Five Nights in London #3: Sonya Titus

Saraswati, Sonya Titus, and Bradley

The Troubadour, London
October 29, 2015

Sonya Titus

Sonya Titus; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London #3

I’m in London for five nights and plan to review one show each night. Last night, Night #3 was an evening at The Troubadour. A few days after I booked my flight, this became the first show on my docket when Sonya Titus announced she was booked there. As you may have noticed, I’ve written and tweeted a lot about Sonya. Indeed, I’ve urged you to get out to this show. If you made it, you saw a great performance and heard one of the voices I most frequently recommend.

For the rest of you, let me tell you about the show. Now, you might notice the review of Sonya’s set is in quite a bit more detail than that of the other terrific artists on the bill tonight. No apologies. I was getting familiar with the other singers this evening, so I’ve written my usual brief live review summaries. However, I was already so familiar with the songs in Sonya’s performance I opted to chronicle them accordingly. Now let’s dive into what turned out to be a full evening of top-shelf vocal performances.


Saraswati; photo by Geoff Wilbur

First Set: Saraswati

Saraswati performs an interesting style of music. She accompanies her sweet, high voice with strumming guitar. She sings all around the song’s melody, offering up her own delivery style — a distinctive, engaging style that pervades everything she performs, including making cover tracks seem like her own. With exceptional execution of her stylistic delivery throughout, overall, Saraswati’s set was an enjoyable one.

Sonya Titus

Sonya Titus; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Second Set: Sonya Titus

Indeed, Sonya’s performance — the first time I have seen her perform live — was much-anticipated, and she didn’t disappoint. She kicked off the set with “Hypnotize,” proving she was in top form this evening. Second song, “Mamma,” showcased the richness of her voice as well her power, while also throwing in some high notes. Sonya followed that with a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “Guilty,” an interesting rendition in that most vocalists struggle with clarity on this cover, offering more rasp than in the original in order to find the emotion, while Sonya instead was able to deliver it with crystal clear power much more similar to Bonnie’s version. That takes a special talent.

The following song, “Now,” is the song that convinced me about Sonya two years ago due to the strength and delicacy required. This would seem to be a difficult song to match the studio precision in a live performance, yet Sonya pulled it off, including all of the song’s intricacies. She followed it up with her newest song, her first-ever live performance of “Resurrection”; if it’s possible for a song to sound bluesy without actually being bluesy, “Resurrection” does just that, while throwing in a bit of a haunting vibe for good measure.

Next up was another cover, Sonya’s rendition of “Stay With Me,” which is also available online. This is a widely covered song right now, and strong voices always make it sound good. She followed that with her second relatively new song, “The Other Side,” which suggests she may have added a little soulfulness (not a lot, just a little) to her trademark style in recent writing sessions, and it really fits the subject matter of “The Other Side” well. This new song also features an especially catchy rhythm, perhaps the reason it proved a crowd favorite.

Sonya Titus

Sonya Titus duet with Azu; photo by Geoff Wilbur

After that, Sonya brought vocalist Azu onstage with her to cover “Lost and Found.” She had told me about Azu before, and she’s right, he is quite a talent with his great, high, strong voice complementing Sonya’s as a nice duet pairing.

Then Sonya closed her set with a cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” a song that shows off her lower register a bit. Worth noting is the nice arrangement that sped things up later in the song, giving an interesting flair to this number.

There’s a reason I’ve written and tweeted about Sonya Titus so much. It’s because, with performances like these in addition to her stellar recordings, she makes me look like a brilliant judge of talent. So glad to have been fortunate enough to catch a set like this while in London.


Bradley; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Third Set: Bradley

So how can someone follow a set like that? With his powerful, gravelly vocals, Bradley did a fine job. The first song utilized a build to power, and his vocals were able to sound emotional while still hitting all the notes, showcasing his talent immediately. Through Bradley’s set, he showed off his highs and lows over all tempos, slow and fast, while moving between loud and soft. Indeed, he always had that gravelly thing going on, which allows him to add a kind of bluesy edge to what might otherwise be considered straight-up pop/rock tune. He closed his thoroughly engaging set with “Carolina,” the best of a very good set of songs. During “Carolina,” power built during the song, while being exceptionally vocally emotional. Overall, Bradley’s set proved an exceptional end to an evening of fine performance.

The Road Back #4: Sonya Titus

The Road Back to Music Journalism #4: Sonya Titus’ Songs on SoundCloud

My First Music Review Tweet

Summer 2013

Sonya Titus

photo courtesy of Sonya Titus

The Backstory
I think I originally ran across Sonya Titus thanks to a promoted post on Facebook. She has released music on Red Dragon Records, and I was targeted by Facebook with one of Red Dragon’s sponsored links. I think this was because I had previously followed a link from publisher Allen Foster’s Songwriter’s Monthly (when he was publishing it online) about one of Red Dragon’s other artists. Regardless, I followed the link, heard Sonya’s song “Now,” and downloaded it. At the time, I was only listening to music from my PC playlist, so I was really only checking out music that was offered as free downloads. If the song sounded interesting, I downloaded it, added it to my daily playlist (which I listened to whenever I telecommuted), and if I liked the song after several listens, it remained on my playlist. Sonya’s “Now” was a song that only got better and more memorable with each listen. As such, it became the first song about which I posted a music review tweet.

Why This Was a Step on the Road Back

It was only 140 characters, but it was my first public “review” of newly-discovered music in more than a decade. Since then, I’m pretty sure I’ve tweeted more about Sonya than any other artist I’ve written about. What a voice! But I’ll let my review elaborate on that…

Review of Sonya Titus’ songs on SoundCloud

Sonya Titus

photo courtesy of Sonya Titus

I’ll focus on Sonya’s studio recordings; in other words, I’ll skip the live recordings. First, let me say that “Now” has strong, soaring pop (slow, soft pop) vocals and is catchy. Oh, did you already read that, perhaps in an embedded tweet? Let’s try again, then.

“Now” was the first song I downloaded and listened to. The sound of this mid-tempo soft pop tune alone is instantly captivating. Sonya’s voice soars, and her trademark style is most apparent in her ability to carrying any vowels through multiple notes and, it seems, several-syllables. (In “Now,” though the “ooh”s carry much of the song, if you want to hear what I think Sonya does especially distinctively well, listen for the extended “I”s.) Oh, the overall song — its tempo, the ample soaring vocals, the variety, and the memorable lyrical hooks — are enough to make this perhaps the song of the summer of 2013, if only it had received widespread radio play, but there is something distinctive about Sonya’s vocals, and it isn’t obvious exactly what it is. I may be overthinking it — it could simply be the combination of elements in her distinctive, high, soaring, versatile, sweet-yet-strong voice, but I think it’s most obvious when she extends her vowels.

Shortly after I discovered “Now,” Sonya released a video for “Love Transfusion.” This song features more traditionally-structured, straightforward songwriting. With Sonya’s vocals soaring through it, “Love Transfusion” is a heartfelt, memorable love (or not) ballad with dynamic transitions.

Sonya TItus

photo courtesy of Sonya Titus

More recently, Sonya has added two more full original songs, “OK in the Morning” and “Too Late,” to SoundCloud, as well as a cover of “Stay With Me.” The originals are a couple more of my favorites from her song collection. “OK in the Morning” is about what you’d expect, and is a hopeful tune, softly energetic yet mellow but with interesting, dynamic transitions. “Too Late,” meanwhile, opens softly and never really builds much, with her voice sweetly weaving its way through the lyrics. If I were me in charge of ordering the songs on her album, I might close with this, as it would bring a collection of songs to a satisfying conclusion. I almost don’t need to write about the cover — someone with a softly powerful, versatile voice like Sonya’s is bound to do a top-shelf rendition of “Stay With Me,” and she doesn’t disappoint.

A Look Ahead

I have heard the unreleased songs that will eventually complete Sonya’s album, and I can attest to the fact that those yet-to-be-shared are as good as those on SoundCloud, though “Now” is still and will likely always be my favorite. (It has topped my personal playlist for two years now; the song has staying power. So if you spot me around town singing “we are beautiful/just the way we are,” yes, I have this song in my head.) I look forward to being able to review an entire Sonya Titus album one of these days. In the more immediate future, I am excited to finally get the chance to see Sonya perform live. Please come join me on Thursday, October 29th. I’ll be in London, enjoying Sonya Titus’ live performance at The Troubadour.