Maybe the music has always been ingrained in her, but Sonya Kitchell’s environment had to help foster it.
At 19 Kitchell is already establishing herself as a cogent songwriter. Her just-released second CD This Storm features stirring instrumentation from the parlor room and around the campfire, adhering to the sensibilities of her acoustic roots.
“I knew when I began that I wanted to make a record that was more expansive and textural,” Kitchell says by phone at the outset of her latest tour. “I wanted it to be more rock & roll, and I definitely wanted it to be different from the first record.”
While she’s proud of her debut, 2006’s Words Came Back to Me (issued when Kitchell was just 16), this effort was created on firmer footing.
“I feel like this is the first record I’ve made as an artist, and it was very exciting,” Kitchell says. “I was aware of every sound and going for things. It was about making a record rather than the first time where I was like, ‘Wow, I’m making a CD. This is cool.’ Now I’m ready to make a statement.”
With a soul-imbued voice that belies her age, it’s only natural Kitchell would become a precocious performer. Growing up in the Western Massachusetts countryside, she fell in love with her artist parents’ record collection — Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin.
“As a person who loves the country, I think it played a large role in who I am and what I became,” Kitchell says. “Often there wasn’t anything to do except sit around and play guitar.”
Credit her education for nurturing her inner chanteuse too. As a student at an arts-integrated charter school, Kitchell was surrounded by 11-year-olds who preferred The Beatles over the flavor of the month.
“We were all kids who had parents who were hippies in the ’60s and had really good taste in music,” she says.
Having already toured with Herbie Hancock and performed with her idol, Joni Mitchell, it could be said Kitchell is on some kind of dream run. While she says she’s had to pinch herself on those two aforementioned highlights, the rest was expected.
“I’ve always had really high expectations,” Kitchell says. “I think that’s part of why I’ve succeeded in some ways. I still have a lot to do and accomplish. But I’ve always been one of those people who’s fairly confident things will work out. To be on stage is always what I’ve wanted to do and always what I though I’d do.”