Sonia Tetlow bought a guitar in college and moved to Atlanta soon after in the fall of 1994 to become a musician. Since then, she’s made a name for herself solo as well as with the bands Cowboy Mouth, Herman Put Down the Gun and, most recently, Roxie Watson, which defines itself as “alterna-grass.” Her acumen on bass guitar and “incendiary” vocals (as Georgia Music Magazine described her voice) have made her a favorite on the local and national scene.
Tell us about your latest project?
My latest completed recording project is a CD called True Stories, released in January by the group Roxie Watson (Beth Wheeler, Lenny Lasater, Becky Shaw, Linda Bolley and me), with whom I play banjo, write songs and sing. We call the music “alterna-grass,” because we’re a string band with a lot of harmonies playing traditional sounding songs that contain elements of old country, Appalachian music, hymns & bluegrass, without adhering to the traditions of any one genre. I’m also in the midst of recording a new collection of songs with the rock band Herman Put Down the Gun (Linda Bolley, Lee Kennedy and me), with whom I write songs, play guitar, banjo, mandolin and sing. We have the bass and drums finished for eight songs, and I’m working on tracking my instruments before we begin on the vocals. We’re hoping to have the project done by the end of the summer.
Has living and working in Atlanta influenced your style or creativity?
I met some incredible musicians and poets when I moved to Atlanta, many of whom I’ve been friends with and worked with in different capacities for years now. The thing I’m most grateful for is that I found people early on who were into my sort of raw sensibility, when all I had to offer was a few chords and poetry sung with the force of emotion. They didn’t say, hey you stink, but rather, hey this is different, let’s do something creative. Subsequently, I got to do some great projects from playing in different bands and composing music for performance art and dance pieces, to touring with an incredible group of poets and spoken word artists, all the while growing and evolving, picking up these different instruments along the way and eventually getting hired to play full time with a couple of groups.
What’s on your iPod?
My latest additions are from some New Orleans musicians and friends that I’m really digging. Mary Lasseigne’s Mary Jane and the Brain Surgeon is an awesome pop record. There’s also a collaboration between Paul Sanchez and Shamarr Allen called Bridging the Gap. It’s a great combination of their two voices and styles, a mix of originals and covers, old and young, black and white and kind of astounding. Paul does a great version of Kanye West’s “Heartless,” and Shamarr does a killer version of “Instant Karma.” But my favorite is this song they wrote together called, “Love is Blind,” that is both tragic and triumphant, brilliant and just catchy as hell.
What are you working on now?
I’ve started making videos [http://www.youtube.com/soniatetlow] that are sort of abstract impressionist in a music video kind of way. I’m not sure what to make of them yet, but they’re a great creative outlet. I’m also always working on stretching as a songwriter. In the last couple of years, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of hearing other artists do versions of my songs, and it’s inspired me to write in different styles for different voices. Even if I hold onto the songs for a while until I find the right outlet, the most important thing is just to write them.