“I love this record!” says Sunshine Anderson of her new single, “Lie to Kick It” from her new album, The Sun Shines Again. Her enthusiasm is justified. She has just found out the retro-soul single is the #1 most added song to R&B/Adult Contemporary Radio, beating out new entries from superstars such as Usher, R. Kelly and Eric Benet.
Sunshine is no stranger to the view from the top. In 2001, the now classic, “Heard It All Before” reached #3 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop chart and the album Your Woman debuted at #5 on the Top 200 Albums chart and reached near platinum status selling over 800,000 copies. “I cannot believe my first single in over three years is jumping out of the gate so fast,” she says with a sincerity you can almost touch. “I am so ready this time around. I now have an appreciation for things, people and life that I have never possessed before.”
It’s an appreciation that was hard earned.
Rags to Reality
Sunshine Anderson hails from a family of singers. Despite the bounty of talent in the house, her parents weren’t initially supportive of her ambitions, believing stars emerged from New York and Los Angeles, not their native Charlotte, North Carolina. However, on a fateful day while a student at North Carolina Central University (where she earned a degree in Criminal Justice), Sunshine was overheard singing Lalah Hathaway’s “Baby Don’t Cry” walking through the cafeteria line by a friend of then burgeoning producer Mike City.
After a successful audition, Sunshine and City began working together which eventually led her to signing with Atlantic Records imprint Soulife (where City had become head of A&R). Fast forward a few years, “Heard It All Before” is released and literally sweeps urban radio in America and internationally, immediately thrusting Sunshine into the then unfamiliar world of promotional appearances, radio and television interviews and multi-city shows. Her new circumstances consumed her—without warning or preparation. “I was overwhelmed,” she remembers. “I was not a kid, but I was young. I just knew it could only get better from there. You never think that it is going to end. So, when it did, that’s why it was so hard to accept.”
There Now, Back Tomorrow
After a brief tour with R. Kelly, Sunshine signed directly to Atlantic, after Soulife folded. She re-entered the studio, recording her entire second album. Then, Warner Bros and Atlantic merged, placing her at the absolute end of a long line of female artists on the roster. With artists such as Missy Elliott, Brandy, Lil Kim and Tamia taking precedence, the label informed her that it would be almost two years before they would release her sophomore album. Not long after, Sunshine, “asked to be released from the label and it was granted.”
Now, back home in Charlotte, Sunshine felt defeated and most of all embarrassed. She fell into a period of deep depression, which included alcohol and drug abuse. “When you are shown the possibilities and have had everything at your fingertips, home can be really hard on you.”
After regrouping and moving to Seattle with her now estranged husband—a professional athlete—she flew to New York and signed with Mathew Knowles Music World Entertainment label. After another extended wait, the label released her album Sunshine After Midnight (with some production by Raphael Saadiq) to little fan fare. “It was three years old before it came out. I am proud of it, but it was not the album that I really wanted to make.”
During the promotion of the album, she became pregnant with her daughter, Skyy (now 2 years old), who, subsequently kept Sunshine from launching into yet another downward spiral. “Motherhood changed me in every way possible. Before, I lived for myself everyday. Now, my life had an order that I never thought possible. It’s amazing.”
A New Day
Now residing in Atlanta, her current space is equally as wonderful. “I am surrounded with the right people now,” says Sunshine, who has reunited with longtime producer and friend Mike City. “I was scared because he’s a great listener. We had some heavy conversations about my life and he incorporated them into these incredible records. It was hard for me to record them, because they brought back all the drama and hurt. I had tucked it all away in a box under the bed and I really wanted that box out of my house. So, having this new album take me back there is hard. But it’s worth it.”
Released on Mike City’s label UnSung/Verve Forecast, The Sun Shines Again—on which Sunshine wrote/co-wrote three songs—is aggressive and emotional, with lyrics of love, yearning, mistrust and desire, all atop soulful, melodic grooves. “Say Something” is a sweet and sexy, come-hither jam (“Stop your fronting/and say something to me/You know you want to”) and the leisurely “2nd Fiddle” finds her making hard decisions (“I know it’s gonna hurt for a little while/But I have to end it now”). The piano-driven “Warning to the Heart” is a beautiful cautionary tale, while “Nervous” is giddy and hopeful (“What if he kisses me/and those sparks start to fly”).
Although known for her trademark rebukes of men on the opposite side of right, “Nervous” is representative of a new direction. “Because of what I have gone through, I want to give inspiration. I want my fans to know that they are worth more and are better than anything they are settling for.” And right now, Sunshine is only accepting the best. “God took me to zero. I have come full circle and I am on the upside of life. I have the peace of mind that I never had.