Category Archives: Female Fridays

Female Fridays: Featuring Sunny Sweeney

Last week, I featured Katie Armiger and noted that she is one of my favorite underrated female country artists. I love her sound because it is pop country that is done very well. This week, I am featuring Sunny Sweeney, one of my favorite traditional country females.

How You Might Know Sunny

Sunny Sweeney had a top 10 hit in 2011 with “From a Table Away” which many will remember. She was also an opener on Miranda Lambert’s recent Certified Platinum tour.

Bio

Sunny Sweeney (born December 7, 1976 in Houston, Texas, and raised in Longview), got a degree in public relations and even tried to make it in the “real” world for awhile. That is, until one day when she picked up a guitar and made the life-changing decision to pursue singing and songwriting. She began playing several shows a week in Texas and quickly had a growing fan base. In 2006, she independently released Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame, which, according to her Web site,
found its way onto the desk of Big Machine Records president Scott Borchetta
This turn of events led to a record deal and the re-release of the album in 2007, with three singles making the Texas Music Chart.

In 2010, after signing to Republic Nashville, a joint venture between Big Machine and Universal Republic, Sunny released the well-known “From a Table Away.” This has been her highest charting single–on a major chart–and peaked at No. 10. it was followed by the excellent album Concrete. Concrete was my first experience with Sunny Sweeney, and I couldn’t wait to hear more music from her. Other less-known singles from that album include “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving” and “Drink Myself Single.”

For whatever reason–we can speculate on many–Sunny Sweeney and Big Machine parted ways after this album. In 2014, Sunny released her third album, Provoked with Thirty Tigers, the self-proclaimed
“home for independent artists.”
The first two singles, “Bad Girl Phase” and “My Bed”–a duet with fellow Texas singer Will Hoge that Sunny co-wrote with Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley of the Pistol Annies–hit No. 1 on the Texas Music Chart. This makes Sunny Sweeney the first female to have two consecutive singles hit No. 1 on the Texas charts. She said of the experience, “I am very honored to be the first female to ever have two number one songs back to back on the Texas music chart…I believe firmly that if you just keep following your heart and working your butt off, you will see the payoff and positive results.”

Why Sunny Belongs on Country Radio

Why? Well, for one, she’s already proved she can get chart success with “From a Table Away.” That song wasn’t a pop song either–it was a traditional sounding song about the “other woman” witnessing the husband, whom she thought was ready to leave his wife, from a table away with his wife. The husband is obviously still in love with the wife, and the other woman is confronting him later after having seen them together. This song did well on the charts, so why is it inconceivable to think Sunny could have radio success again? Not to mention she’s doing very well on the Texas Music Chart right now–proving that if actual country music was getting played on “country” radio, she would be highly successful. Also, much like Katie Armiger, her songwriting is relatable and autobiographical. However, unlike younger artists, such as Katie and Taylor Swift, Sunny writes from a place of more experience. Her songs speak of marriage, divorce, and adultery–many times from the view of the “other woman,”–in a way that says she’s lived the lyrics.

In addition, Sunny got a lot of exposure from Miranda Lambert’s Certified Platinum tour, so many more people should know her music now. But sadly, when I was standing in line before the doors opened to see Miranda on that very tour, a local DJ was spinning Miranda Lambert and Justin Moore hits (Justin was the other opener.) After awhile, he called out, “All of you know Miranda Lambert” to which we all cheered. Then he added, “But how many of you know Sunny Sweeney?” A handful of people answered. He said, “Well, here’s one of her songs,” and played “Bad Girl Phase,” one of the recent No. 1 Texas Music Chart singles. For many standing around me, that was the first they’d heard of Sunny Sweeney, and that speaks volumes. The same crowd that was cheering for Miranda Lambert should have been cheering for Sunny Sweeney, and yet most did not even know her name.

Tracks I Recommend

You cannot go wrong with either Concrete or Provoked, but if I had to narrow it down, here’s where I’d start.

1. Amy–Concrete
2. From a Table Away–Concrete
3. Fall for Me–Concrete
4. Staying’s Worse Than Leaving–Concrete
5. My Bed (featuring Will Hoge)–Provoked
6. Carolina on the Line–Provoked
7. Find Me–Provoked
8. Bad Girl Phase–Provoked
9. You Don’t Know Your Husband–Provoked
10. Drink Myself Single–Concrete
11. Refresh my Memory–Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame

Listen to Concrete

Listen to Provoked

These are the two No. 1 Texas Music Chart singles. Both are great, but my personal favorite is “My Bed.”

Female Fridays: Featuring Katie Armiger

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am tired of people defending Keith Hill by saying there aren’t any women out there for country radio to play. Enter Female Fridays, which will seek to correct this problem by giving the “tomatoes” a place to be discovered, heard, and appreciated. I am very excited to feature Katie Armiger, one of my favorite women in country music, on the first Female Friday.

How You Might Know Katie

While she has not had much airplay, Katie Armiger has had fairly consistent success with her videos on GAC’s Top 20 Countdown. Many will remember the video for “Safe,” a tribute to first responders that got over 2 million hits on YouTube.

Bio

Kaitie Armiger (born June 23, 1991, from Sugarland, Texas) got her start at the age of fourteen after winning a talent competition sponsored by a Houston radio station. She won some demo sessions in Nashville, which eventually turned into a full album and a recording contract with Cold River Records. She has recorded four studio albums to date, including her self-titled debut, (2007), Believe (2008), Confessions of a Nice Girl(2010) and Fall into Me(2013.) She is known for her excellent songwriting–she co-wrote all of the fourteen tracks on Fall Into Me and, similar to Taylor Swift, claims much of her writing is autobiographical. My first introduction to Katie was on the excellent Fall Into Me, but since then, I have listened to her earlier material, and there are many great tracks sprinkled throughout her earlier albums as well. Her growth as a singer and a songwriter is evident.

Katie Armiger’s fifth studio album was due out this summer. She had already released the lead single, “One Night Between Friends” and even held an album-listening party for fans on June 14th at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Then, on June 16th, Cold River Records president Pete OHeeron released this statement

Katie Armiger has decided to take a breather and decide her next career aspirations. … It has been the thrill of a lifetime to work with her and watch her blossom into one of the best singer-songwriters of her generation. Katie is a special talent and an even better person. As a label, we love her and support her decision and we will always be her biggest fans.

He went on to say that the label had no plans for a reduction in staff, that Katie’s album had been shelved, and that those who had entered her new contest, “Girls With Dreams” (a songwriting competition for a $10,000 scholarship) would be reimbursed. This is Katie’s own reaction, which she posted later on Instagram

Let’s try this again since that was taken down…’A Breather? Quit country music? Leaving my career behind?’ Not my words, and certainly not my intention. I’ll be able to make an official statement soon… Love you all! OH… I no longer have access to my Twitter or FB accounts.

Incidentally, this was also taken down, and this has been the last we’ve heard from Katie. Regardless of what happens–and I hope she’ll be able to go somewhere else and keep making great music–it is awful to see an artist so misrepresented by her label and her new album shelved so close to its release.

Why Katie Belongs on Country Radio

This won’t be a strong case for every female I feature–not every artist has “radio ready” material; Garth Brooks’s latest single choices are good examples of this. However, Katie should be on country radio. Her songs are pop country that is done well, like early Taylor Swift and Mickey Guyton (I will eventually feature Guyton too.) Her writing is relatable and vulnerable, again like that of Taylor Swift, and she reminds me of what Taylor would have become if she had stayed country. Katie Armiger has the honesty that has been lost in country music, the same honesty that made Taylor Swift successful. Fall Into Me is an album full of songs about love–in fact, Katie said the album is about
“love in all its many forms” and yet every song seems different, and each is relatable, especially to women. I think if Katie got more airplay, she would have the radio success that Taylor Swift proved relatable songwriting is worth–and not only that, it would be pop country instead of straight pop on country radio.

Tracks I Recommend

As I said, Fall Into Me is a great pop country album, and there are several good earlier tracks worth a listen too, but if you are getting to know Katie, here’s where I recommend you start.

1. I’m Free–Fall Into Me
2. Better in a Black Dress–Fall Into Me
3. The Heart Wants What it Wants (single)
4. Black and White–Fall Into Me
5. Stealing Hearts–Fall Into Me
6. Okay Alone–Fall Into Me
7. Man I Thought You Were–Fall Into Me
8. Playin’ With Fire–Fall Into Me (although this leans toward pop, so if you don’t like that, you might not like it)
9. Cardboard Boxes–Fall Into Me
10. Something Better–Believe
11. Scream–Confessions of a Nice Girl
12. Just Can’t Say Goodbye–Katie Armiger

Listen to Fall Into Me

This is an excellent cover of the Selena Gomez song that Katie released earlier this year.

That’s all for the first Female Friday!