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Real Life Stories
By: Angela Douglas
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A touch of SOUL - She sure stirs it up! - Sunshine talks religion, music, family, divorce & more

Preconceived perceptions can lead to major errors and dare I say it a lot of missing out for some. Avery Sunshine is one female artist who refuses to be pigeon-holed. She gives both soul and gospel music her unique touch – such talent should never be restrained. Both according to Ms Sunshine are one and same.

AVERY*Sunshine burst onto the soul scene last year with her self-titled debut album after much encouragement from her musical partner Dana Johnson.  Facing her fear of the spotlight she released an array of spiritual, life inspired, “jazzgosoul” themes.  Including, “I’ve Got Sunshine,” a mesmerizing retro tale of bills to pay, that we all can relate to (especially in these trying times), displaying AVERY’s effervescent personality. 

Avery talks of her sunshine in her shoes, hair and everywhere, even when it hurt - she’s still got the shine.  This can be translated however the listener wants, but with AVERY set on “shining by sharing” her distinctive shaved hair, bright eyes , beaming  smile, strong rich vocals and lyrics, one can’t help but  be compelled by her radiance  and shine with her.   

DivaScribe caught up with the zany, liberal, gospel infused multi-talented soulstress’ and talk about her amazing journey into the limelight and got our diva-shine on – here we give you AVERY.     

In the middle of her European gigs, including a full congregation of anointed souls at Union Chapel [London] and a slot on Jools Holland, AVERY finally took time to relax (& when a Diva relaxes she shops – right?!) picking up some essentials from one of Mayfair’s trendy stores, she tells DS “I went into Abercrombie and Fitch and got some nice things and brought my daughter a gorgeous watch and my son and mum something too."

On her thirst for London, she concludes, “I don’t know if I’ve been here so many times that it’s beginning to feel like a home away from home. Maybe it is!  We took the Eurostar into Paris on Tuesday and got back on Wednesday and I thought phew home, but then I said w-o-w I’m not home, I’m still in L-o-n-d-o-n! There’s something very familiar about London to me. I’m not sure what it is."

Born Denise White - a native of Chester, Pennsylvania, like most musicians, AVERY’s foundations were rooted in the church - particularly Wilmington/Chester Mass Choir were she sang, led, directed and sharpened her piano skills.  She headed to SpelmanCollege, Atlanta where she truly crafted out her meshed gospel with soul & jazz for a contemporary market.  Graduating with a BA in Music and Philosophy, for many years she worked as a choir director before finally forging a career as a solo musical artist. “I never stopped doing one to do the other.  There is not a whole load of difference between them with the choral specifically about God and the soul just about life, but I think that’s a part of God too."

With that in mind it’s hard to imagine AVERY resisting her limelight. Her shaved head signifies the beauty of simplicity and self confidence.  She exudes talent and is clearly highly respected in the US having been called in to voice, choral direct, or play keys on significant productions such as  The Fighting Temptations” soundtrack to a Hollywood blockbuster featuring Beyonce and Cuba Gooding Jr.,  Tony Award winning production “Dreamgirls” with Jennifer Holiday, Tyler Perry’s stage play “Meet The Browns”, given a private performance for Chaka Khan and her friends of “I Have A Dream”, the musical tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., and performed with other renowned singers.  

If that wasn’t enough, Chaka Khan even paid her a double-sided compliment, “Yes she did (laughs). I will never forget it.  We were doing pieces of production for the musical and I just finished singing and she walked up to me and said, ‘Bitch, I wanna bitch-slap you”.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but I took it as a huge compliment coming from her.  So, I don’t know if I need to hear anyone else say that, but it was definitely a compliment (laughs)."

She explains her struggles came from fear.  “I didn’t want to be the person out front, I would much rather have been the person that tells people what to do (laughs).  You know what I mean?!”

“There is a lot of responsibility with being the artist, if it fails - it’s on the artist, if it’s great it’s on the artist.  I never wanted that responsibility, but I feel like it’s something that I couldn’t shake.  It’s so much a part of me, as even in church to be up and in the microphone on Sunday mornings is just who I am. So, I decided I’m not gonna run from it, I’m just gonna go towards it.  You know, you go towards the things that you fear mostly and 9 times out of 10 those are the things that make you better”.

And clearly it’s evident she’s followed the right path as the album has a richness of organic life stories. She chuckles, “Well, we probably should have named it ‘All in my head’ because that’s really all it is, in my head and Dana’s head. We wrote from very real places."

The now 35 year old divorced mother of two penned her struggles within her marriage, the possibility of being a single mum, paranoia, lust, love for her family and Jesus. “I am a self-proclaimed therapist!”

 All In My Head” is about hearing one thing and thinking something else.  Your companion says, ‘I like that dress you had on yesterday,’ so you say, ‘So you don’t like what I have on today?’ Then he says, ‘What? I didn’t say that!’ (laughs), I poke fun at that."

She continues, “There’s one for my children, “The Most,” then “Sunshine” with Roy Ayers.  “I Got Sunshine” because in the midst of everything that’s going on I still got sunshine no matter what.  Hopefully everybody can find something that they like."

But *Sunshine is not your prudish high necked and ankle length nightdress wearing kind of Christian.  She has liberal views.  When DS asks how her work has been received by her congregation, considering the huge contrast between “Perform Interlude” a very seductive Floetry-esque snippet and then four tracks later she’s saying, “The Lord is Blessing Me”, Avery interjects - ab-so-lute-ly! “You know what? [rhetoric] I have not heard one negative thing about that.  They probably think it but they haven’t said anything to me. I believe that people identify with being able to go to church and still being a human. I think that is what’s wrong with church - a lot of times people go and are determined to be somebody else.  Yes, we should be better people and we should do better, but we still are human." 

She continues, “I don’t think we ought to say we can’t do any of those things any more, NO, I don’t believe that you shouldn’t fall in love."

“Even talking to my children, when they want to watch a particular movie, I say yes and we talk about some of the themes afterwards. I don’t want them to feel like they can’t discuss it. Or with music, there are clearly some things I don’t want them listening to, as they a little bit special, but I’m talking about love in a healthy way. How else will they know it unless we talk about it NOW instead of waiting till everyone’s gotten OLDER and set in their ways? People want to say - well the right way to love is this way! WELL, WHY DIDN’T ANYBODY TELL ME?! Nobody talks about it in church, which is really bizarre, and so we all end up DIVORCED! And then we say what happened? But NO-BODY TOLD ME the right way to do it as THEY NEVER TALKED ABOUT IT!  (laughs)."

She recalls an interviewer commented that if AVERY was to become a Pastor they would happily attend her church. She laughs, “I said, I don’t know, I’d have a special church and people wouldn’t even acknowledge it, they would say she’s doing something COM-PLETE-LY different! You just need to be real, whether you go to church or not."

Being coined as just a churchgoer is another thing AVERY dislikes. “Yes I go to church but it doesn’t make me.  I believe in Buddha and Mohammed and that we can pull from many religions. Everybody just gets to see what I do in the Christian Church through my music but that is not all of who I am.  I want to embrace and pull everyone in and not make anyone feel alienated by saying ‘Jesus is the only way’. What about the people who don’t know anything about Jesus? I respect all faiths."

Now, the happy divorcee isn’t looking for Baby Daddy No. 2. When DS suggests she is - AVERY screams, “NO, NO Baby Daddy No. 2.” (Now, Divas & Divos if you had witnessed her live performance where she lustfully retold the story of a guy she spotted whilst shopping you would have asked too!).  “Baby Daddy is a term of endearment used for those men that you just adore and love, and really won’t get with them but you like them enough to say I could have a baby with them.  I have about five or six of them on the go (laughs)."

Following that said performance where she has effortlessly blended D’Angelo, Gladys Knight, The Gap Band and other classics with her own creations, we suggested that a tribute album materialise.  “Absolutely, it would definitely be mixed in with some of my stuff but I would definitely do it.  You know I dare to remake anything, however, some stuff are just better left untouched, you know what I mean, because I would be afraid that I wouldn’t do it justice”. But, justice would be undeniable as it is clear AVERY has a talent that easily matches her nu-soul and old soul peers.

So, be warned, AVERY*Sunshine crosses continents. Go grab your factor 50, don your D&G shades, press play and give yourself permission to get your shine on too.   

Website:  www.averysunshine.com                     

Label:  www.domerecords.co.uk

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