Sonia Barcelona is kind of a big deal. The 29-year-old singer-songwriter won Las Vegas Weekly’s Best Emerging Artist of 2018 award and has opened for many admired bands, including Japanese Breakfast and Deap Vally. In 2019, Barcelona released her first full-length album, “Bitter Melon.”
But like everyone, Sonia Barcelona has faced the pandemic funk and blues. The “Heart Station” singer chatted with me about the global pandemic’s impact on the local music community, her song “Okay,” and how she’s finding a new creative normal amidst it all.
CL: You’re very hands-on and involved with your music. Has this changed during the coronavirus?
SB: As a musician, I haven’t been able to do any shows and that’s actually where we get a lot of our income: the live shows, selling our merch, and selling our music there. Streaming like Spotify and Amazon is a source of income for us as well, but it doesn’t really pay the bills as much… Someone can have millions of plays [on streaming platforms], but only get a thousand dollars or something. It’s crazy.
Creatively, I feel it’s more challenging than it’s been before, but it’s all here — it’s in my brain.. There are a lot of times when I feel very creative and then there’s going to be a few weeks when I feel totally uncreative. I’m still trying to find that balance. I manage by going into different types of art like painting and photography.
CL: Have you learned anything new about your craft(s) during this time?
SB: [Quarantine] may have made me more confident. These are my outlets and now they’re being sharpened. Oh, I want to learn more lead guitar, so when I play live again, I can show my chops!
CL: What inspires you today?
SB: The small moments in my life that I catch help me write. I don’t have a television; I’m very sensitive to the news, and I find there’s a lot of negative information coming my way. That can turn my mentality in a direction I don’t want to be in. News doesn’t give me creativity unless I feel very powerful about it. There have been instances when I feel very sad and I write a song.
I’ve also been seeing movies and noticing details of my life and relationships like my mother and my past… I think about the small moments.
CL: Could you tell me a bit more about your song “Okay,” which you wrote because of the coronavirus?
SB: Hearing that type of news where it’s affecting the whole world and a lot of people are dying was very saddening to me. It gave me a lot of anxiety. When I have a strong emotion, it has to be released. That song was something to soothe myself personally. It was a voice in my head that was trying to soothe myself, saying “everything is going to be okay.”
Though the song was brought up because of the coronavirus, I wanted to be general, so if anybody found themselves in a hard situation, they could listen to it and maybe relate.
CL: How has playing live changed? Do you miss the large crowds?
SB: There’s definitely a diminished crowd, which is maybe like five people spread out. I’ve done so many small venue gigs that it doesn’t really faze me… I put myself in the mindset that I’m just here to express this thing I have within me that has to be released and serve other people and have fun. If you’re having fun then that vibration will spread no matter that. It ripples.
I do miss the connection of people and seeing them smile and having a good time. I miss being with my band. I haven’t rehearsed with them in months. During the quarantine, you realized certain things about yourself. I thought I was an introvert, but I now think I’m a mix of both because I love meeting new people and speaking with others.
Is there anything new that you’re looking forward to?
SB: I’m most excited to keep on recording. It’s just a continuation of what I’ve been doing. I just booked a session at 11th Street Records. I’m excited to go back into the studio and record things. I have a reserve of songs that I just need to put out, so it’s more about me getting back on it and not being so much of a perfectionist and just releasing things.
Catch Sonia Barcelona and her partner and musician, Cameron Calloway singing covers and originals at Saga Pastry + Sandwich every Friday from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm. Social distancing enforced.