Sunday, March 7, 2010

SONYA KITCHELL/Convict Of Conviction EP available March 23rd, 2010!

True to the title of Sonya Kitchell’s 2008 album This Storm, the 21-year-old singer songwriter’s life has been in constant whirlwind mode since the release of her critically acclaimed 2006 breakthrough Words Came Back To Me. While she’s performed with everyone from Angelique Kidjo and Ben Harper to Jamie Cullum, India.Arie, Los Lonely Boys and Madeleine Peyroux, her career picked up international steam when jazz legend Herbie Hancock tapped her to tour the world with him in 2007. Slowing down after an exhilarating year on the road with Hancock and later The Slip, Kitchell found a much needed quieter place to write and record the six songs on Convict Of Conviction, her 6-track EP debut for 429 Records.

In the winter of 2008, the multi-talented singer retreated to the isolated Massachusetts countryside to write her new songs. Collaborating with bassist/arranger Garth Stevenson and producer Stewart Lerman with an ensemble that includes Sarah Parkington, Yoed Nir, Richie Barshay and Rebecca Cherry, Kitchell recorded the new collection in Hoboken, New Jersey at the famed Water Music Studios. “The songs came from a stillness,” she says. “This is music I could not have written in New York City. I am thankful I had this time in between moving back to New York and getting off the road to contemplate, while the music drifted down from the dusty rafters to slip unassumingly from my soul. The songs on Convict Of Conviction are a culmination of that silence and the time spent around numerous masterful musicians. I felt like working with Herbie had finally crept its way beautifully into my songwriting, in its own way.”

“The months on the road was the longest time period in my life where I didn’t write or finish a single song,” Kitchell adds. “Suddenly in the silence and space of this quiet empty house, these songs started pouring forth. It was the first time I had tried writing on the piano and a completely different sound came out. The piano lent a different sensibility to the music, than anything I’d ever written before.”

Calling the collection a time capsule, Kitchell explains that it perfectly captures the emotions and stirrings of a winter away from the limelight; with the exception of the bluesy and infectious “Mr. Suicidal,” all the songs were penned alone in a country house that winter. Sweetening her compositions, Stevenson wrote string arrangements which came out of a small duo tour the two did together in February 2009. They pulled together a string quartet to try the music out and it clicked. Kitchell and Stevenson played several shows with the new ensemble and recorded the EP in a single afternoon.

Kitchell decided she was going to be a singer at age seven, and by eight, had made her debut performance at a piano recital. By age ten, she was taking voice lessons with jazz singers Sheila Jordan and Rebecca Parris, followed by learning to play the guitar and writing her first song at age 12. Soon after, she formed the Sonya Kitchell Band, which earned an enthusiastic following through regular appearances at the Northampton, Mass. club, the Iron Horse. Meanwhile, one of her compositions won two awards at the 2003 DownBeat Student Music Awards, and she was one of 40 composers under 30 – and at the age of 14, the youngest by four years – to be selected for a week-long workshop in jazz composition for the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

In 2004, Sonya was spotted by the head of the artist-friendly Velour Music Group, which signed on as her management and record label. Kitchell recorded and released the EP Cold Day for Velour and began sharing bills with such artists as Taj Mahal and Tuck & Patti. In 2005, as advance copies of her full length debut Words Came Back To Me made the industry rounds, the album so impressed the principals of Starbucks Hear Music that they decided to make it their second-ever release in their Hear Music Debut CD series in 2006.

With its intimate tone and feathery falsetto, Kitchell’s worldly voice earned her attention not only from excited critics but also from Hancock, who invited her to perform with him and his all-star band at the Sonoma Jazz Festival in 2006. The two developed a warm rapport and Hancock tapped the young singer to join his group as he toured the West Coast in support of his Grammy winning album River: The Joni Letters; Kitchell also sings on “All I Want” on the Amazon and ex-U.S. iTunes versions of the album. The keyboard great later invited Kitchell to tour the world with him. In a unique tie in to that experience, she appeared at NYC’s famed Carnegie Hall as part of “The Music Of Joni Mitchell,” a live tribute to her idol featuring Judy Collins, Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega and others.

With the release of Convict of Conviction, Kitchell says, “I hope to feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing as an artist. I chose to make this collection of music an EP instead of an album because it’s a very particular mood and sound, I wasn’t ready to have this be my next album. I was ready for it to be a moment in time; an idea... not my entire identity as an artist. It’s one piece and there are many more to follow. I’d love to release a full length record of beautiful and interesting new music to follow up this EP, and hope to tour extensively around the word in support of this new music. As long as I’m traveling and playing music and giving people what I have to give, I’ll be satisfied.” 

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