An Interview with Sunny Sweeney

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We are living through some pretty weird times at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t look on the brighter side of live and enjoy music. Country music darling, Sunny Sweeny, has managed to stay pretty busy during “COVID times,” having released a live album this past fall and has been in the studio since August working on her new record. When she’s not live streaming shows, Sunny is doing her best to keep her beloved dog healthy, which is certainly something all of us animals lovers can relate to as well.

Sunny was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to sit down with us for this interview. We can all return the favor by heading over to her website here and then digging into this interview. Cheers.

Andrew:
Sunny, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been a weird year, hasn’t it? What have you been doing to pass the time?

Sunny:
I feel very fortunate that I have been able to find plenty of ways to keep myself busy. We made and released a live record in November, and went in to the studio to start our new album in August. I have been doing some streaming shows, and I have had time to catch up on my sleep.

Andrew:
Tell us about backstory. How did you get into music? What was the gateway so to speak?

Sunny:
I went to Southwest Texas State University, and really started going to shows heavily while I was in college. I fell for the singer-songwriters I would go see, and realized that they were just telling stories, put to music. I reluctantly went back to my stepdad, who had offered to teach me guitar lessons many years earlier, and decided I would at least give it a try. I could not envision myself really doing anything else once I started playing shows. People started showing up that weren’t my parents and friends, and I was officially bitten by the music bug.

Andrew:
As an artist, who were some of your earliest and more important influences?

Sunny:
I have always been fond of the greats that I listened to from my earliest days: Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Tom Petty, Loretta Lynn…I always enjoyed the “story.” I loved people that had a story to tell that I could relate to. As I started to listen to things that weren’t just what my parents had exposed me to, I found Kasey Chambers, I found Natalie Maine’s voice…I found Lori McKenna’s songs. When I look back on my beginning days in this business and my first cowrites, I realize now that some of my cowriters are my biggest influences…so inspiring, with such back stories, a bunch of them…some of them the best storytellers of our generation: Monty Holmes, Buddy Owens, Radney Foster.

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Andrew:
Your first album Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame was released in 2006. Looking back, what can you tell us about the recording of that record? How do you feel about it now?

Sunny:
I know there are a ton of people who cringe at the mention of their first album. I cringe at my voice to be honest, but I stand by the musicianship and production on it, produced by Tommy Detamore, one of the world’s greatest and most respected steel guitar players alive today. I cherish the memories of driving to the studio that first go round, the gleam I must have had in my eyes, being inspired by everything new. I still hold it in my heart as one of my most prized accomplishments.  

Andrew:
Since then, you’ve released two more records, Provoked in 2014 and Trophy in 2017. How have you evolved as an artists with your most recent efforts? What’s changed for you?

Sunny:
I spent a blip of time on a major record label, and it was eye-opening and validating and exhausting and exciting. I would not trade the time I was there; I learned a lot, and made a ton of new fans and friends. However, making the two records after that, Provoked and Trophy, are more were my heart is. I love the spirit of indie music; there’s a freedom you have with it, where I can feel you can express yourself more in the way you want to.

Andrew:
It’s been a few years since your last studio album. With all this down time we are experiencing, can we hope for a new record from you soon?

Sunny:
I put out a live album in November that I am extremely proud of, complete with my road band playing and singing all the parts. It’s been something I‘ve wanted to do for a long time, and due to the shutdown, we finally had a chance. It’s a “live” album, but not in the typical sense. It’s live as in “one take” in the same room with each other. It was a live stream show that we recorded in a studio and we ended up getting such cool sounds, we decided to just get it mixed and mastered. 

We are a little more than halfway through our new studio album as well, being produced by Paul Cauthen. Super excited for people to get their hands on this one! We have stretched boundaries I never thought I could, at Paul’s direction. I haven’t been this excited in a long long time.

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Andrew:
Let’s talk about songwriting a bit. I know often times, artists’ lyrical content can come from a deeply personal place, and other times, they are merely telling stories so to speak. Which is it for you?

Sunny:
I feel like, for me, each song is different. Sometimes, a lyric or a portion of a lyric will just rattle around in your head over and over until you finally write it down… I feel like sometimes words will haunt you until they’re made into a song. Rarely do I start with a melody; I write a journal and lots of song titles and ideas come from that, as well.

Andrew:
In your opinion, what is the state of the music industry these days? What needs to change for both the betterment of the artists and fans alike?

Sunny:
I’ve stood by this since the beginning of my time in the music business. I’m just me. I’ll always be just me. All artists are distinctly different and I feel there is room for everyone. I love that some of my favorite records that have come out in the last couple years are by strong, profound women…telling all our stories. I feel like, generally speaking, that people like what they are exposed to. I guess I just wish more people would be exposed to these types of songs. 

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Sunny:
I listen to music for enjoyment and for inspiration. These are my go-to’s for booth:

-Waylon Jenning’s Waylon Live 

-Kasey Chambers The Captain

-Tom Petty Full Moon Fever

-Stevie Nicks Bella Donna

-Lori McKenna Numbered Doors 

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Andrew:
Aside from music, what else are you most passionate about and why? How do your other passions inform and inspire your music?

Sunny:
My dog, Doug. I’m very passionate about him. Him AND his last $1,013.00 vet bill. I’d pay 10 times that if it meant he was happy and healthy.  

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music?

Sunny:
I fought digital forever. Now, I admit, I’m a huge streamer. It’s hard for me to get past the shit we get paid for all the time that goes into the making of the art, but I tell you, it’s a pandora’s box of shit. Every single time I have it on someone’s “station,” I discover someone new…it’s actually like magic.  

Andrew:
Last question. In a world that’s been so confined by the constraints of big business and the alienation caused due to the internet age, how do artists find their footing these days? What advice would you have for younger artists?

Sunny:
I am the last person that anyone wants advice from, but if I had any advice that someone may want to listen to, I would say: Always stand up for what you believe in musically. YOUR name will be the one on that album forever. You’re the one that has to live with it. Also, trust the people you choose to make music with.

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Interested in diving deeper into the work of Sunny Sweeney? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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