Article and Interview by Doug Vasko//Photos provided by Artist

To ring in the new decade, we were blessed with the opportunity to gain deeper insight into the mind of Florida-based artist SONALI. After a grueling two year hiatus, SONALI came back into the music scene with a bang by performing alongside artists such as Incubus, Zedd, Logic, and even opening for Pitbull during Florida’s own SunFest Music Festival. With such a heartwarming comeback story, we wanted to delve deeper into her past, along with her creative process when it comes to music. This is what she had to say!

When did you first discover music to be your passion?

“As horribly cliché as this sounds, I was three years old when I told my parents I wanted to be a musician, and little did they know I was 100% serious. Over the years I’ve only grown to love music more. It’s always been the one thing I can turn to no matter what challenges life throws at me.”

Which artists do you look up to the most, and which have inspired your creative flow when writing?

“I love so many artists for different reasons! Musically, I really vibe with acts like The 1975, MUNA, CHVRCHES, The Band Camino, etc – basically a lot of music in that whole Indie/Alternative Pop sphere. However, my background is more in the folky/singer-songwriter genre, so I’d probably say my all time favorite artist is John Mayer. I love lyrics that are accessible and relatable yet clever, and no one does that quite like him.”

Did growing up in South Florida have an effect on your music style?

“For sure! South Florida has an incredibly laid-back and chill energy to it. It’s a fun place, and I’d describe my productions in a similar way. My favorite thing to do is to write songs that are maybe lyrically a bit darker, but then pair that with music that’s upbeat and easy to dance to. It gives you an extra layer of discovery with the song, and a reason to go back and listen again!”

How did going on a brief hiatus impact your music?

“It gave me time and space to be a little more intentional. Prior to my break, I had been making more folk/pop centric music, which I still do love! But I was also in college at the time and was discovering electronic music, and wasn’t quite sure which direction I wanted to take. Although I wish I hadn’t lost those years due to health, the unintended break did allow me to really take the time to think about what I wanted. I had never really allowed myself to slow down up till that point. Now I’m making music that feels authentic and like the best of both worlds, it feels like me.”

How were you affected in a musical sense by your struggles with your health? Did it inspire new musical visions?

“It definitely inspired a ton of lyrics, I can tell you that much! I have Chronic Lyme Disease, and along with a lot of physical symptoms it does also have a tremendous mental and emotional impact. My whole life was turned upside down, and even though I wasn’t able to actually work during that time, music was a very useful outlet in helping me process everything that was happening to me. There’s nothing like a major illness to really show you what your priorities are in life, and those are lessons I’m glad to have learned young.”

Tell us how it felt to come back from such a difficult break, and gaining the opportunity to open for Pitbull. 

“I couldn’t possibly imagine a better comeback than opening for Pibull at SunFest, I still feel immensely fortunate to even be able to say that happened. There were so many times during my illness that a career in music no longer felt feasible. There was a long period where I wasn’t physically able to be active enough to perform a full set or get through a 30 minute vocal lesson. To go from that point to playing a 45 minute set on the main stage at SunFest was unreal. I had just formed my live band a few months prior to booking that gig, and our first show ever a week before SunFest at a tiny little venue in Miami. I still can’t believe we pulled that off, it was hands down one of the best days of my life. I have never felt more sure of anything than I felt when I was standing on that stage. I’ll never forget that feeling.”

What are some goals you would like to achieve in your career? 

“Playing live is one of the coolest aspects of this job, there’s nothing like that face-to-face interaction and seeing people react to your songs right in front of you. I just went on my first tour in the fall, and I’d love to do way more of that next year. I’ve always been guilty of dreaming big so at the risk of sounding horribly cliché (again) – I want to play arenas some day!”

Do you have any new music coming out in the near future? What can we expect?

“I do! I’m currently in the process of working on my next project, aiming for it to be ready by the spring. A good amount of it is already written, and we’re just starting to work on the production. I’m collaborating with one of my absolute favorite artists who I think is just wicked talented, I’m so psyched to hear how everything turns out in the end.”

If you had to pick one message that you hope your fans take away from your music what would it be?

“To know that they’re never alone and that they’re stronger than they might think. Life can trick you into feeling isolated sometimes, but truthfully so many of us share similar experiences. I want my music to be a friend to people when they might feel like they have nowhere else to turn. Anytime I’ve gone through any huge obstacle in my life, songs have been one of the main things to help me get through. I want my music to do the same for someone else.”

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