Avery*Sunshine is just the person you need to talk to if you’re ever having a bad, rage-filled day.
The Chester, Pa.-born, Atlanta-based R&B vocalist is making it her thing to spread some sunny, joyful cheer, whether it’s with her music or when she’s talking to an interviewer on the phone. “You gotta release it, because all it does is makes you ill,” says Sunshine, 40, calling from Atlanta. “It doesn’t fix the situation. It just makes you ill.”
A divorced mother of two teenagers, Sunshine (real name: Denise Nicole White) has definitely been there. “I am convinced that if we change our outlook, it may not change the situation, but it will change how you deal with the situation,” she says. “Listen, it’s taken me a moment – please know going through my divorce, I was like, ‘Oh my God! I won’t ever! This is the worst!’… But I’m telling you, when you change your perception, everything changes.”
Sunshine goes about preaching positivity on her latest album, last year’s “The SunRoom.” The album has her engaging in progressive, occasionally retroactive R&B, but Sunshine also drops tunes like the ultra peppy “Time to Shine,” where she urges less confident listeners to think more highly of themselves. “I feel like a lot of people feel that’s not sexy,” she says. “In the industry, you gotta try to be sexy and all. I try to be as sexy as I can. But, you know, I wanna live in a happy place, and I’ve got children that are looking to me.”
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Sunshine named herself after Shug Avery from “The Color Purple” and the exotic character Sunshine from “Harlem Nights.” (And the asterisk? “You can’t tell?” she asks. “It’s like the sunshine!”) Coming from the same Atlanta soul scene that gave such uplifting soulsters as India.Arie, Anthony David and Donnie, Sunshine grew as an artist by picking up their knack for writing strong, personal material. “For me, if you’re gonna do this, you gotta make sure that these songs, they’re saying something,” she says. “You’ve got to say something, and I will attribute a lot of that, or definitely part of that, to my experience with the Atlanta soul scene – for sure.”
Sunshine is looking to boost people’s self-esteem this weekend in Durham, as she does a Saturday night performance at the NuSol Natural Hair & Beauty Expo. “Hair shows are close to my heart, because my mother was a beautician,” she says. “We were always at a hair show.” Although this expo will most likely encourage African-American women to put down the weaves and keep it real, Sunshine won’t hate on those who want to enhance their ’dos with extensions. “I encourage sistas to do what makes them feel beautiful,” she says. “...If you want to wear a weave, wear it! If it’s gonna cause you some physical harm, then don’t do that. But, beyond that, if it makes you feel beautiful, do it!”
All this motivation Avery*Sunshine spreads daily reminds her of what she once picked up from pal Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick (from the jazz-funk group Incognito).
“Bluey says, and it was on his last record, ‘You jump, and you watch the net appear,’” she says. “That means there are no worries. You may not see how something is gonna work out. You have no idea, but you just keep moving. Don’t complain about it – keep moving. Do the thing that you know you’re supposed to do, and everything you need will be right there for you, even if you can’t see it already. So, jump and watch the net appear. So, whatever it is you need to do, just go ahead and do it. The universe – it will meet you where you are.”
What: NuSol Natural Hair & Beauty Expo, with Avery*Sunshine
When: 7:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: Durham Convention Center, 301 W. Morgan St.