Monica Rizzio Finds the Bright Side On SUNSHINE IS FREE
Wouldn't it be great if we could all take a look at the bright side more often? It's clear when speaking with Monica Rizzio that she certainly does. Her new album, Sunshine Is Free, is all about appreciating how the little things in life make it all worth it. A bonfire on a beach. A couple of days with the one you love. Simply doing...nothing. The album is set for release on October 4, and the first single, "My Sweet Heart," is now premiering on Wide Open Country.
A former resident of Nashville, Tenn., Rizzio spent the early 2000's soaking in the work of songwriters including Mindy Smith, Hillary Lindsey and Elizabeth Cook at places like 12th & Porter, Douglas Corner and The Bluebird Cafe. When it came time to work on her new album, she wanted to revisit her former hometown to collaborate with others more than she ever had before. After a fall spent traveling from her home in Cape Cod to Nashville for writing sessions, she recorded Sunshine Is Free over a week in April at Skinny Elephant Recording along with producer Michael Rinne(Kelsey Waldon, Erin Rae, Caroline Spence), and a stacked lineup of guest musicians including Mindy Smith, Maya de Vitry, Joe Pisapia (Guster), Gwen Sebastian (Miranda Lambert), Will Kimbrough (Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell), Todd Lombardo, Spencer Cullum Jr. (Steelism, Miranda Lambert), Danny Mitchell (Miranda Lambert) and Eamon McLoughlin (The Grand Ole Opry) along with co-writers including Mindy Smith, Michael Rinne, Gwen Sebastian, Aaron Raitiere (A Star Is Born, Lori McKenna, Anderson East), Carl Anderson, Mark Erelli and Hayley Sabella.
The concept for Sunshine Is Free was born on the road, as Rizzio spent time under open skies while touring. Realizing she needed to step outside of a New England winter to write the follow-up to 2016's Washashore Cowgirl, her solo introduction after a decade spent with folk-pop trio Tripping Lily, it became the perfect time to head back to Nashville. The resulting eleven tracks focus on finding joy in simpler things and looking for the silver lining of difficult situations.
Title track "Sunshine Is Free" is an upbeat number, expanded by an infectious bass line and a rollicking banjo. The song practically begs to be a summer staple. "Nothin'" romanticizes a perfect day without a to-do list, spent reading Hemingway and sipping on a glass of wine. The upbeat rocker "Story of My New Year" showcases Rizzio's versatility as a singer and declares that as a new year rolls in, the future is boundless. "My Sweet Heart" is a love song advising a younger self whose heart is aching.
One of Rizzio's inspirations from her early days in Nashville was Mindy Smith; the pair remained friends from afar over the years but had never written together until penning "While With You," a tried-and-true love song full of mesmerizing melodies. "The Shire" features a Jerry Garcia-esque electric guitar, and perfectly captures the ethos of The Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, where it was written.
Growing up in a small town in East Texas, Rizzio did what many people do in such settings: she learned to sing gospel hymns in church and received an education in classic country music, listening to Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Connie Francis and Dolly Parton. "Don't Keep Me Up Waiting" is a waltz inspired by years of endlessly spinning Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger album.
"Little Bit of Truth" centers around an eye-opening 30 days during Washashore Cowgirl's album release tour, which found her reconciling evangelical childhood lessons with her current beliefs. On "Sunday" she examines the intricacies of a relationship gone wrong -- the track focuses on her faith and how that's changed since she was a child.
Throughout Sunshine Is Free, it's clear Rizzio has a keen ability to connect; her songs are often autobiographical, yet delivered through a fictional approach that creates a universal experience for the listener -- whether expressed using her trademark sense of humor or with such striking honesty that the pain in her voice is tangible.
"Left with no choice to go my own way, out here looking for a little bit of truth," she sings, and you can bet she'll be happy to share the lessons she's learned soon.
July 22 - Chatham, MA - Mondays on Main
July 24 - Truro, MA - WAAM
July 26 - Oaks Bluff, MA - The Ritz
August 2 - Nantucket, MA - NISHA Nantucket
August 6 - Cambridge, MA - Lizard Lounge
August 7 - Bourne, MA - Jonathan Bourne Library
August 8 - Mount Tremper, NY - Catskill Pines
August 9 - South Egremont, MA - The Egremont Barn
August 12 - Brooklyn, NY - Pete's Candy Store
August 20 - Dover, MA - Dover Town Library
August 23 - Novato, CA - HopMonk Tavern*
August 25 - Santa Cruz, CA - Kuumbwa Jazz Center*
August 28 - Cottage Grove, OR - Axe and Fiddle*
August 29 - Portland, OR - Mississippi Studios*
August 30 - Prescott, AZ - The Highlands Center for Natural History
September 7 - New Haven, CT - CT Folk
September 29 - North Truro, MA - Vinegrass Music Festival
October 4 - Wellfleet, MA - Wellfleet Preservation Hall
October 15 - Somerville, MA - The Burren
October 16 - Ann Arbor, MI - The Ark
October 17 - Evanston, IL - SPACE
October 18 - Ames, IA - The Maintenance Shop
October 19 - Cedar Rapids, IA - CSPS Hall
October 21 - Minneapolis, MN - Dakota
October 23 - Fort Smith, AR - The Blue Lion
October 24 - Dallas, TX - Poor David's Pub
October 25 - The Woodlands, TX - Dosey Doe
October 26 - Austin, TX - The Cactus Cafe
October 27 - San Antonio, TX - Sam's Burger Joint
November 8 - Brandon, VT - Brandon Music Hall
November 13-16 - Florida - Frank Brown Songwriting Festival
November 29 - Egremont, MA - The Egremont Barn
* with Matt Andersen
Photo Credit: Joe Navas