Inspiration can hit at any time for country singer-songwriter Sonia Leigh. She once woke up from a dream in which she was singing, and set to work writing the song.
Leigh, who performs Saturday at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Mesa, is the first artist signed to Zac Brown’s label, Southern Ground Artists. She opens for the Zac Brown Band on tour this fall.
For now, the 32-year-old Leigh, who answered a few questions during a phone interview ahead of her Mesa performance, is touring the U.S. and keeping pace with her growing career. She shot her first music video — for her single “My Name Is Money” — last month in Atlanta. Her album “1978 December” will be released Sept. 27.
Q: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard of you?
A: Well, there’s a little taste of every style in my music. You can definitely tell that all different kinds of music influence me and my writing. We’ve got everything from really country music to some rock ’n’ roll tunes to some Jackson Browne type (of) ballads.
Q: What’s it like touring with the Zac Brown Band?
A: There’s definitely bigger venues and larger crowds. Pretty much every crowd in these places is sold out. I got to sing some stuff with him and Kenny Chesney. But as a solo (artist) — as Sonia Leigh outside of touring with Zac — we’re still building. And that’s fun as well. Watching things grow has definitely been a reward. I’ve played all over the country. And people are hearing the music and responding. And (they’re) showing up to our shows whether or not Zac’s there. It’s really cool.
Q: After signing with Southern Ground Artists, how has your circle of personal connections with artists changed?
A: You get people around you that probably would have never heard your music. I’ve played for Kenny Chesney on the back of the bus, and he really enjoyed my music. And getting to meet the people around him is pretty cool because he kind of introduces me. Also, you know, we’ve got a really good label. All of the people on Southern Ground Records are amazing, phenomenal writers. We all really respect each other and write together. As Southern Ground Records grows, our whole kind of family and writing network grows as well.
Q: What have you learned about the industry as your presence has grown?
A: I’ve definitely learned a lot about how radio works. I just recently got off of a radio tour. I’ve been traveling around for about 10 weeks playing for program directors, trying to get them turned on to the jingle and get them to spin it. I guess I was naive enough to think that you just made a good song and got it on the radio. But that’s not the way it works. There’s a lot more to getting a song played on the radio than I ever thought. It’s a lot of hard work. Music is fun, and I’m so blessed to be doing it. But it’s also a job as well. It’s a business.
Q: How do you deal with tour life and more demands on your time as a performer?
A: Well, this is what I’ve always wanted. And you’ve just got to roll with it. I don’t get to see my family as often. But I love being on the road. It’s what I live to do. So I’m just having the time of my life, to be honest.
If you go
What: Sonia Leigh, the first artist signed to country star Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Artists label, performs with guest Nic Cowan
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, 1065 N. Dobson Road, Mesa
Information: (480) 844-8629 or www.tobysmesa.com