Sweetlove has found her own refuge in songwriting after years of helping others showcase theirs. She sang backup vocals for Grammy-nominated and Tony award-winning artists, paying dues on huge stages.
The daughter of a preacher and a teacher, she grew up in California’s Simi Valley and experienced music as a natural part of life––not as a pursuit or a practice, but an extension of just being. Childhood Pentecostal religious services began with songs often sung by David’s bearded, raspy-voiced father. “I grew up with his voice,” Sweetlove says, before noting that many of his children––David’s siblings––became professional musicians.
Now, after living in West Hollywood for the last 15 years, Sweetlove has drawn from her time sharing stages with superstars and that resonant voice that readied worshippers for interpreting tongues to create something that is entirely, beautifully hers.
What lead you to become a music artist and what advice can you give to others aspiring to make a hit?
Sometimes I feel like I became an artist accidentally and sometimes I feel like I’ve been steering towards it my whole life. There were certainly dark times in my life where I came so very close to giving it all up, and through grace (or stubbornness or lack of options) I couldn’t give it up, it was like music had its hooks in me and I couldn’t make a clean break. Writing has always been the thing that got me through hard times, and when I realized I could possibly write my own songs it was kind of like someone turned on a light, and I’ve been chasing that light ever since.
While I think it would be delightful to write a ‘hit’, I don’t think that’s ever a good way to go into creating something. While every artist has their own voice, the biggest hits are always the most universally experienced ideas: love, loss, heartache, betrayal, and joy…. Personally, I think the way you create any great art is that you work on your skills daily, you show up humble and prepared when you work with others, you make sure that you give more than you take, and you surround yourself with good and kind and brilliant people and eventually, you will find your way to shine.
What do you enjoy most about being an artist?
Well first of all, even though there are very hard days when you hate everything that comes out of you, it’s inspiring and fun as hell. And you’re also surrounded by a bunch of other people that are doing the same thing, and that’s beautiful. Music, in particular, is so communal and so community based, it’s really magical. I also love that I am (hopefully) putting something into the world that adds to the betterment of the people around me, instead of taking away, or only worrying about money. And lastly, I think it saves me in a very real way – I don’t know what people do without art to hold them up, to help them process, to give them something beautiful to put out in the world, even in the face of deep anguish.
What about your music is rebellious, unconventional, or unusual?
I’m of the opinion that being a woman just living however she wants in this world is a profoundly rebellious act. Women are the original outlaws, and I draw a lot from that concept when I write my songs, and I try more and more to think about how I can live that in my own life. How can I make sure to be unapologetic in my writing? How can I write about nuance, and bravery, and complexity, and inspire others to be more fully themselves? My song, Devil On Your Shoulder, from this new record Goodnight, Lover (Stripped) is about this very theme – is there anything in your life that is keeping you stuck? Is there anything in your life that you want to do but are afraid to do it for any reason? How can I help you get unstuck and live bigger and for yourself? The lines from Devil go: “When you do four out of five things right, don’t let the fifth be the one that keeps you up at night … you’ve been sweet for your whole damn life … it ain’t fun when you do everything so right.” I just had a conversation with a dear friend of mine who grew up in the midwest and said those lines really spoke to her. I know so many incredible, brilliant, successful women who still beat themselves up over the things they haven’t done and they step over all the amazing things they HAVE done to think about that. I think we are entering a new era of women coming into their own and not apologizing for it, and I AM HERE FOR IT ALL.
What is your current music project about?
This project: Goodnight, Lover (Stripped) is incredibly personal to me. I wrote this record after I lost three people in one year that were so very dear to me, to different forms of mental illness. I have struggled myself with depression and anxiety and I have seen the most beautiful souls lost to its darkness – I didn’t even know I was writing a record at first until I was utterly destroyed by these losses, and I just started writing about it because I didn’t know what else to do … and eventually I realized that I had something really important to say about love and loss and trying to move forward and yet honor the people we lost by putting something beautiful into the world in their honor. So this record is about grief, and loss, and finding joy again, and shaking your fist at a world that would crush the most delicate of us, and hopefully to shine a light on this issue and let people know that they’re not even close to being alone in this. And I hope to have many MANY conversations with as many people as I can for as long as I can.
Was anyone else involved in writing, recording, or producing the songs?
Yes, thankfully I mean, that’s one of the most magical things about music is that you get to do it with other artists. I would be literally nowhere without my incredible co-writers Zach Berkman (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead), Stolar (Goodnight, Lover), Stolar + Evangelia (Devil On Your Shoulder & Things I Didn’t Say, Kill the Alarm (Did You Even Know) and Adam Tressler (The House) and special thanks to my dear friend and wicked musician and producer Wes Hutchinson. Wes re-imagined, played and produced these tracks so beautifully and we had a blast doing it. We also have some other projects coming down the pike so please stay in touch.
What can we expect from you within the next 6 months? Any releases planned? Future Gigs?
Yes, stay tuned! I have this new release of Goodnight, Lover (Stripped) that I’m very excited to talk about and get out and play about … I have a Christmas song coming and another single in January …. I have a film project I’m working on ….and some very cool appearances coming up in LA and Nashville …. Follow me at @sweetlovesouns for the latest updates!
What was the last TV series you watched on TV?
I’m currently obsessed with City on a Hill on Showtime. I’ve always loved a cops and robbers story, and this one has such a stellar cast and smart writing. Aldis Hodge is scorching, Kevin Bacon is an unbelievable force and my friend Matt Del Negro @mattydel is crushing it as a Boston cop trying to fight corruption. I’m hooked!
If you could learn any language fluently what would it be?
First would be French! I speak Spanish fluently, but I think French is magical and both my parents speak it and never taught me (hmph! ) I would also love to learn Russian. I visited Russia in college and I was completely enamored of the incredible and generous people and the beautiful and complex language. I tried to learn Russian before I visited there and because it’s not Latin based, and many of the letters look like English letters but have a different sound, it broke my brain a little bit! I would love to have time to dive in and learn it properly.
Are you a valuable asset on a Pub Quiz team?
Yes! And my family takes games pretty seriously haha. We love family charades and it gets very heated haha. Even better than I am at trivia is my sister Emily, who is very competitive and so good, and my dad loves to play. My dad, Tim, knows so much trivia that when we play Trivial Pursuit, they call it Tim-ial pursuit because he Knows. Every. Answer. Everyone fights to have him on their team!
What’s your favorite children’s story?
This isn’t a traditional children’s story, but my favorite book from growing up was To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s the one I remember being impacted by most, and it’s the one I carry with me to this day. It’s still one of my favorites and takes my breath away every time. Also, I love Where The Wild Things Are
If you were talking to a younger version of you, what advice would you give yourself?
Oh man …. go to therapy earlier, trust yourself more, take more risks and write more bad songs without worrying about what people (or you) think, remember that most things that seem important now won’t matter in 5, 10, 15 years …. don’t let people tell you they know better than you about what’s good for you (especially men), run away from people that treat you like a project they can solve, spend more time with people that make you feel like the best version of yourself, someday you will be an auntie and then you’ll know what it means to love someone more than yourself, know that everything will be ok, really it will be, and your life will be way different and much richer than you could have imagined …. Keep going.