Sonia Lee writes from personal experience, understanding firsthand that hope arrives after feeling hopeless. Finding a way out means finding a way through. "Everybody is recovering from something," says the Nashville-based singer-songwriter.
"I've been able to overcome my biggest challenges and want to be able to give that hope to others."
Hope isn't just a feel-good buzzword for Sonia either; it's at the heart of everything she does. Following two earlier albums, From the Heart, a collection of Ukrainian folk songs, and True, Americana anthems and ballads drawn from her own life experiences, Sonia set out to record 2007's Chance to Start Over.
A record of hope and inspiration, it is the story of her struggle with alcoholism and her journey to rise above it all.
Overwhelmed and inspired by the outpouring of support that followed from fans, who shared not only their appreciation of her songs but also their own personal stories of adversity, Sonia got to work on her fourth album. Butterfly, released in 2012, built on and expanded the message of perseverance and personal redemption.
Whether it's addiction, divorce, or the pain of simply not knowing what to do next in life, Sonia's songs are about transformation and getting to the other side of pain.
Part Emmylou Harris, part Alison Krauss, her sound is gentle but commanding, uplifting and thoughtful.
Born and raised in Rochester, NY, Sonia is the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants. "It's who I was before I was anything else," Sonia says of her Ukrainian upbringing. Soon after Sonia started talking, she started singing. By age twelve, she was playing the guitar. Influenced by The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and James Taylor, Sonia would find her place in folk and country music.
Dreams of being a songwriter and performing at the Bluebird Café brought Sonia to Nashville in 1998.
The first few years in a new city, however, were not easy. Struggling to navigate the music scene, and life in general, Sonia turned to alcohol. But when the unmanageability of a life fueled by addiction became too much, she got help. "I didn't come here walking towards the light... I came here running from the fire!" It's a line from Sonia's song "Running from the Fire" and also the truth of her experience.
Bolstered by a new sense of freedom, Sonia's music finally became what she'd always imagined it would be: inspirational and peace-giving, an acknowledgement of her past with an enduring hope for the future.
Since then Sonia has written and recorded with some of Nashville's best songwriters and producers, including Kim McLean (songwriter for Trisha Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack, Tim McGraw), Rich Fagan (songwriter for Neil Diamond, George Strait, Hank Williams Jr.), Jim Kimball (musician for Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill), Nathan Chapman (producer for Taylor Swift), and many more. In 2006, and again in 2008, Sonia was named a "New Folk Finalist" at the renowned Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, TX.
That dream of playing the Bluebird Café? It came true many times, including when Sonia played to a standing-room only crowd for the release of Chance to Start Over.
Following the release of Butterfly, Sonia and her husband Chris started work on a new project. The Shoebox Man Kit, a girl's guide to choosing the right man, evolved out of an idea outlined in Sonia's song "Shoebox Man." The story of a loving grandmother's advice to her granddaughter, a young girl learns what she's looking for in a partner by writing down the traits most important to her and placing them in a shoebox beneath her bed. The kit, which features a recording of the song, a book, a pad of paper, a pen, and a keepsake box, is designed to help young women grow in their understanding of what makes a good man, using spiritual principles and characteristics as their guide.
True to her own lyrics, Sonia moves in the direction in which life points, finding her way at each new turn. Wife and mother, songwriter and performer, woman in recovery -- whatever the call, Sonia's message remains the same: