Lesley Hastings Catches Up With Sunny Sweeney

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Photo credit Derek Kupish 

Ahead of an extensive UK tour later this year, it was a total pleasure to chat to Sunny Sweeney via zoom recently. The 15 minutes flew by (for me at least!) and we covered not only our mutual love for Mexican food but also what we can expect from her visit, of course we spoke about her most recent album “Married Alone” and I also found out about two exciting new projects planned for 2024. Hope you enjoy our conversation! 

LH Hi Sunny! Great to talk to you…. are you at home in Nashville? 

SS I’m actually in Austin right now. I came here yesterday because I wanted some Mexican food ….

LH Well I’m going out for Mexican food tonight, that’s so weird! But I only have to drive a few miles for mine …it’s my favourite! 

SS Mine too,  and I really only come here for it which is stupid but there isn’t better Mexican food (maybe in San Antonio?) so I thought I’d come and check out a few new places. It’s an hour and a half flight! 

LH Wow!! Well, as I was saying, it’s great to speak to you, but then again after your recent enforced vocal rest you must be happy to speak to anyone! 

SS OMG, this has been the weirdest, most humbling experience. I went to the Vanderbilt Voice Clinic and it’s not anything internal (nodes, nodules, they did all the tests) but basically it’s muscular.  What happened was I got too much anxiety and stress I guess in my neck and it squeezed my voice box. I’ve got everything under control now , my voice is back thank God and I’m going to be doing a lot of stretching, I’ve got massage things I have to take with me , it’s going to be a pain in the ass but I don’t care! 

LH I know you had to miss a string of shows but I guess your fans were understanding …..you encouraged them to write to you, promising to reply, and I gather you were overwhelmed by the number that did just that? 

SS I’ve already replied to over 200 pieces of mail! And I’m not even a quarter of the way through. It’s insane. I was expecting maybe 5 people …. no one’s going to write me, does anyone even remember how? 

LH Anyway, before all that kicked off, you put out a great all female collaboration, a version of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright “ with Miko Marks, Rissi Palmer and Tami Nielsen. I love it, especially the gospel vibe and horn section! How did it come about? 

SS Thank you! So starting with the horns, that’s Doug Corcoran, he’s amazing. Me and Harley (my guitar player) produced it, and the reason it came about is that I’ve always loved that song! Rissi and I have known each other for ever, I’ve only met Miko in the last couple of years but I fell in love with her, she’s super cool. And I met Tami recently as we have the same booking agent. I feel it’s the kind of song you can’t sing unless you’ve been through some stuff, lived a little bit, because it’s so simple …. but it’s not! That’s the thing about Dylan. I knew Rissi, Miko and I had gone through some similar personal stuff so I thought I’d just ask them, and they said yes straight away. We all took a verse and I’m really proud of how it turned out, it sounds vintage which is what I wanted.

LH I also wanted to congratulate you on being part of the “ American  Currents” exhibition at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, that must be an honour? How did you decide what to send them? 

SS I still cannot wrap my head around that! People tag me in pictures when they go. The Hall of Fame is like the pinnacle of storage for artefacts, so I’m still shocked when people send me pictures. It’s wild. Immediately I knew without a question my guitar was going , I didn’t even think about it. I want people to see it as it’s got so many signatures on, and it’s beautiful … Merle Haggard told me it was! I’ve got pictures of most of the people signing it including Loretta, Wanda Jackson, Jesssi Colter, Tanya Tucker, Marty Stuart, Connie Smith, Vince Gill , Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley… it’s like full – circle, everything I started that guitar for is being seen by millions of visitors. 

LH Anyway, it’s great to see you able getting back out on the road again, there’s a run of shows coming up Stateside, are you a bit worried or just excited to play again?

SS They’ll be my first shows since July so I’m a little worried, but these doctors are literally the best in the world for voice. And they’re saying it’ll be ok. I’ve relearned the things I’ve been doing wrong, so as long as I keep doing them right it’ll be fine! 

LH That’s great because of course you’re heading back over here in November for a whole string of dates after your brief visit last year. Your first shows here since “Married Alone” came out too.

SS I’m beside myself, I’m so excited. 

LH Do you find much difference between audiences here and back home?

SS I was thinking about this earlier. I’ve been to the UK a handful of times, I started coming over there in 2006 I think, and the fans you make there stick with you for the super-longterm. The same guys and  girls I met first time I was there still show up at my shows. They’re in it for the long haul and I feel they really truly love country music in their bones, not because it’s just cool. 

I’m so excited to come and do a full run on just one continent too,  which will make it easy, just drive gig to gig, it’ll be so much fun. 

LH Apart from Dublin and Belfast! 

LH And what’s the format

SS It’s duo acoustic, myself and Harley my amazing guitar player. It’ll be easiest on my voice as well,I think we have 15 shows. 

LH I can’t believe “Married Alone” came out nearly a year ago, it got such great reviews but when it comes to the fans at your shows, which songs seen to be resonating the most? Are they the ones you expected?

SS No they are not! Honestly, “A Song Can’t Fix Everything” … I see people crying at shows when I sing that. And then there’s “Leaving Is My Middle Name” which is a bit more rock, people are begging me to play that live! “Tie Me Up” is also coming over really well. You never can tell which songs will resonate. 

LH And though I’m sure that latest album will be well represented on your set list here, will we get a mix from your back catalogue too? 

SS Oh yeah, I do songs from every record. I’m a music fan and I hate it when I go to a show and the artist only does stuff off their new record. I’m like “wait, that’s not why I came here, I want to hear stuff I know too!”. 

LH And what are your plans for new music?

SS I’m actually working on two new records! I have a very Country record I’m making right now and producing with Harley and also I have a ten-year anniversary of “Provoked” coming out. Both will be coming out next year, and I’ll be doing stuff from those during the tour too. 

LH So is it going to be a remix of “Provoked”? 

SS No it’s not, also what I cannot stand is just a remastered version. This is the same record, but done differently and it’s going to be very cool, I’m super excited ant it will come out next August. 

LH Ha maybe the rap version …. Talking of rap, I need to wrap this up but thanks again for your time and I’ll see you later in the year! 

SS Thank you.

Tickets for all Sunny’s UK dates are on sale now, there’s low ticket warnings on several already, for details go to Country Lowdown Gig Guide.


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