Sonya Kitchell

Author: Janet



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In the post-Britney Spears age of Radio Disney and former Mickey Mouse Club and Nickelodeon stars with major-label recording contracts, it’s not a surprise at all for artists to release their debut albums before they’re old enough to vote.

On the other hand, it’s sill quite a surprise when that debut album showcases a heavily jazz-influenced singer/songwriter whose primary influences appear to be Joni Mitchell (circa Hejira and Mingus, not “Both Sides Now”) and Rickie Lee Jones.

Following the embarrassment that the stylistically similar Nellie McKay suffered when the news broke that she was 22 when her debut album was released and not the 18 her press releases claimed, one almost wants to see Sonya Kitchell’s birth certificate. Kitchell’s official biography gives her birth date as March 1, 1989, and makes the slightly startling claim that the Northampton, MA-based artist first discovered her songwriting talent on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, when the then 12-year-old Kitchell returned from school so shaken by the day’s terrorist attacks in New York and Washington that she turned her journal entries of the day into a song.

Local press attention led to a one-off date at the Iron Horse Music Hall, a prominent local folk-oriented venue, which then led to the formation of a full-time gigging band, the Sonya Kitchell Band, in 2002.

In 2003, one of Kitchell’s early songs won two Student Music Awards sponsored by DownBeat magazine, and Kitchell was accepted into a workshop for young jazz composers sponsored by the Kennedy Center. Signed to the eclectic AAA indie Velour Records (Dar Williams, Soulive), Kitchell released her debut EP, Cold Day, in 2005, with production by Suzanne Vega collaborator Steve Addabbo. Addabbo returned for Kitchell’s full-length debut, Words Came Back to Me, which was released in the spring of 2006; a sponsorship deal with Starbucks’ Hear Music label brought the CD into coffee shops around the globe. -  Stewart Mason

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