Vocal powerhouse Avery*Sunshine will release her third studio album, Twenty Sixty Four, on Friday, April 21, 2017. Like her previous body of works, the project, headed by the single “Come Do Nothing,” is a gumbo of life experiences. ‘Twenty Sixty Four’ is another brainchild of Avery and her partner and best friend Dana Johnson, who she married a year ago. As you can guess, the opus structures around their musicality as well as their new life as husband and wife. Learn why the album is titled ‘Twenty Sixty Four,’ why Avery got married again, why she’s not upset over music recognitions, and more in our exclusive sit down with the soulful songstress.
You have a new album coming out; I love the colorful shot of you on the cover.
Oh, Thank you. That was the brainchild of my husband as well as my stylist, Sabrina Shepard. They partnered with Derek Blanks out of Atlanta, who shot the photo. We wanted something that felt super clean, so I’m glad you liked it.
You’ve been in music well over a decade, and for the most part, you’ve been under the radar to many, how do you keep the momentum going?
I leave that up to God. We just keep making music that we like; music from our soul. Our prayers always is that people will like it; it will speak to somebody. We’ve been very fortunate that few people like the music that we do, so I am so grateful. I don’t know if keeping the moment going is something we think about; it has everything to do with the music.
Your last album was 2014’s The SunRoom, outside of touring the last few years, what have you been up to? Any new life experiences you would like to share outside of music?
Yes, I got married about a year ago to my writing and business partner Dana Johnson. That’s the newest thing in my life and I’m so grateful. Clearly, it eclipses any and everything else that’s going on because God sent me my best friend.
So how’s your home life this time around after marriage?
The same thing, children; the only thing is I’m doing it with the person I’m supposed to be with, so it makes it easier. The regular life of Avery is dropping the kids off to school, making dinner, grocery shopping, taking my mom to the Podiatrist; there’s no way possible for us to lose sight of family. Our family keeps us so connected, we have no choice. Our lives are very normal.
Tell me about this new project, Twenty Sixty Four. What’s the meaning behind the title?
The new album is about our experiences. We titled the album ‘Twenty Sixty Four’ because Dana and I, we’re both divorced, and we told each other, “I’ll never get married again, ever,” and he proposed to me last year. Right after he proposed to me, my prayer to God was, “if you could give me until 2064 with this man, I’ll be 89 and he would be 91, I promise I will say all my prayers, eat all my vegetables, I won’t cuss anymore, I’m going to be perfect.” [laughs]
What’s the significance around this body of work in comparison to your past offerings? How should listeners receive it?
I hope they receive it like they’ve received the other ones; these are just real stories from our experiences and from my soul. The only way this record may differ is that we were able to add some more instrumentation. I have live strings on this album, live horns, but other than that, it’s the same as our other records in that we’re talking about our life experiences. I hope that people relate to that!
How much of a role did your husband Dana “Big Dane” Johnson play in this project?
He engineered, co-wrote everything. There’s really no Avery*Sunshine without this dude. He keeps me grounded, he keeps me sain, manages the deals, he does everything. If I needed him to, he would be my hair; I’m saying it because he’s the kind of person that makes things happen. When I say everything, it’s mixing the album, to writing, to playing, to engineering, to style; he really is the force behind all this. All this while making me better! I really could not be happier and more grateful for this man.
The single “Come Do Nothing” is simple, soulful and romantic. From the concept to the creation to the response, are you satisfied with the outcome?
I mean, you’re never satisfied, there’s always something you wish you had done better [laughs]. On our song “Call My Name,” which was number 1, every time I listened to it on the radio, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I was so under pitched.’ Nonetheless, I’m grateful for any acknowledgment we get.
So I previewed the album, and even though you stayed in your pocket, you journeyed through various sounds from retro to 80s to Gospel. Tell be about the creative process surrounding this project.
It really was a simple process; Dana and I write songs that we feel. From me picking up the guitar for “The Ice Cream Song” and writing it, and I don’t play guitar, to driving in the car with Dana, it really varies on how these songs were constructed. “Prayer Room,” we wrote that in a soundcheck in Paris right before a show. We try to remain open to the process and to divine intervention. We stayed true to ourselves. I play piano, Dana plays bass and guitar; that’s what we do.
Many artists struggle with their creativity, but you’ve always been an honest storyteller, does that help to inspire you? What inspires Avery?
My children, my husband, anything, a plane ride, keeping my faith in God, bad stuff, anything. Inspiration comes from the strangest places. Somebody asked me what would I be doing if I wasn’t doing music and my answer to that is “I have no idea.” I never really even thought about it. I can never imagine myself not doing music. There was never a plan B.
How does it feel to have support from greats like Aretha Franklin, Babyface, and Smokey Robinson?
Come on, you already know the answer to that question [laughs]. I mean, incredible, amazing, otherworldly. I never even thought about, ‘If I do this, it would be great if Aretha Franklin called me.’ I’ve always said I had dreams come true surrounding things I never had before, but I never imagined anything like that. Aretha invited us twice in one year to perform for her, for her birthday and her Christmas party; that’s crazy.
What’s your feeling on the current presidency and is this a conversation in your household?
It’s a conversation that is daily. but I try my best to keep that private [laughs]. I will say this, we clearly have some work to do as a people, as American people, and I’m praying for us. That’s the best I can do [laughs].
Do you feel like you’re recognized enough for your contributions to music? Does that bother you?
No, it doesn’t. I’m successful. I do believe that we get exactly what we deserve when we’re supposed to get it. It doesn’t mean that It wouldn’t be great to be acknowledged on a large stage, but it’s also great when I’m walking down the street and somebody walks up to me and thank me. That’s unparallel for me!
Pre-order ‘Twenty Sixty Four’ on iTunes.
Founder and Creator of Singersroom.com and IncredibleWork.com. Follow me on Instagram at @gary.gentles.