From Sonya’s web site:
“Sonya Kaye simply doesn't do things halfway. Whether she's belting out an R&B tune, telling a joke, or conveying her testimony, this woman is totally sold out. On stage, Sonya is an animated bundle of quick humor and self-confident expression. But there is another side to this lady. She's walked some hard roads and learned some painful lessons, and shares those moments honestly. "Control has always been an issue for me. Maybe that's because I've seldom felt in control of my own life..."
Hi there Sonya! You are our first feature interview for our women of the gospel section. Thanks so much for talking with me.
Thank you for this opportunity!
Where are you from?
(Ft Lewis Military base) Tacoma, WA .
My mom was a faithful choir member and encouraged all of us to learn piano and sing as much as possible.
I also grew up in the church and have some wonderful memories from my youth…what is your earliest musical memory?
I remember going down south to visit my cousins for the first time when I was about 10. One night we all sat around and lip-synced to Motown hits. I was too shy to do it. I remember they all laughed, booed and told me to sit down. I remember telling myself THAT DAY I wanted to get over my fear of being in front of folks. I LOVED to sing. I just hadn't wanted to do it in front of folks.
I understand that well!
How long have you been singing and what inspires you to do so?
I grew up in 2 types of churches. For whatever reason, my mother would take us to Black churches for a time and then she'd take us to a white church. I was fortunate to receive an eclectic mix of music from either "side of the tracks". Although I've haven't always been a 'church-girl' my roots and beliefs have always been grounded in Biblical Truths, therefore, my inspiration comes for Jesus Christ Himself.
I was a “church-girl” also, rebelled and came back.
Did you have any life-changing events occur that have transformed your
Oh yeah. For the last project I hired a producer that is as hard-headed as I am, but I made sure I chose someone who knew WAY more than I do about music, the biz, etc. it changed the entire way I approach music and the people in the business. There's still a lot to understand but I'm stumbling along.
Tell me about your singing in Europe. Do you find European audiences
different from American?
I found the audiences to be about the same. It appears that just about everyone loves blues. The only thing that I can say was a marked difference was the venues we were allowed to play. The European audiences didn't bat an eyelash when we played gospel/blues in their pubs. As a matter of fact, they invited us back to do so again for Friday, Saturday AND Sunday nights. Apparently, it's tradition for many churches in London to go straight to the pub after Sunday services to eat, drink and discuss the message of the day. Having a gospel/blues band in the backdrop of conversation was simply a plus to them. ...ya gotta love it.
I do love it! I have had the same experience. There seems to be a real acceptance and thirst for both genres…
There sure is.
What was it like recording your CD? Second? Third?
With each CD project I see a growth in what I do. Ignorance, on my part, was advantageous on my first project. I was fortunate to have worked with a good, hard-working and honest producer whose only intention was to give me a good project. And he did. I went into the second project with a little more know-how but wanting to push myself harder. I wanted to grow. Again, I was blessed to have an honest, fair and hard-working producer behind me. The second CD is not necessarily better but "Through Your Eyes" definitely is different from "Sunday Blues". It's got more guts and grit and in your face grooves with NO subtle messages.
I've recently met with my newest producer, Ron Moton. Mr. Moton is a producer for the great Herbie Hancock and saxophone player for the popular group Confunkshun. This is yet another stretch for me. Ron plans to push me WAY beyond my limits. He promises that the world will see a funkier blues side of Sonya Kaye.
Click on picture to buy "Through Your Eyes"
You are VERY blessed to find a good, competent and supportive producer. There is no project without it.
Tell us about your band members...
My bass player and producer, Marc Miller, has also played along side several well-known artists including Jonathan Butler, Anita Baker and many more. You can hear Marc on Philip Bailey's CD latest release, "Dreams". Keyboardist Eric Verlinde has played in the opening jazz quartet for the incomparable Natalie Cole and just recently took top honors in piano at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. Dave Del Zotto, my drummer, has played for the talented Diane Schuur, Stephen Michael Newby, Extensions and also jazz artist Don Lanphere. Among other talented artists, guitar player, Art Bromage, has played for the popular Christian producer, Stan Endicott.
We've been together as a band for over 3 years and we're extremely tight musically and with each other. It's always nice for a singer to KNOW her back is covered without ever having to look behind her. We have many great stories but one of our favorites to tell is about the time we were invited to sing in a Black church in Seattle. When I walked in with my all White band there was immediate silence. By the end of our performance, the church was on it's feet and the pastor said, "I thought I heard me some BB King up in here!"
I like to ask everyone I talk to this question, what are you thinking just before you go onstage?
"What the heck am I doing?! I don't want to do this." By the time I sing my first note I'm fine.
What past and present singers have been/are musical influences?
I grew up on Motown so I was influenced by the greats like Aretha, Gladys Knight, The Temptations, The Jackson 5, etc. others that have greatly changed my outlook on music have been Bette Midler, Babie Mason and jazz great, Jonathan Butler. All of the above have incredible stage presence and have a way of capturing a person's heart even off of a disc.
Where do you want your music to take you?
Actually, my music has already taken me places I never dreamed of. We've been to Paris, London and Sydney in one season. We've been invited back to all three places. We've been asked to play in jazz festivals in Denmark as well. Now if we could only break the US market we'd be in business. :-)
Ha ha – I understand that well!
How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as a warrior for Christ who was never afraid to step up to the plate to claim Him as Lord. My music is a vehicle to break the ice to talk to those who's hearts are open to hearing the gospel. I look forward to the day when my Savior looks at me and says, "well done, my good and faithful servant."
To learn more about Sonya Kaye: