Soulful singer-songwriter Avery*Sunshine is back as bold, bright and blessed as ever. This latest VH1 Soul You Oughta Know artist stopped by recently to chat about the wonderful year she’s had since we last saw her, complete with a new attitude and a new album, The Sunroom. She literally glowed and glistened thanks to the glitter she added to her now trademark shorn head, but it takes mere moments in her presence to realize that her gift and glow radiate from her inside out, and brighten the days of all who witness it. In fact, she’s on a mission to shine bright like a diamond, and allow others permission to do the same. Capable of crying with all emotion one moment and then cracking up at herself the next, the artist born Denise White is a “Little Miss Sunshine” who shares the key to her new album, and to living life like it’s golden, in this latest interview.
It’s been about a year since I last saw you. What has this last year been about for you personally?
This past year has been about putting on my big girl panties, and making decisions — hard, tough decisions — and watching God honor those decisions. It has been about being comfortable… We had just gotten back from Holland and another lady said, “When I see you I feel like you are comfortable in your skin, and I want to be that comfortable too.” And I wanted to say, I’m just getting comfortable in my skin, but it had so much to do with letting go of all those things that were keeping me down. All those things that I allowed to come into my space and tell me that I was not good enough, I was not pretty enough, I was not talented enough. I had to let all of that stuff go, so that I could pop like my lips. I’m always going to wear a bright something just to remind myself that I’ve been put here to shine. That’s my responsibility. So this year has taught me to do that. And having a daughter, I want my daughter to feel like that. I don’t want her to think that she’s always fat, or think that she’s not good enough. I don’t ever want her to feel like she’s not beautiful, but where does she learn that? She learns that from me, so I have to show her by my example that you are enough. So that’s what this year has been.
I love your daily salutation to your fans, also known as your “team” on your Facebook and Twitter: #shine #keepshining #shinenomatterwhat. Are these your personal mantras and self-reminders as well to always put your best and brightest self forward?
Yes, absolutely. I am human first, so those things that I tell everybody else, they’re for me first. You know, rise and shine, Denise, first. Today is the best day of your life, Denise. All of that stuff is for me first.
Let’s talk about your approach to your new album, The Sunroom. Was it different from your approach to your previous album, and if so how?
We were so glad to have the success that we did with the first album, and it almost was like [musical partner] Dana [Johnson] was dragging me along with the first record, because I didn’t believe I was supposed to do that. He was like you should try it, try it and see what happens, and I was like OK, whatever. So I was present, clearly, I was aware and present while it was going on but God, the experience was so foreign to me and so undeserving. But this time it was like OK listen, so this is what we’re gonna do. And I watched Dana in the studio and I started recording my own vocals, and I just felt more comfortable in the process. And I felt confident in saying OK I want to do this, no let’s not do this, OK let’s try it like this, can we do this… and really exploring some different things musically. And I felt much more comfortable doing it this time, much more in control, not just going along for the ride, but actually sitting in the other seat, and Dana and I kinda passing the wheel back and forth — OK let’s try it like this and see what happens.
What is the takeaway or lesson of The Sunroom? What do you want the listening experience to be like for people?
I want the experience to be epiphanal. I want people to walk away with, “I can do whatever it is that I want to do. And whatever that is is OK. And I don’t care what people say.” That’s it! No judgement. One of the last songs on the record goes, “You go your way, I’ll go mine, and I’ll see you when I get there.” So you do what makes you happy, and I’ll do what makes me happy, and I promise you we will all get to that there, that place of happiness. We all will, but you gotta do that thing that’s in you to do, and I gotta do that thing that’s in me to do. So I hope that people feel that way, I hope that they are empowered to do that, and that they are empowered to listen to the voice on the inside more than they listen to the voices on the outside.
As an artist, a creative being with pressures and deadlines and responsibilities, what do you do to break free and just cut loose? What’s the last thing you’ve done just for fun?
We were in Dubai, and we went dune bashing, and we rode camels, and we did sand boarding – and I fell miserably — but we had so much fun we decided, wherever we go, we’re going to make sure we enjoy those places and we’re gonna take time out. Our manager said to us, when we first started working with him, “You guys need to go on a vacation.” And I was like no, no we work! We grind! You know that’s the new thing with everyone, “I’m grinding!” Yeah, you grind, but to grind you’re breaking down something right? Nobody ever really talks about that. But where do you go to build up? We gonna start building up, I’m going on vacation! When I leave here today I’m gonna go buy me some new glasses or something, make me feel good, some lipstick, you know what I mean!
You have taken your mission, your quest to shine to a whole new level with that glitter in your hair! What’s that about?
Yes! I want you to get it by any means necessary. I want you to get the picture, either by my lips or by my hair. I just feel comfortable doing what I want to do. One of my closest friends, my best friend Maia Wilson, who’s on Broadway, she would always wear bright lipsticks and colors and nails — whatever she felt like doing, she did. And that’s so empowering to me. And I actually feel better when I do that! My mother would say, I remember her saying, “Just get dressed. You don’t have anything to do? Just get dressed, it’ll make you feel better.” And I was like no, I don’t know what that means, and she was like, “Just get dressed!” and then you do, and you do feel better! You look in the mirror and you’re like, “Who is that? Get it girl! Shoot!” So that’s how this makes me feel — it makes me feel better. So I’m gonna do it — I’m gonna keep some glitter! I’m gonna be taking it and just putting it on people.