The new CD single of Bobby Hebb’s classic “Sunny”, as recorded in the Mediterranean country of Malta by Sophie (Debattista found at TotallySophie.com,) is a dynamic, charging pop performance that display’s the singer’s appealing voice in a high energy dance setting with the title of the song repeated over producers Elton Zarb and Giles Squire’s quasi industrial backing track.
On Jan 1, 2006 French chanteuse Sophie Villamayor released her rendition of this song of declaration that “the bright days are here” following in the footsteps of so many other female vocalists including (but certainly not limited to) Mieko Hirota, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Cher, Mary Wells, Italian pop singer Mina, Dusty Springfield and – of course – Melba Moore – who sings back-up with Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson on Bobby Hebb’s hit version.
The official release date of the new single – “Sunny” by Sophie – is December 9. Produced at Freetime Studios in Malta the disc is on Thru The Mill, Ltd., on Amazon, iTunes and on TotallySophie.com. (Editor’s note: Sophie will appear on Joe Viglione’s VISUAL RADIO LIVE on Thursday evening, December 6, 2012 8 PM Eastern Time via telephone. You can tune in on wincam.org This first interview was conducted via e mail).
The Sophie Interview
JV: Hello Sophie, I was listening to your version of “You Can’t Hurry Love”. It has a nice pop attitude like the original 1966 Supremes version along with that Phil Collins drumbeat from his 1983 rendition. Almost thirty years have passed since Collins and almost 50 years for Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and the Supremes…how did you develop your version?
Sophie: Hi there! Well yes rightly said, lots of time has passed since Phil Collins and The Supremes version of ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’. Personally I’ve always loved this song, it’s an all time favourite for many people and so easy to sing along to. I first started to sing the cover version after hearing Phil Collins perform it live on British TV. After that I took my version into the recording studio with me one day and I just watched it grow and grow from there!
JV: “Up The Wall” is a good song – what can you tell us about it?
Sophie: Thank you very much! ‘Up The Wall’ is actually one of my favourite original songs to sing live on stage. I wrote it when I was in a relationship that drove me crazy, and not in a good way. It’s basically about a guy (in my case) or a girl that is absolutely annoying your socks off and I dedicate this song to that particular person.
JV: When I read the title “Love to Love You” I initially thought you were covering Donna Summer, but this sounds like a classic Brit Pop song and is very appealing. How did the recording of “Love to Love You” evolve?
Sophie: I love a bit of pop! When we recorded ‘Love To Love You’ I was in a very happy place of life and all I wanted to sing and write about was Love. That’s why at that moment in time it felt so right to take Love To Love You to the next level and evolve it into a catchy pop song everyone can sing along to and relate to, because there is nothing without love.
JV: Sophie, when do you remember first hearing “Sunny”, and by which artist?
Sophie: To be honest I can’t remember the very first time I heard the song because it has been at the top of my all time greats for such a long time! The version I first heard and fell in love with was definitely Bobby Hebb’s, he sings it with such ease and has a voice I could listen to all day, it’s so pure!
JV: Your publicist stated “‘Sunny’ is one of Sophie’s favorite tracks of all time, and she was thrilled when she learned that she would be recording a remake of the song as part of her first album” Who chose the song to be on your debut album?
Sophie: I was super excited when I learned that we were going do a remake of Sunny for my debut album!! The idea was suggested to me by my management and as soon as they mentioned Sunny as a possible song for the album, I was over the moon!! I knew there were lots of artists who had created amazing covers of the song in their own way, so I was intrigued to see what the producers and I could come up with when we started working on Sunny in the studios in Malta!
JV: How did you create your studio version of “Sunny” ?
Sophie: I created my version of Sunny by working with two brilliant producers in Freetime Production Studios Malta who are Giles Squire and Elton Zarb. We started off by creating a slow tempo version of Sunny and kept it’s original bluesy feel. We then looked at the possibility of mixing it up a bit and bringing out the pop side if the song. We kept on playing about with the track and fine tuning certain bits until we were finally happy with the result.
JV: The song is available on the internet on TotallySophie.com and your site says it is about to be released by Tesco. In which countries will the physical CD be available?
Sophie: To begin with my management Thru The Mill will officially release the single on the 9th December, starting as an online download to see how it goes via internet before creating physical CDs to sell. Saying this, there have been an amount of hard copies produced, and these will be distributed to TV and Radio Stations. Also if my management were to agree then I was hoping to give a couple of signed copies away through an online competition.
JV: Will you be performing the song live – or have you already performed “Sunny” in concert and – if so – who are the performers backing you up?
Sophie: Yes I definitely intend on performing Sunny live on stage, this is one of the best bits for me! In fact throughout the Summer I was on tour of the UK, performing in around 20 various events, festivals and gigs, accompanied by the beautifully talented ladies from Italia Conti (London)! The aim of the tour was to make new friends and promote my next single ‘Sunny’! This song formed part of my repertoire every time I performed, and although the lyrics didn’t always reflect in the weather, ‘Sunny’ always put a smile on the audience’s face!
JV: Will “the fabulous ladies from the Italia conti academy, London – Mia-Jay Clarson x – Jo Shah x – Jane Ridler x – Marni-Lee Clarson x be performing with you on “Sunny”?
Sophie: Well coming up in the months of November and December I will be performing at a couple of Christmas Lights Switch On festivals and some other events in the UK too. I will naturally be performing my version on Sunny throughout the shows, however unfortunately the ladies from Italia Conti won’t be performing with me on every event.
JV: Bobby Hebb performed “Sunny” on tour with The Beatles in 1966 in America, have you heard the song in the nightclubs of England or Germany where we understand it is still a big dance hit?
Sophie: To be honest with you I have been so busy lately that apart from a one of ladies night in Malta I haven’t been out to many clubs, as most of my spare time is taken up by songwriting and playing the guitar. :)
JV: Have you ever heard Mieko Hirota perform “Sunny”…she’s known as the “Connie Francis of Japan” and may have recorded her version before Bobby’s was issued. What do you think of Mieko’s early version?
Sophie: Wow! I have never heard that version of Sunny. Thank you so much for passing on this link. Mieko Hirota has a stunning voice! It actually has some similarities to Bobby Hebb’s version, which I love, but it’s so unique at the same time!!
JV: “Sunny” makes waves around the world, from South America to Asia. Would you mind commenting on this phenomenon and how a contemporary version like yours keeps the magic alive, as do these other performers who sing Bobby Hebb’s work:
Sophie: I think it is extremely important for artists to keep remaking all time greats like ‘Sunny’ to keep a phenomenon going!! ‘Sunny’ has evolved into something much bigger than just one simply song. It is only thanks to artists like these listed below that this phenomenon keeps growing and keeps reaching a bigger audience and new generations!
Luis Miguel, “The Sun of Mexico”, performs “Sunny” south-of-the-border, as we say here in the states. and Lee Soon-kyo – also known as “Sunny” is said to have performed the song in Korea and Japan. Have you heard either of these versions?
Luis Miguel, “Sunny” Studio Version
This is a great version by Luis Miguel and although I don’t understand Spanish, I love the fact that he has translated the song. Like this people who understand Spanish and not English can get a gist of what ‘Sunny’ is all about by listening to this version.
Lee Soon-kyu (born on May 15, 1989), who uses the stage name Sunny, is a Korean singer, dancer, DJ, MC, model, musical actress and member of the Korean girl group Girls’ Generation.
Wow what amazing stage presence Lee has! She demands attention when she’s performing. I really love the idea of choosing ‘Sunny’ as her stage name, it suits her as she looks like she’s got a very bubbly character, and whenever you hear her stage name you naturally think of the song. Her version of Britney’s song is awesome, I love it!
Ameimi also has a rendition. What do you think of it?
Wow this is a lovely version of Sunny! Very uptempo and bouncy. Whenever artists cover a song, one thing I always look out for is the originality they show and the new flavours they find in a song, and from the versions I have heard, they have all managed to do just that!
JV: When did you first start singing in public?
Sophie: I first started singing in public when I was around nine years old. It was when I formed part of a duet with my best friend Yazmin. Though back then it was all a bit of fun, ever since I’ve always known that I wanted to live my life through music.
JV: How did you put your group together and pick your producer and your team?
Sophie: I love working with great people and being surrounded by positivity! So when I came to putting my team together, that was something I looked out for. I have worked with Elton Zarb at Freetime Studios for a very long time and we have such a great musical relationship, and the same goes for my executive producer Giles Squire who is also my manager. Also when I first went on tour of the UK last Summer I was in need of some fresh young backing dancers, as my Maltese group couldn’t travel with me. So after a long audition process we chose the 4 lovely ladies from Italia Conti who are Mia-Jay, Jo, Marni-Lee and Jane, they are absolutely fabulous!
JV: Do you have any plans for touring the United States or any other countries and exotic places?
Sophie: Right now the plans are to see how people receive my music and see where it takes me. We spent lots of time getting the music to sound as we want it to, so for know we’ll let the music do the talking!
JV: What’s the title of your debut album?
Sophie: I don’t think I’m supposed to reveal that yet! However I can probably give you a little clue without getting told off by my management. The name to the album is going to have something to do with my first name! :)
JV: Sophie, thanks for your time and for performing Bobby Hebb’s classic song.
Sophie: Thank you :)
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.