dad was a singer as well, and he was in a band and he loved acoustic music like Jack Johnson and Paolo Nutini. My mum listens to Stevie Wonder and a lot of soul music. So, it’s like…I am kind of merged into the two really. I love the acoustic music, but I am like quite soulful in the vocals, I think. That’s like my favourite artist, Stevie Wonder if I had to choose. I’ve just got the two different types of genres and they’ve come together, I think. And I’ve learned a lot from me dad. The whole family plays instruments and stuff, to be honest, I’ve got quite a musical family.
V: Do you think that’s helped you get to the place you are today?
S: 100%, I’ve got such a good family. They support everything I do, and me grandparents are so proud, bless them. I have got a really good family, I’m lucky in that respect.
V: Sweet Dreams is doing really well on Spotify currently can you tell me what the writing process was like?
S: I was literally in my bedroom and I writing a totally different song, to be honest, and it wasn’t coming out, and then [Sweet Dreams] literally just came out. And I had had a dream the night before thinking of someone who I was within the past and it literally just spilt out, I didn’t even mean to write that then it just happened. That’s how you know it’s usually a good song cause it just comes naturally and you don’t have to think about it too much. I do love that song though, and it’s personal as well you know.
V: I was listening to it earlier today and first I was like this is a beautiful love song and then I was listening to it again and wasn’t really sure if it was a love song anymore honestly, because I was like oh is this about someone who’s passed away
S: Well it sort of is as well, cause like my mum’s brother passed away a few years ago and like me mum would say “I’d see someone out on the street that looks like him and it would bring back so many memories.” She’d have dreams about him, and she wouldn’t want to wake up cause she loved being in the dream and seeing him again. So, I started writing it about an ex of mine, but then like halfway through I was like oh this could actually be about two different things. So, I tried to make it not so in your face about what it’s about and let people interpret it the way they want to, you know what I mean?
V: Right right, that’s cool though because it’s not in your face like you said, it is a love song, but it could be interpreted as a different type of love.
S: Exactly, exactly
V: Well congrats on the success of Sweet Dreams, what have you been up to since then?
S: Oh thanks! Yah it’s doing really well on Spotify, so I’m really happy. And I’m just gigging all the time, I live in Newcastle, so I travelled down yesterday on the train, so I basically live on the train now, but it’s worth it you know? Cause I still love living in Newcastle with my mom, and it’s a lovely hometown. But, aye, so I’m gigging today, gigging on Monday, so I’m keeping busy. I’m happy you know.
V: Are you going to be doing any work on an album in the future?
S: I think that’s next on the list if I’m honest. I want to get this EP out, and then I think I’m just gonna write like 50 songs and then choose like 10, and I really want to put me everything into an album. Cause I’ve done a few Eps now, and I think it’s just time. I’m at that point where I’m like right let’s do a body of work rather than a couple of songs. That’s an exciting thought though I’m really looking forward to doing an album.
V: You have two Eps out now correct?
S: There’s two Eps out, but there’s a third one on its way. Sweet Dreams is the first song off the 3rd EP. So, there’s another like 3 songs coming on the 3rd EP.
V: When are those going to be coming out?
S: Um the next one is coming…very soon that’s all I’m gonna say! I will announce it probably in the next couple of weeks. But this is the main single of the EP. I’m dead excited for this one!
V: Do you think you’ll use only new material for your album or re-release some of your older songs?
S: I do think a lot of the first EP didn’t get enough credit it deserved because there’s some really good tunes on there like Princess. That was the first single, and that one obviously went the biggest out of them all, but I do think it’s all going to be new material. I’ve heard them songs many a time and they’ve been out there for two years or something, so I think I’m just gonna sit down and really focus on writing a good body of work. I feel confident about it as well, it’s really exciting. I’ve never done anything like that before.
V: So, when you are writing do you have an instrument that you go to first?
S: Definitely use guitar the most, but it is good to mix it up a bit cause there’s only so many sounds you can get out of a guitar. I’ve wrote the majority of the songs on guitar but one of my managers is a really good pianist so sometimes we’ll just go in the studio and he’ll just play some chords and then you get more inspiration because it’s a different instrument that you don’t hear as much. It’s good to get inspiration from different places.
V: You play other instruments as well, do you have any that you’re excited to use in the future?
S: Definitely piano. I’m not great on the piano but I can get by and love playing it. I’d obviously have to practice a bit more. I’d love to do bass guitar, and on this album, I wanna play all the instruments, and I really want to be involved in the production of it.
V: How old were you when you wrote your first song?
S: I started singing when I was like really young, but obviously writing’s a bit more advanced. I think probably about 12 or 13. But these songs are rubbish, the lyrics would be so terrible, but you gotta make a start at some point. And then I met me managers who live in London and I started coming down here, and they are great writers as well, so they sort of developed my writing skills, and the rest is history.
V: Were your first songs kinda similar to what you write about now, like were they still about love and relationships?
S: I think so. Well, when I first started writing it would be about just some girl I fancied in school or something. But you are right I do write a lot about love. I’m gonna try to write a little less about love cause there’s a lot more going on in the world. But I do tend to write about my relationships cause we’ve all got problems and that I find it best to write about because it’s what I’m going through.
V: For sure. Well, I also feel like there can never be too many love songs in the world. I don’t think anyone should stop writing love songs.
S: Yeah, and it would be good to write something about what’s going on in the world
V: Tell me about your live shows? Tonight, is it just going to be you, or do you have a band?
S: Tonight, it’s just me. Usually, I’ve got a band from London, and I played with them a few weeks ago at this place called the Sequence Sessions which is in London. All of my headline gigs I’ve got the band, because some of the songs are really quite band-y, and I’ll do a couple of songs on me own, but the majority of the gig would be with the band. I love playing with the band, but I like playing solo as well. I’ll do either, to be honest, it just depends on the gig really.
The show at Prince Albert was lively and packed with supportive friends and fans. The lineup began with Brighton student Ahmad Kharouf who wowed the crowd with soulful, acoustic covers of popular songs. Followed by Destructible Environment, a duo comprising of Ian Rees and Rob Scholes, two University of Brighton students. The two created hip-hop mashups with electric guitar, loops, and beatboxing. The duet did several covers as well as a few original pieces.
Sonny took the stage at 9 pm and played a mixture of covers and original songs. I was impressed to hear people yelling out requests for his original work and blown away by his ability to work with the crowd. Even with his growing success, Sonny is approachable and kind to everyone. This man is overflowing with talent, and that crowd should count themselves lucky to see Sonny in such an intimate setting. I doubt many of us will ever have that experience again as he’ll most likely be headlining major festivals in the future.