Georgia-Country.com Artist of the Month
On a monthly basis, Georgia-Country.com spotlights a Georgia artist that we feel is furthering their career in country music. Below is our current artist of the month. We hope you enjoy reading their interview and getting to know this artist more. Be sure to check out their music, videos and schedule for the month. If you are a Georgia-based artist, 18 and over, and would like to be considered for Artist of the Month, please contact us with your name and a website to review.
Our October Artist of the Month is Erica Sunshine Lee
GC: Erica, lets first get our readers more familiar with you. Where were you born, raised, now live and tell us a little about your family.
ESL: I was born in a small town in northeast Georgia, Elberton known as the 'Granite Capital of the World.' Pretty much everything there is made of granite, or made for granite and we produce more headstones than anywhere else in the world. Most of my family is still in Georgia, and I grew up in the same house on Woodland Road my parents still live in (like my song says) and my Daddy grew up on that same road, so it's special getting to go back home. I'm the youngest of three kids, and I moved out after I graduated high school at 17, went to college in South Carolina for a year, then went out to California to visit my sister for the summer and got a job selling cars. I stayed 7 years. After putting myself through college, I graduated with a Business Marketing degree while working full time, and began singing in a classic rock cover band at nights. Back in 2007, I quit my day job and started my own band, and began writing my own music. Then I bought a guitar, figured out how to play, and began touring, then 3 years ago moved back to the southeast, back and forth between Atlanta, GA and Nashville, TN. For a little bit of fun, I just wrote a song about my California experience and coming home, called "Georgia For This" with Joe Denim of Nashville...to be released soon! (My video is on www.youtube.com/elsunshine24 of me performing it live).
GC: Who were your musical influences while growing up?
ESL: Believe it or not, even though I am mostly a country singer, some of the first records I bought were were 90s rock, including REM, Smashing Pumpkins, and Stone Temple Pilots, but I'm a big fan of the classic country like Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Hank Williams, Sr. I was so honored to open for David Allan Coe, since he's also been a huge influence in my music, and I played out my Trisha Yearwood, Shania Twain, and Dixie Chicks tapes when I was growing up. Hank Williams wrote so many songs before he died at 28 years old, and I have been so impressed with his lyrics, simplicity, and depth, but I've been spinning Sade's vinyl ever since I could walk. My musical taste is diverse, and I am a huge fan of classic and southern rock, Lynard Skynard, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac are my favorite bands to listen to. Alison Krauss's voice and music has changed my life, between her and growing up near the Northeast Georgia Mountains has probably been responsible for some of the bluegrass in most of my music...Also, getting my heart broken a few times and my Pop making moonshine in Georgia had a large part in my musical inspiration.
GC: What was maybe your earliest performance in front of a large crowd and what did you sing?
ESL: I started singing when I was about 5 years old at my Baptist Church in my hometown of Elberton, and also at my preschool play, I did a few numbers. I've always loved performing, and I remember putting on a play at my own house when I was about 7, singing Tiffany's "All This Time" in front of my parents and their friends...there may still be a video floating around of that, and me in Miss Betty Jo's play singing a song about my letter 'O' meaning Miss Obstinate, which was right on the money.
GC: How did you go from being this small town Georgia girl to now, getting a chance to perform all over the country and even the world?
ESL: I've never been one to sit still too long. I've independently written and recorded all 4 of my studio albums. I love to travel, and I've had the opportunity the past few years to tour and perform in Samoa, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Amsterdam, Costa Rica and all over the US, including Hawaii. I believe hard work goes a long way, and my friends can vouch that I'm always working, writing, and playing. Music is my life, and I've made connections all over the world, and been very fortunate to see a good bit of it by playing my own music. I just released my 4th studio album, including my new single "Drinking and Driving Me Crazy" that's now out in Australia, and I'm currently touring 'down under' for 6 weeks at the Mildura Country Music Festival. I'm not afraid to just go...which sometimes means going alone, being the only girl, sleeping on couches, in my car, stranger's caravans, but I do what have to do. This includes taking risks. I don't have family members in the industry or any private investors; it's me and the passion I have for writing my music and sharing it with others that's gotten me all of these frequent flier miles.
GC: What current artist do you feel you connect with most?
ESL: I'm a huge fan of Miranda Lambert and Pink, because of their sincerity in their music. They both have spunk, attitude, passion, and are both incredible performers. I like that Miranda's music remains country and that she truly writes most of her music, since she's in the country genre, it's nice to see that novelty these days. I say what I think and admire other people who are truly talented and sing about real life and know how to entertain.
GC: You are now on the Australian Mildura Country Music Festival. How did that come about and how does it feel to get to go overseas to perform?
ESL: I was just touring earlier this year January and February at Australia's Tamworth Music Festival, and the people down under are so genuinely hospitable, so I love returning to this country. It's like combining people from the southeast mixed with the laid back European culture, and scenery from the west coast. The people down here appreciate country music, they love hearing real stories about where I'm from and the fact that I spent all those years growing up and living in the southeastern U.S. makes it more authentic. The promoter from this festival heard about me when I played here in January and booked me to return to perform again at Mildura with dozens of amazing Australian Country singer/songwriters. I've been extremely blessed to be able to do what I love for a living and get to travel to amazing places and meet diverse people. I intend on touring in Europe in the next year to promote my recent top 10 single "What it takes to be a country man." The life of a musician has many sacrifices; this is one of the perks.
GC: You're a big Bulldog fan. How did your song "How 'Bout Them Dawgs", come about?
ESL: Well, I was showing my Mama around Nashville with her friend, and in the living room had the idea to write a song called "How 'Bout Them Dawgs". I'm a huge UGA fan, and love watching the games growing up, since that's what you do in the south, and so many other people have GA pride, so I wanted to write a football anthem for my team. Since I didn't actually go to UGA (but the rest of my family all did), I talked to my good friend who did attend there, Nashville songwriter Kenneth Johnson, of Sharp Objects, and he was on board to team up for this song, so we sat in the room, and I even let Mama and Aunt Kim hang out while we laughed and wrote our rocking country Bulldog theme song! I just finished recording it in the studio, with Kent Wells Productions, and this song will be available on iTunes, Amazon, and CdBaby, hopefully within the week! GO DAWGS!!!
GC: What one tip would you do for any act from a small town, on how to get noticed?
ESL: Work hard all the time, play all the time, and always play like it's your biggest show, because you never know who is watching. Even in a small dive bar back in Clemson a few years ago, when I was playing for a crowd of 5 people including my parents (for the larger part of the night) one of the men happened to be on business from Connecticut, and loved my music, so he flew me up to Monroe to perform at the festival there that summer...you just never know!
GC: How would you describe your performance on stage?
ESL: I am the same on stage as I am off the stage. I have no filter, I write true songs that come from my heart and my personal life experiences, so each show is different. It depends on the crowd, the mood, the venue, but I just want people to enjoy the show and hear my songs. Solo acoustic shows are sometimes more intimate where I can joke around with the audience, but with my band, it's awesome because of all the energy and how the band brings my songs to life! I am truly a country girl from the country, with a little bit of southern rock and bluegrass sprinkled in. Some songs are funny, some are serious, some are happy, some are sad, but that's life, and that's my show, which isn't as much of a show as it is just a glimpse into my life...mine just happens to be shared publicly through my shows and my albums.
GC: What is your plans for the rest of the year?
ESL: I'm really excited to be playing all over Australia with great artists like Mitchell Shadlow, Luke O'Shea, The Viper Creek Band these next few weeks, and record at the studio in Newcastle, my new song I wrote with Damien Baguley of the Viper Creek Band "You Saved Me" at the Tommirock Studios. I return to Thailand for a week, and then back to tour with Turk Tresize out of Melbourne, and writing and recording at ShedRock Studios there at Cannon's Creek, then return to the west coast on November 15th for a month of shows planning on getting back home to Georgia before Christmas. I've performed at the Melting Point in Athens, GA as a hometown show for the holidays two years in a row, so hopefully I'll get to put that together again. In between shows, I plan on surfing, taking cool hikes, shopping, cooking, and trying out the Australian and Thai cuisine. If you are interested in booking me and or my band for a private party, we're still available for holiday shows around the new year, so feel free to contact us at www.EricaSunshineLee.com. And like me on FB @ www.Facebook.com/EricaSunshineLeeMusic