Sharon Little will perform at Steel City Coffeehouse on Oct. 6.
The last time I spoke to Sharon Little she was still enthusiastic about her team and the pending release of her second CBS album “Paper Doll.” A lot has changed since 2010. CBS is now shuttered. It is hard to believe that one of the oldest, most successful labels in music history is gone, but in the conglomerate culture of media that exists today, developing artists do not often get the chance to catch their full stride. Too often, albums that have had a lot of work put into them find permanent homes in contract and copyright limbo.
So, Little is once again trying to follow up her debut Good Time Breakdown.” We spoke on the back patio of Good Karma Café 2, Tenth and Pine Streets, Philadelphia. Here’s what the Lansdale native and Main Line resident had to say.
“We could re-record some of the ‘Paper Doll’ tracks, but I’m trying to concentrate on the new songs. I don’t want to be where I was. I want the songs to be who I am now. If a really, really good situation occurs, I’m not against a major record deal, but right now, I think being independent is the way to go.
“Right now I am recording with Tim Sonnefeld and at Milkboy, which took over Larry Gold’s studio in Northern Liberties. Cass of the Sisters Three will do the vocal arrangements,” she explained, as Tim Sonnefeld, her musical arranger, looked on. Little brought her puggle along and the dog yelped each time Sonnefeld left the patio.
Little came from an unusual place on the scene. She sang backup for other bands and artists and didn’t seem like the type to be catapulted to the top. But suddenly she was signed to CBS and with her musical partner at that time, Scot Sax, won the right to open for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss across the U.S.A. She met many major stars, including Ringo Starr, on this tour.
She recounted, “People like Mick Jagger, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss will give you advice that is good. They will tell you that it is a slow process. Don’t worry about having a couple hundred this time because next time you may have a hundred more.”
Touring requires more of her now that she is responsible for the shows and not opening for major acts.
“When I am playing a small club with just my voice and a guitar, I really feel the song, and the emotion is not acting. It’s the real feeling I have no matter what the song is about.” Little has a following in an unusual territory.
“You know — Des Moines Iowa — I do really well over there. Sometimes, people drive for 500 miles to catch a show. They will say that a certain song really means something to them. You get a sense that you are being paid attention to by people that really like music. It’s far enough away from New York and Los Angeles, where there are so many industry people.”
Of the industry, Little has some tales of trepidation.
“I had a beauty mark on my face that the label wanted removed. Now, I wanted it removed because I always thought it was in the way, but when they suggested it, I was in makeup, and I had to hold back tears because I didn’t want to ruin what they had already done.
“I kept thinking, ‘Do they think I’m not pretty enough?’ Once, they had me posing in my underwear. It was like there was another Sharon Little from a parallel universe that I couldn’t relate to.”
Little can have a very uninhibited, direct way of communicating. She sang part of a song that she was proud of in lieu of just talking about it or telling me where it could be heard. Her writing method is not a sit-down together deal.
She rejoined, “Often, I’ll get a riff on my guitar, record it on my I Phone and then send it to Tim, asking, ‘what do you think of this?’ and then maybe he’ll start to complete the song. Then he’ll send it back to me and we just sort of send it back and forth that way. For me, it’s just getting a song started that takes effort.”
Little has interests outside and beyond music as well.
She stated, “I really love painting and I wish I could get a gallery exposition together at some point. I still enjoy waitressing, believe it or not. I like to tell the customers stories or put on an accent.”
But, one gets the feeling that she will always be haunted by her first public performance.
“I first performed in front of 700 people at my best friend’s funeral at age 16. I inherited her guitar. I discovered I could sing through that emotion.”
Those who would like to hear Sharon Little perform in person can catch her at Steel City Coffee House on Saturday, Oct. 6. For more information, call 610-933-4043 or visit