Sonia Leigh is the first to admit she likes bending, if not straight up breaking, the rules. Both a celebrated, genre-defying artist and acclaimed hit songwriter, Leigh crafts universal anthems out of her darkest, most personal moments. The country rocker makes her return with the just-released new single "Jack Is Back," on which she cleverly chronicles the end of one relationship and the revival of another: "I’m overdue for some 80 proof /She’s gone but I ain’t alone, Jack is back." Leigh spoke to AXS about the origins of her new single, her biggest challenge as a songwriter and why there’s no shame in raising a little hell.
AXS: What was the process of writing “Jack Is Back”?
Sonia Leigh (SL): I started writing that song one night at my house in Nashville. I was actually drinking some Jack Daniels. I was on my front porch and I just started coming up with the lyrics and the melody and I ran inside and picked up the guitar and immediately knew what I was gonna play. It started off as a country standard. I wrote the first verse and chorus [that night].
[Soon after] I had a write with Anthony Olympia and we worked on different lyrics to the track. By the end of the write nothing was catching us and I said, "I’ve got this really cool idea for this song, but I think it’s too slow. Maybe we could piece these two together; it could be kind of brilliant” and we did and we just looked at each other and it was magic. It happened so very fast.
AXS: Where did the song’s concept come from?
SL: Personal experience. You try to be on your best behavior when you’re with someone who wants you to be. I think this is that little darkness inside of you. When you go through a breakup, you get a little rebellious again.
AXS: Is it challenging to write when you’re going through a hard time?
SL: When I’m in a dark place that’s one of my favorite times to write. It’s good to go there and lay it all out on the table and look. You learn from it, you grow from it and you heal from it. There are those people who were vulnerable enough to write about their dark places and we’re thankful for those people. Sia, Adele, Keith Whitley, Hanks Williams; the people who weren’t afraid to talk about how broken they were.
AXS: How has your sound changed over the years?
SL: I’ve gotten a lot more bold and a lot more experimental and I’ve been exposed to a lot of different styles of music over the years that I love. I love all kinds of music and I think that I have that challenge inside of me that the writer in me wants to see if I can do that, if I can write in that style. I wanna hone that craft and learn. I never want to [stay in] one lane, the hardest part is making myself do that, I just can’t do it!
AXS: How do you hope “Jack Is Back” affects listeners?
SL: I hope it makes them get their balls back. If you’re feeling like raising hell, this song is burn. I’m really glad that we put it with such a badass track. It makes you wanna drive, it makes you wanna drink, it makes you wanna raise hell.