[UPDATED] An Interview with Sunny War


As it turns out, I was using some old footage for this interview.  Here are some more recent videos of Sunny for your listening pleasure–enjoy!


Sunny War seems like a contradiction–like an ironically cheery sentiment towards something generally destructive.  And, in a way, the artist known as Sunny War is just that.  This Venice Beach native’s signature style of thumbing, hammering, and plucking at guitar strings could, in a way, be viewed as destructive playing, especially when covering songs with more traditional playing styles.  However, Sunny War takes this method and raises it to a professional level of expertise, creating a cheerily unique sound that infuses blues, soul, and country with a earnest, singer/songwriter feel.  As a modern-day nomad, she tramped through the States and landed in Venice Beach, where it was only a matter of time before someone took notice of her distinct and inspiring stylings.

Claire Gallagher: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

Sunny War: Angus Young of AC/DC, Robert Johnson, Bad Brains and Gillian Welch.

CG: What music/new artists are you listening to now? What do you like about them?

SW: I’v been listening to Santigold, I really dig her.  I’ve never been to big on electronic music but I’m amazed by all the different genres and sounds she can morph into one song.

CG: What’s your writing/recording process like? Do you have any particular settings, situations, or conditions, etc. that help you get inspired to write, record, or jam?

SW: I find that it’s easiest to write outside.  I have a few parks and alley ways I like to escape to with my guitar and a cold beer.  When I try to write in my room where it’s nice and quiet I usually produce nothing.  I also carry a small notebook with me wherever I go.  People watching has been my greatest song influence these days.

CG:  Were there any significant musicians or things that helped you develop your distinct plucking style of guitar playing?

SW: My plucking style is all based on the Beatles song “Blackbird” (which I still don’t know how to play correctly).  It’s the first song with a finger picking technique I’d ever heard and attempted to play.  When I was 8 or 9 it made me feel more accomplished as a guitarist than the standard strumming patterns I had learned before Blackbird.  From then on I knew that was the style I wanted to focus on.

CG: You traveled a lot growing up.  How has it influenced your music?

SW: Traveling, squatting and learning to live free has influenced my music and my whole outlook on life.  As much as it hurt my mother, I’m very glad I left home at 14 and had the experiences I did.  Playing guitar after school and after finishing homework is one thing, but playing guitar on the street for your next meal is another.  All the kinda “political songs” I have were written on the road.  Now I’m finally indoors and all I can write about is love.  It’s been a while since I’v heard someone yell “Get a job!”.  Perhaps a bit too long…  My traveling days arent over, I plan on returning to the rails pretty soon.

CG: What do you think you would be doing right now if you weren’t a musician? What did you want to be when you were a kid?

SW: Before I ever wanted to be a musician I wanted very much to be a painter.  I used to draw alot and romanticize the life of a painter who’s work is recognized only after they die.  But I really have no idea what I’d do without music.  I have no other hobbies or interest.  I like unicycles and skateboards but I don’t think I”d attempt to make a career out of anything like that.  I’d most likely be dead or in prison if I werent a musician.  Music has been my outlet for so many waves of depression and anger.  Without it I’d be insane.

CG: What has been a personal high and a personal low about your musical career so far? Any particular moments of awesomeness or embarrassing blunders?

SW: Meeting Keb Mo, Booker T and JJ Grey was pretty awesome.  Just seeing the reality of how this whole thing works has been awesome.  Alot of people in my family discouraged my dreams of being a musician.  They always told me it should never be more than a hobbie and I’d be better off as a nurse.  So my personal high has been meeting other musicians that made this work on an independent level.

CG: How are you dealing with the flurry of activity surrounding the process of becoming a professional musician?

SW: I’m enjoying myself.  Rolling with the punches!

CG: What’s next for you?

SW: I’d like to start going to school soon.  I want to study Recording Engineering.  Maybe here in L.A, maybe home in TN.  Hopefully we can knock out one official Sunny War Album before then.

Lucky for you, Sunny War just announced that she will be touring with Keb’ Mo‘ this fall.  Check out dates for those shows here.  The first show will be this Friday, the 16th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Palace Theater.  Check her Facebook Page for more information!