Sonya Kitchell established herself as a breakout artist at age 15, when she recorded the album Words Came Back to Me and found herself performing on TV talk shows, notching respectable sales and collecting many a glowing review. Now 19 years old, the Massachusetts-bred singer/songwriter is back with This Storm, an accomplished effort that combines folk’s searching sentiments with pure pop bliss. Producer Malcolm Burn (Emmylou Harris) wisely keeps the emphasis on Kitchell’s voice, a smoky, expressive instrument that she deploys confidently and with preternatural restraint.

Kitchell is preparing to launch a headlining tour backed by  The Slip. The 31-date tour kicked off September 24 in Burlington, VT.  The tour comes on the heels of a globe-trotting trek as a featured vocalist in Herbie Hancock’s band. Glide recently caught up with Kitchell on the heels of This Storm.

Where served as the primary inspiration for songs on This Storm?  Was there a particular song-writing period for you or a place that spurned your creativity?

I wrote the bulk of material between the time of my first release and this one— on the road and in my travels. The other part, a good portion of the record, was written during and right before the making of it; when I had time to completely focus on writing songs. This was a special time for me, because it’s one of the only times I can remember having only one focus like that. Once that door was opened for me, the music flowed and didn’t stop pouring fourth until we were done making the record. I was almost too creative (if there is such a things?). I just kept writing songs, and it was hard for me to stop. The most difficult part about this record was choosing which songs not too use, and what to leave out.

To answer what spurred my creativity: Life. It’s always enough to write a song about.

You’ve been compared to Norah Jones, Sarah McLachlan and Joni Mitchell?  Which comparison are you most proud of and which comparisons drive you nuts?

I don’t think it would bother anyone to be compared to Joni Mitchell because she’s one of the greats, and I myself admire her very much. The others can be a little more bothersome, just because they’re contemporaries and as an artist you strive to create your own sound and have your own voice. However, it’s natural for people to make comparisons and I don’t dislike any of the people I’m compared to, so I can’t complain.

You toured with Herbie Hancock on the west coast last year – what was most gratifying about being taken under his wing?  Were there any other artists that served as mentors for you?

I learned a lot from my time with Herbie. The biggest two things for me, that stand out as things that have fully changed me as a person from spending time with him are the way he treats everyone around him and his love for improvisation. For the first, he is truly an amazing, generous, gracious human being, who has a child-like joy about everything and a deep wisdom and understanding. To be around someone like that makes you want to strive to do the same and to be as kind as you can. The second, love of improvisation, on the musical end of things, taught me to trust my instincts. To be encouraged by someone like him, to continue pushing your limits and have no fear of falling for the sake of finding greater heights in music, is key, and helped me make the record I made.

You spent part of the summer on tour with Herbie summer with Herbie Hancock singing songs from The Joni Letters, are there any particular Joni songs you love singing? Which of her songs or albums served as inspiration to you?

“All I Want” and “River”

You’ve been performing jazz since you were ten and took cues from  Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald. Have you grown to incorporate the sounds of any modern artists into your repertoire?

Since I seem to be like a sponge, I’m sure most everything I listen to and love finds a way of into my music. Whether that’s obvious or not, I cannot say, but more recently I’ve been influenced by artists like PJ Harvey, Radiohead, and Arvo Part.

The Slip are backing you on your upcoming tour.  Are you a fan of the band and how did you choose them as your backup band?

I’m a huge fan of The Slip. I love their music and I love them as people. They’re a group of really stellar guys. What they’ve brought to the table is their musical freedom and sensibilities and love of creating. It’s a wonderful fit because we all share the same passion. Good, interesting, music, and we have a fine time making it together.

Since you broke into music, everybody seems to name-drop your age.  How have you used the “teenager” thing to your advantage or is it more or less an easy way for writers to describe you.

It’s part of who I am right now, so people will tend to mention it. I imagine it will be that way until I am no longer an “unusual” age. Thus is life…

Being from Western Massachusetts – is there anything from that region that played an instrumental part in your developing your sound?

The beautiful countryside lends a openness to the music I make.

 Do you find you’re most convincing as a rocker or balladeer?

The jury’s out…

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