Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Sonny Smith Of Sonny & The Sunsets

Artwork for ‘New Day With New Possibilities.’ Courtesy of Terrorbird Media.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

It’s always Sonny here.

Sonny & The Sunsets marked their return this past July with the release of their new album ‘New Day With New Possibilities’ via Sonny’s Rocks In Your Head Records; described best as a mixture of 60’s-styled pop melodies and stripped-down country at its finest.

A companion piece to Sonny’s 2012 ‘Longtime Companion,’ the album was recorded in isolated surroundings pre-Covid (ironically) in Northern California. His inspiration to pen these songs about loneliness was sparked by old Western paperbacks he read and long walks in the hills.

The Music Bugle had the opportunity to talk with him about ‘New Day With New Possibilities’ and more.

Music Bugle – How did you decide on the name “Sonny & The Sunsets”?

Sonny Smith – My band was simply Sonny Smith for years and whoever I was playing with and then Shayde Sartin, I think, said the band members should be called “The Sunsets.” I vaguely remember, but I think he coined it. He had that kind of charm to think of that. Coincidentally, I moved to the Sunset District shortly after.

Music Bugle – What was your goal for ‘New Day With New Possibilities’?

Sonny Smith – Just the same old goal as always – trying to make a good song. I just wanted to make something that explored that side of my favorite kind of country.

Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?

Sonny Smith – I don’t know if I have one style. I kind of mess around with a lot of different stuff, just trying to explore and be weird and new and evolve, but still sound like me.

Music Bugle – Have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Sonny Smith – Of course, sure. The world totally changed. I had many different phases within the last couple years.

Music Bugle – How would you describe San Francisco to someone who has never been there before?

Sonny Smith – Well, it’s a ringside seat to income inequality, the uber rich and the extremely poor, all living on the same piece of rock, so it’s a very bizarre experience. The rich can’t stand the poor and think it’s someone elses problem to deal with. They consider themselves victims as they step over a starving body on the way to their Tesla. The rich are out to lunch in this world. They’re crazier than the mental patients living in the park.

Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?

Sonny Smith – Some songs just don’t flow well and you have to put them down for a long time and they kind of holler at you when they are ready. There was a song on ‘Moods’ called “Dead Meat On The Beach.” It took, like, 25 different versions. I got really lost in a hall of mirrors. I should’ve just put the dumb song down and moved on, but I got really stubborn. The two musicians I was working with on that one were really exhausted by my searching and confusion, but that happens sometimes. Sometimes, you have to go on a long journey to remember that you don’t have to go on a long journey.

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?

Sonny Smith – I go in my car and drive around and park somewhere new and drink a beer in my car and listen to music.

Music Bugle – What has been your hardest challenge lately?

Sonny Smith – I’m sort of tortured by memories and I’ve been asking my brain to turn off and sometimes, it won’t.

Music Bugle – Are you working on any other new music?

Sonny Smith – I’d say the new record I’ve gotten done is more like ‘Tomorrow Is Alright,’ our first one.

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?

Sonny Smith – To be honest, I kinda went down this 13-year-old, 14-year-old me memory lane recently, ’cause that’s maybe my pivotal age, the “Stand By Me” years, so I’ve been listening to a lot of new wave, like Thomson Twins and Depeche Mode and then, also classic rock like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC and things that I was discovering at that age. Not too deeply stacked stuff. Kinda generic in a way, but therapeutic for me. When I was 13, I went to see U2, Thompson Twins, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, General Public, Howard Jones and Depeche Mode all in one summer. They were all at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, or Henry J Kaisar in Oakland. My mom would drive my friend and I and then hang in her car in the parking lot and do her social worker paperwork in the car. We’d come out of the concert and find her. It was a pretty great era.

*Photo Credit – Sarah Moore*

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