Pop singer/songwriter, Sonnet, has had an eclectic and colorful life. Born in Greece, she lived like a gypsy with her family, moving from Switzerland to India and everywhere in between while she was growing up, making for an artist that has the ability to pull inspiration from a myriad of different places and life experiences. Now, she finds herself in Los Angeles, sharing her music and her dynamic personality with the good people of Southern California. You might recognize her distinct voice from the Overstock commercials “O is the One” or the song she did for the Coca-Cola/Lagoon Park campaign “You’re So Good To Me,” two huge accomplishment for this rising star with a stellar voice. On her self-tilted debut EP “Sonnet” her music is distinctly pop, infused with witty lyrical stories and groove enticing beats that inspire the listener to get up on their feet, all while her voice rises and falls over each of her melodies with precision and affection. Last Thursday (June 27th), she took the stage at The Hotel Cafe for an intimate and unconventional show, which I was lucky enough to attend and have an opportunity to interview her before hand.
On stage, it’s a completely different experience than listening to her record. The synths and atmospheric production on songs like “Half Your Heart” fade away for a full band, full bodied experience that is absolutely stunning to witness. With a stand-up base and precise drums filling in the spaces between her incredibly gifted vocals, you can see that she has complete command and understanding of each piece of music, that it is undeniably hers to mold and hand to her audience in exactly the way she wants it heard. A student of Jazz and Opera growing up, she has a beautiful amount of control over her voice, and it bends and moves with emotion in a way that so few young vocalists can achieve.
Her energy radiates out into the audience, especially on the beat infused song “Girls” where she had everyone in the room moving to the wild beat of the drum, and the smile on her face forced each of us to smile right along with her no matter what our mood might have been. She gives herself over willingly to the audience, with out it feeling like she’s trying to do so, it’s just an absolutely natural energy that she possesses. She is someone who clearly wants to share the ups-and-downs of each musical journey with any soul willing to listen. The best part of the night came when the full band left the stage and she sat with just her voice and her piano, turning a beautiful acoustic song called “What If” into an intimate conversation with the audience. The entire room went silent as soon as the chorus hit, a surefire sign that the room as a whole was captivated by her energy, words, and talent. From there, she shared some beautifully, half-written songs with us on a complete whim. A stunning and emotional song about being tired of the struggle but still hopeful of figuring it all out in the end. It all felt like a window into what she was experience in that very moment, wanting so much to share it with the rest of us in hopes that we’d understand. And I think it’s safe to say that many of us did.
Sonnet can go from fun, up-beat songs, to truthful and authentic piano-based ballads in the blink of an eye, and she owns each and every twist and turn of the music. Even at her pop-iest she remains true to herself, highlighting relationships and heartbreak while keeping things positive and hopeful. Follow Sonnet at @SonnetMusic on Twitter and check out her website for tracks like “Half Your Heart,” “What If,” and “Girls.” Keep reading for our exclusive interview!
It wasn’t something that drew me to it, I was just born doing it, I was always singing. I never really knew anything else. There wasn’t any kind of outside influence on me that made me start doing it.
What was your first experience performing where you really remember connecting with it?
I think it was when I was around three, making up songs, I’d go to school and that would be my show and tell. That would be what I would show and tell, all my new songs. That’s probably when I first started being like, “I like to sing, that’s what I’m going to do!” Everything was just always based around music for me, as long as I can remember.
You grew up in a lot of different places; Greece, Switzerland, and India just to name a few. Do you feel that your travels and your experiences in other places have had an affect on your music?
Not directly, it hasn’t. I would like to have different worldly influences in the music that I write. But indirectly, it’s made me more aware of the world and a little more introspective. And maybe, a little more… crazy. (laughs) I had a weird upbringing, so it colors me in a lot of different ways, it adds to me being an artist and the expression itself.
How old were you when you really got into songwriting? When you really first sat down and started.
I really tried to dabble in it all through college, but it was about five years ago that I started saying I was going to write my own songs. I studied opera, I studied jazz, and I didn’t want someone else to write my music. I never considered myself a songwriter, it was only when I started sitting down to do it, that it all came together.
Did you start writing with other people or was it something that you did on your own?
I was just on my own. I kind of made a challenge for myself. At first, I didn’t even want to share any of it, I just wanted to see if I could do it. I thought it was all terrible and I didn’t think any of it was good. But I shared one song one time, and it sort of passed through different hands, and from them on I felt better about sharing my music. But it’s amazing to see that now, I don’t have any problem sharing, it either sucks or it doesn’t but I don’t care. And when you first start writing, you think it all sucks. It’s just part of the growth and developing your craft.
You studied jazz and opera in college. Compared to other pop music out there right now, your music is so eccentric, what made you pull away from those genres and go more pop?
I’m just constantly trying to find my sound. What aligns with me. I did Opera because it was accessibly. You know, you’re supposed to study classical if you want to be a singer. But it never resonated with me. In school, I didn’t fit in. I got into UCLA on a scholarship for Opera and I felt really out of place. I was the girl that showed up in no make-up, and everyone was in heels and make-up and all dressed up. I like to dress up but not for school. And then I moved into jazz but that has it’s confines, too, you know? You’re still singing something that has already been created. But I think all of those things have formed who I am now as an artist, it just wasn’t enough, it wasn’t the end of the road for me when it came to finding my sound.
I’ve listened to the EP “Sonnet” and a lot of the topic’s on it are about love and men and relationships. Do you feel that’s what inspires you the most when you sit down to write? What really drives you to pick up a pen and write?
I think with that EP I was trying to keep a congruent theme through it. What motivates me to write is different every time and, you know how we each individually process what we’re going through, I sit down at a piano and think about it. How do I get this from inside to outside so I don’t have to be tortured by this feeling? They’re not always happy songs because it’s a lot of trying to make sense of what’s happening internally and putting that into a song. It’s not just love and relationships, recently it’s been a lot of inner work and excavating and trying to understand what we’re doing in this world. It has been less about love lately and more about “what the fuuuck.” (laughs) But maybe when I fall in love it will be about love again!
As far as your music goes, what artists have inspired you?
I grew up listening to Ani Difranco. Her lyrics and her truth is just really inspiring. I like her perspective on life, she doesn’t take things too seriously, yet she also isn’t afraid. I think that fearlessness is something that is so inspiring. It’s something that I wish I could have in everything I do. I aspire for that, but it doesn’t just come naturally. I grew up listening to Joni Mitchell, another artist that speaks from her heart. Popular artists I have fun singing along and I’m inspired by new sounds they incorporate into their music, but in terms of who has inspired me as a person and the way I want to maneuver myself in the world, it’s those two.
I find that your music is really positive. Do you feel it’s important to you to put a positive spin on things or is that more just your personality coming through?
I think it’s a natural thing for me. I think it’s kind of bittersweet. I’m just not a super dark person. I feel like I can see the darkness but I can also understand that there’s a balance. It’s just the irony in life, not done on purpose, I just naturally point out both sides of a situation.
You’ve had some big accomplishes already. Like the Overstock Commercial and the Coke commercial, and some placements on TV. What are some other goals that you have for your career?
I would like to have record number two come out. I would like to go on tour opening for a really big act, someone whose music I really like, and travel the world with them. And then, of course, do my own tour! Placements… I would love to continue to place things and to also, you know, write for other artists. That’s something that kind of inspires me and I find interesting because I get to use a different muse for that.
Have you written for other artists before?
Not really, I write for placements and it’s not going to be on my record, but never for another artist. Yet!
You perform a lot in the Los Angeles area, it seems like it’s important to you, so when you’re performing what’s the most important thing you want your audience to take away from your show?
I think every time I perform I kind of hone in on that a little bit more. You start out being like, I just want to pour it out there and see what sticks, and then as you go on you can kind of mold it a little bit more. You see how you can be of service to your audience and what they can take away from you at the end of the show. I think the more honest I am up there the more people relate. So I want to give people the permission to feel human and to feel a part of this community. That we’re all in this together, to walk away feeling a little less low, a little more inspired about life. I would like them to just feel… happy, you know? But I don’t know if that really works, I’m trying to figure that out, can I give them joy?? (laughs) When I go to shows that really hit my core I feel really refueled, you know? I want to do that.
What shows have you been to where you’ve felt that?
Ani Defranco shows, where you hang on every word. She’s not necessarily putting on a show-show. I used to think I wanted to put on more like a… Britney Spears show-show and I think what I realized draws me in, is I like to hang on every word. I like to go through the journey of the artist and relate my own story to their story. So I guess in terms of that, that’s how I want my show to be. Maybe it didn’t used to be more about connection, that’s kind of how it’s shaping out to be.
You said you’re writing a lot. What’s up next for you?
Record number two is what’s next for me. I would like to go on tour, but we’ll just see how that unfolds. I just keep writing, so I feel like I have to catalog the chapters of my life. As I’m going through this one I have to get it on the record so I can get to the next chapter. Also, to just continue to write not just for me, but for other people, so I can establish myself as more of a songwriter. It’s something I can do from anywhere and that I really enjoy doing.
As far as what you’re writing now, you said it’s a little bit different from your first EP… What are some of the things you’re grappling with in the new music?
I think I’m trying to challenge myself to be a little more honest. I’ve been on this journey of “why are you even doing all of this?” and it’s not an easy journey. But, it’s something that really speaks to me right now, no journey is easy so you mind as well do the one that’s going to be the most fulfilling. So I’ve been asking a lot of questions, what moves you in all of this? Are you trying to entertain people or are you trying to give something back? And I think it’s the second answer. Not just being an entertainer but really have some kind of connection to my audience. So I’m trying to challenge myself to be as honest and authentic with myself as I can, so it comes out in the music. It’s easy to just write a song and put a lot of words between your meaning. I’m trying not to over-think it too much.
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