Sunny Sweeney may be returning to her native Texas for a slate of street-week appearances to promote her sophomore album, "Concrete," which arrived Aug. 23 on Big Machine Records, but her career is on the rise well beyond the Lone Star State.
All summer she's been performing for huge crowds as part of Brad Paisley's H2O II: Wetter & Wilder tour, and her recent single, "Staying's Worse Than Leaving," is No. 38 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart and climbing.
Video: "Staying's Worse Than Leaving," Sunny Sweeney
"I can't wait for everybody to be able to hear the whole [album] because it's like a storybook," Sweeney says. "I've been through a bunch over the last couple of years in my life professionally, personally, physically, emotionally, and as a songwriter that's where things come from. When you do what you're supposed to be doing, you flourish at it. It's the coolest feeling ever."
After gaining a following in her home state, Sweeney signed with Big Machine and released her debut, Heartbreaker's Hall of Fame, in 2007. That project produced three singles, all worked locally in Texas. "We did exactly what we wanted with that record, which was to grow my fan base," Sweeney says. "I made a ton of fans and I am so proud of that record. I love the song choices."
Sweeney scored her first top 10 hit with "From a Table Away," the lead single from "Concrete." The song initially appeared on a self-titled digital EP released in January. "Staying's Worse Than Leaving," which also appeared on the EP, went to country radio in May.
Video: "From a Table Away," Sunny Sweeney
"[The song's] about my divorce," Sweeney says. "I had a marriage that dissolved over the course of the last couple of years and it's really hard. When I sing that song, people come up to me and tell me their stories, saying, 'Girl, your song gave me the strength to leave,' or, 'Your song made me want to work it out.' I cannot believe that a song that is going to be on my record can affect people like that. It's pretty flattering."
Sweeney spent time in theater and as a comedian before applying her talents to music, and she's developed a reputation as a compelling traditional vocalist with a unique perspective as a songwriter. "The lyrics of a lot of the songs are really tough, and that's one thing that I pride myself on?telling real, strong stories," she says.
As for the album title? "I didn't want something like butterflies and dandelions, something real soft," she says. "I wanted a strong word. Then I started thinking, 'Concrete is actually used to build a foundation.' All of this stuff in my past has built this foundation for me to have a much more positive future, so I just thought it was a cool, tough, simple title."
Sweeney will perform in her hometown of Longview on Aug. 22 with a string of Texas dates to follow in San Antonio (Aug. 23), Austin (Aug. 24), Dallas (Aug. 25) and Katy (Aug. 26). "We have set up CD release parties during the first two weeks of release at various clubs in key markets," says Kelly Rich, Big Machine VP of marketing, sales and interactive. "Sunny is in her element when she performs so there is no better place [for her] to be on street week."
Big Machine also created physical copies of the EP and sold them during the Paisley tour as part of the setup for "Concrete." The release will be accompanied by extensive print, online and radio advertising. "Sunny is an artist that bridges the gap between the traditional consumer that typically skews older and the digital consumer," Rich says. "'Staying's Worse Than Leaving' was the single of the week at iTunes and garnered over 340,000 downloads in one week. This is an exciting indicator of the interest out there."