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Vocalist Sunny Crownover discusses projects with Duke Robillard
(Published: October 18, 2015)

Q: There is so much emotion in your vocals on "Amapola" and "Man of Manakoora." When you record your vocals, do you try to imagine yourself as the protagonist of the song. How do you instill your own feelings into a song.

A: That is so nice of you to say, thank you. Emotion is such an important component to the vocal rendition of a song, and in fact is often the hardest part to get right (at least for me in some cases). You have to be able to relate to the lyrics on a personal level in order to deliver genuine emotion when you sing.

It is easy to get overly focused on the technical aspect of singing the melody and/or words correctly, versus remembering to "mean it" when you say it. So, for me, that means I have to be able to draw from a personal experience in my own life and use that as inspiration with every song that I sing.

Whether it's love, loss, desire, sorrow - whatever - if you can't genuinely feel it when you sing it, then it won't come across as genuine. I've had a very full life so far, thus I have a deep well to draw from.

Q: These songs veer stylistically from your blues roots yet you sound so comfortable and effortless in performing them. What made you decide you to sing them, and do you have a similar passion for jazz as you do with the blues.

A: Personally, I love all kinds of music. Growing up, I listened to a wide variety. My parents were big fans of the Rat Pack, and my father's favorite all-time singer was Julie London. So I was exposed to a lot of the standards from that era as a child. Also, my sister loved Motown, and old movies (lots of musicals) while my brother was more into folk.

As for what made me decide to sing these lately? Why, Duke Robillard, of course! When he and I first met, and I expressed an interest in working with him, he proposed that we put together a group to perform some rare vintage jazz and blues songs from the 1920s to 1940s.

Most of the songs (and the women who sang them) I had never heard before, but they completely blew me away. People like Ivie Anderson, Helen Humes, Maxine Sullivan, Ruth Etting, and Helen Forrest. I was instantly hooked, and agreed to the project, and "Sunny and Her Joy Boys" was born. After meeting in May of '08, we began rehearsing the tunes in June, and recorded the CD in August. It was a very fast, intense, immersion for me into that era of jazz, and it felt completely natural. Duke has an incredible ability to hear someone's voice and know exactly what music they are suited - or born - to sing.

Q: Are these tracks part of your live show. If not, will they be.

A: We have yet to perform these songs live, because Duke is recovering from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, and hasn't been able to play guitar in months. Hopefully, now that he is on the mend, we will incorporate these tunes (along with a bunch of others from all of our other projects) into the next shows we put together once he is fully recovered. Right now, he's been performing with guest guitar players such as Debbie Davies and "Monster" Mike Welch while he recovers. Can't wait to get back on stage with him!

Q: What are your plans for your next album.

A: Duke and I are hoping to complete the project that these two songs were originally intended for, which was to be a follow-up to our Tales from the Tiki Lounge release. We had about eight of the ten or so songs we had chosen partially recorded before his injury happened. These two were finished, and mastered, so we decided to go ahead and put them out there now.

Aside from that, I have a couple of other upcoming recording projects that I can't quite talk about yet, but am very excited about. Actually, I'm also featured on Duke Robillard's brand new CD The Acoustic Blues and Roots of Duke Robillard which just came out and is getting rave reviews, so I am feeling very fortunate right now to have so much happening in the music world at the same time.

Q: Are you considering doing more jazz-oriented CDs in the future.

A: I'm certainly open to the idea, and if a good opportunity comes along, I would not hesitate. There are many, many great songs from that era that Duke and I have on our "maybe someday" list, so I would not be surprised.

Q: Will you continue working with Duke Robillard. You two make a fantastic team.

A: Thank you! It has been such an honor to work with him, and his band, and Jack Gauthier, his manager. It is an understatement to say it is not every day that an opportunity to work with someone like Duke Robillard comes along; but when it does, you say "yes," if you know what's good for you. I'm very happy that it happened to me, and I plan on making as much music with him as he will let me in the future.

More Information: http://sunnycrownover.com

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