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Avery Sunshine Talks ‘Twenty Sixty Four’, Her Musical Marriage and the State of R&B

Derek Blanks
Derek Blanks

With the evolution of R&B, it’s consistently being argued by listeners that the foundation of the genre is disappearing. As new sub-genres like “Trap&B” emerge, many are unsure of what the future holds for R&B and it’s place in mainstream music. There are some artists, however, who are staying true to that key sound, which includes soul singer Avery Sunshine.

The Pennsylvania native has a warm spirit that can be felt throughout her deep-cutting, and empowering records. Sunshine has been creating music since the early 1990s, but is working hard to keep her name in the conversation of those staying genuine to the foundation of rhythm and blues with her upcoming Twenty Sixty Four album. With her gospel-inflected vocals, Sunshine lives and breathes music; she is married to fellow musician, Dana “Big Dane” Johnson, who is known for his incredible guitar skills.

We got a chance to talk to Avery about her current musical journey, her new album that is set to officially drop on April 21st and her thoughts on the state of R&B today and her marriage.

The Boombox: Where does the title Twenty Sixty Four come from?

My husband and I were both [previously] divorced. Before we were even dating, we said to ourselves that we were never getting married again. Last year in January, he called me on the phone and told me that we are going to get married in 2016. So that was his proposal, even though it wasn’t really a proposal [laughs]. Everything that I had talked about previously had gone out the window. I saw Care bears in the sky, balloons, and unicorns, but once it settled in, my prayer to God was asking him to give me until 2064 with this amazing man. I would be so happy. That’s all I want. So, that was it! Ironically, the songs were already in line with the title. It was rather divine, and just made sense.

What are the vibes like? How does it compare to The SunRoom?

We got a song on there called “Ice Cream.” which is an unofficial wedding song. We have another cute one called “Kiss and Make It Better,” so it just worked out to match with our marriage. In comparison to The SunRoom, it’s the same in that all of the songs come from experiences of my soul. It’s different in that we’ve done more collaborations on this album. We’ve got some guest features on there, including Mr. Talk Box, who you will recognize, as he does the introduction on Bruno Mars’ smash single, “24K Magic.” This album also has a lot of live strings all over it, so we’ve done a lot of things we’ve been wanting to do on other projects.

What are some of the most important messages?

There’s one song in particular that works for absolutely anything called “Prayer Room.” It’s a song that wherever you are in your life, or whatever is going on, it’s always the right time and a good time to pray. Whatever your beliefs are, it works. Whether it applies to praying to God, or meditation, there’s never a bad time to do that. If they don’t get anything else out of the album, I hope that they learn to pray before making any important move. Find time to get in tune with yourself. That song was inspired by what’s going on in Flint, Michigan with their water crisis, as well as my personal experiences with losing two of my nephews to gun violence. In 7 years, my sister’s two boys, her oldest and her youngest, were both murdered. Prayer will reach those places when we don’t have money or the proper platform to make a difference.

You’ve received love and praise from legends like Patti Labelle, Babyface, etc. What from them do you take with you when you create?

While meeting them has been absolutely amazing, the words of wisdom that I take with me the most I received from Rahsaan Patterson. I think I just finished the first album, and I opened up for him here in Atlanta. I was talking about creating, and how everyone has an idea for what my sound should be like. He told me, “Listen, if you allow everybody else to dictate your art, and what it should be, then it’s no longer your art. It’s theirs.” I can’t even tell you how many years ago he told me that, and how long it’s stayed with me. At the end of the day, it is my art, and what God has given me to do.

You’ve been in the music game for awhile now, and with how short the attention span of the social media generation can be, how do you stay relevant?

I’ve got kids who are teenagers, so it’s really hard to remove yourself from what’s going on. They help me a lot and tell me how I should or shouldn’t sing sometimes. Sometimes [today’s music] is weird, but I get it [laughs]. I’m very careful to listen and pay attention to what’s going on, and maybe go on Instagram a little bit.
I am a product of the Stevie Wonders, Patti Labelle, Michael MacDonald, and Kenny Loggins. I have to be careful to not lean so far in that direction. Let’s be real though. A lot of that stuff is timeless. You could put on Luther right now, and it could jam harder than some of the stuff that’s out right now.

You’re married to another musician. How do you both incorporate music into your marriage? Does it play a big role in your relationship, or do you try to keep things separate at times?

There’s no way to keep it separate [laughs]. We are musicians to our hearts. It’s not something that we do strictly for business. Now our kids are musicians. Both of our boys play drums, and our daughter plays the keys. There are days that I don’t want to hear music, but I can’t escape it. My husband will have the computer jamming. My son is playing trap music in his headphones. My baby boy is on the drums. My daughter is downstairs on the keyboard. I have to put on headphones just to tune THEM out. We just can’t separate it, and I don’t even want to.

What are your thoughts on the state of R&B today?

I think that it definitely speaks to who we are as a people. We are always creating and evolving, so I appreciate it. I found myself listening to trap music the other day. My kids have been putting me onto it. There’s this evolution. We’re always pushing. I was watching Jurassic Park, and one of the main characters said “Life always finds a way.” I think about that when it comes to music and creativity. It remains what it is essentially, but it still evolves and finds a way to break through. We just might call elements of R&B “trap” now, and maybe something else in a couple of years. Whether it’s trash to you or not, it’s speaking to somebody. That’s their art, and we have to let it speak.

Who are some of your dream collaborations?

It’s all about who wants to work with me! I’m really open as long as it doesn’t feel like I’m pulling teeth. But I would LOVE to do something with Pharrell.

After the album release, what are your plans for the rest of the year?

I’ll be touring a lot. As a matter of fact, we leave for Europe, the U.K., and Australia for about a month and a half two days before the album is released. We’re heading right out, and it begins in Australia. After the U.K., we’ll be heading home in May. Hopefully I can also do some television. I’m working on my acting chops as well. Don’t be surprised if there’s a “Sunshine” channel coming.

You can pre-order Avery’s new album, Twenty Sixty Four, here.

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