Stomping Grounds: Sonya Cotton (San Francisco, CA)

sonyacotton2Sonya Cotton took an exodus west after her personal relationships deteriorated. When she landed in San Francisco, she wrote an amazing batch of folk songs based on a series of strange dreams about a red river rising out of her living room. With her album, Red River, self-realeased this fall, Ghettoblaster got in touch with her and asked her about her new hometown.

1. Why do you live there?
Some of the first things that attracted me to San Francisco were: the openness and friendliness of the strangers I would encounter throughout a day, and the presence of flowers, trees and parks throughout the city. These elements still effect me every day, and make me happy that I live here, but now I also have an incredible community of friends and band mates, and an incredible boyfriend, all of whom reinforce my choice to stay here.
2. What is your favorite local attraction (monument, park, etc)?
I love Bernal Hill.  It inspired these lyrics: “For this sight, this smell, this embrace, with a howling and an untamed grace, this spinning gray/green/gold, I was born and I awoke.”  It is infused with so much magic, and so many memories that I treasure.  Every time I walk up there I see something a new.  On one of my recent walks up Bernal a red tailed hawk rounded the hill, and flew straight towards me at eye level!
3. What is your favorite local event/festival?
The Bicycle Music Festival.  It’s happened every summer for the past three summers in San Francisco (I played it in 2007 and 2008.)  It’s a human-powered festival (the sound system is powered by the audience pedaling bikes next to the stage,) and it travels throughout the day and night from one beautiful outdoor location to another, with everyone riding their bikes critical-mass-style.  It’s still a young festival, but there is so much community support for it already, it’s exciting.
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4. What is the best time of year to be there?
Not the summer!  The summer is one of the colder seasons here, and since I’m from New Jersey it’s hard for me to come to terms with a summer that doesn’t include shorts and tank tops, and trips to the shore.  But in the winter months, when it’s snowing in the east, I am thankful for the weather here. So with my reference point being what it is, I say winter is the best time to be here.
5. Who is your favorite local celebrity/personality?
The local celebrity that I see around the Mission and get excited about is Meric Long from the Dodo’s.  I really respect his musicianship and his songwriting, and he’s a compelling performer.
6. What is your favorite place to see live music and what was your favorite
show there?

One of my favorite places is Bluesix.  It’s an intimate venue in the Mission that’s mostly all acoustic.  It feels like a living room, and amazing musicians are always playing there.  Some favorite shows there have been: SHAKE YOUR PEACE!, Judgement Day, Taught Me, Meredith Axelrod and Pete Devine — all local bands that I respect very much.
7. What is your favorite local band?
Honeybody Moonbee (the musical project of Emily Ritz) is my favorite.  The last time I saw them play I wept throughout the entire second half of their set.  Emily’s melodies and arrangements and lyrics are heartbreakingly beautiful and perfect.  I think Emily’s a genius; her music touches a very deep place in me. ( <> )
8. What is your favorite record store and what was your best find there?
I think Amoeba is great.  I love that they have free live shows in their store all the time, and that you can listen to most albums at their listening stations.  I’ve found some great albums in their bargain bins. But my best find at Amoeba was Ongiara by The Great Lake Swimmers.  That’s a beautiful album, especially that first song – “Your Rocky Spine” — gorgeous.
9. What is your favorite local shop?
I like that shop Needles and Pens on 16th Street in the Mission.  They have a small gallery, cool books and zines, really beautiful jewelery, and other “DIY goods” (as they call them).  I haven’t spent enough time in there… someday soon I will.  But from what I’ve seen so far, it’s a special place.
10. What is your favorite local publication (alternative weekly, zine, or blog)?
I really appreciate The Bay Bridged blog for all of the exposure they give to local musicians.  I also have a special place in my heart for The Guardian (the alternative weekly) — I used to work there, at the front
desk.  It’s very useful for staying up to date on what’s happening in this city, and it has a lot of spunk.