Sunny Sweeney

by Dan MacIntosh

With independent-minded singer/songwriters like Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert making inroads into the country music mainstream, there's hope for the equally feisty and assertive Sunny Sweeney, a talented singer/songwriter from Longview, Texas. Perhaps Sweeney's nomination for the ACM Awards' Top New Female Artist award at the 2013 ceremony is evidence that you don't need to be a supermodel/vocalist, like Martina McBride or Faith Hill, to get The Academy's attention. This is not to suggest that Sweeney isn't also pretty; she just has more songwriting skills under the hood.

Like many great songwriters, Sweeney seems to find song inspiration almost everywhere. Who else but a songwriter would pass by a used car lot and somehow get a love song out of it? Well, Sweeney is just such a perceptive artist.
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): When it comes to songwriting, how do you know when you've written a good song?

Sunny Sweeney: When fans say that they like it, that's usually when I think, 'Oh,' because you don't always think every song's great. You kind of have like an idea, but fan validation is the test.

Songfacts: Have fans ever not liked a song that you really liked?

Sunny: Not too terribly vocal about it. But there have been some that have been not as excited about older songs. Fans are so excited to hear new music, because they always want to keep up with you and what you're doing.

Songfacts: Are there songs that you didn't realize were as good as they were until the fans got into them?

Sunny: There are a couple like that. I have one that we do with just me and Jake, who plays the piano, and I knew it was a good song, but people freaked out over it.

Songfacts: Really, what's that?

Sunny: It's called "Carolina on the Line." We're not doing it tonight, because we had to fly here, so we don't have all of our gear. But it's really cool. Fans really like that song.

Songfacts: Do you think it resonated because maybe they're from that region of the country?

Sunny: I think it's just a relatable song. And it's totally different from anything I've ever done. Shock factor had something to do with it, too.

Songfacts: Because it's quieter?

Sunny: Yeah.

Songfacts: Okay. I'm going to ask you at the risk of asking a mother to choose her favorite children, if you could talk about some of the favorite songs that you've written?

Sunny: Well, that's one of them, "Carolina on the Line." There's a new one called "Used Cars" that I really like. One of my favorite songs ever is off my record Concrete called "Amy." I love that song. I love "Drink Myself Single." There's a couple that I really love.

Songfacts: What can you tell me about "Used Cars"?

Sunny: I was married before. I got divorced and I just didn't think I would want to get married again. Then I didn't think that I would ever find someone that would be really good for me - it seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

There's a used car dealership next door to this shithole that I played in Austin. I just happened to be driving by, and I saw it, and there was this one shiny car on the lot. I thought, 'Huh.' So I kept that title for a really long time, and then I was writing with my friend Natalie Hemby one day and I said, "Had this weird idea. I don't know if you'll think it's cool or if there's even anything to it." And I told her, and she's like, "Yes, we're writing that." So it's about finding love again, basically.

Songfacts: And so it's like that diamond in the rough. Like you don't expect to find anything good?

Sunny: That's the beginning of the song. "Diamond in the rough, there's a gem waiting in the junkyard." It says that.

Songfacts: Interesting. Now, as a songwriter, do you have a radar; like, if you see something or you see someone and you say, 'Oh, that just looks like song material?'

Sunny: Oh, every day, all day.

Songfacts: Do you drive your friends crazy?

Sunny: All day. I drive myself crazy because I don't have enough time to write as much as I want to.

Songfacts: You said that you co-wrote that song. How often do you co-write songs?

Sunny: Pretty much all the time now. I used to only write by myself, but once I started co-writing, I really enjoy it. It's somebody to bounce something off of all the time.

Songfacts: I know that some people, it's their babies and they don't want anyone else to touch it.

Sunny: The people I write with are really talented. And so I very rarely have not gotten the song that I thought it would be when we went in to write it.

Songfacts: Do you have go-to co-writers?

Sunny: I have a couple that I always write with. And then I love writing with new people, too.

Songfacts: And you're okay with being thrown into a strange situation?

Sunny: Oh, yeah.

Songfacts: When was the last time that that happened that you really came out with a good song?

Sunny: Writing with a stranger? Like, completely didn't know 'em?

Songfacts: Yeah.

Sunny: Probably the most recent one that I didn't know would be probably Will Hoge or Natalie Hemby.

Songfacts: What did you write with Will?

Sunny: I just wrote with him last week, and it's called "Bad Actress." It's a pretty cool song.

Songfacts: You have great titles for your songs. Does it have to start with a good title to be a good song or can it be a good song and then think of a title later?

Sunny: I usually start with a title.

Songfacts: It's almost like a movie trailer

Sunny: Totally. I think so.

Songfacts: What are you working on right now?

Sunny: I'm writing a ton and I'm playing shows and we're going to start planning the next record soon. So.

Songfacts: And are you excited about the ACMs?

Sunny: Yeah.

Songfacts: Do you like getting all gussied up?

Sunny: Oh, yeah. Every girl loves that. Put on your nighttime eyelashes.

April 16, 2013. Get more at sunnysweeney.com.
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