With a perspective equally influenced by her Texas roots and her Cape Cod home, Americana singer-songwriter Monica Rizzio has emerged as one of the finest talents in the East Coast music scene. Monica released her debut album, aptly named Washashore Cowgirl, in 2016; where it was Monica’s solo introduction after a decade in the trio Tripping Lily, Sunshine is Free is her expansion -- after time spent on the road, she realized it was time for her to start collaborating again and recorded the album in Nashville with producer Michael Rinne and a stacked lineup of guest musicians. Throughout the eleven tracks on Sunshine Is Free, Monica appreciates the little things in life and looks for silver linings where necessary. It’s clear she has a keen ability to connect; her songs are often autobiographical but delivered through a fictional approach that aids in creating a universal experience for the listener -- whether it’s expressed using her trademark sense of humor or with such striking honesty that the pain in her voice is tangible.
BIO (long version)
A bonfire on a beach. A couple of days with the one you love. Simply doing...nothing. The little joys in life. Americana singer-songwriter Monica Rizzio’s new album, Sunshine Is Free, is all about the simple things that make it all worth it. The concept for Sunshine Is Free was born on the road, as Rizzio spent time under open skies while touring. Realizing she needed to step outside of a New England winter to write the follow-up to 2016’s Washashore Cowgirl, Rizzio spent the fall of 2018 traveling from her home in Cape Cod to Nashville for writing sessions. Over a week in April at Skinny Elephant Recording, she and producer Michael Rinne (Caroline Spence, Erin Rae & The Meanwhiles, Kelsey Waldon) as well as a stacked lineup of guest musicians including Mindy Smith, Maya de Vitry, Gwen Sebastian, Joe Pisapia, Will Kimbrough, and Eamon McLoughlin, Rizzio created a collection that focuses on finding joy in simpler things and looking for the silver lining of difficult situations.
Title track “Sunshine Is Free” is an upbeat number, expanded by an infectious bass line and a rollicking banjo. The Boot says the song is “a reminder of the beautiful, happiness-inducing parts of life, from the free to the pricey, the minuscule to the massive.” “Nothin’” romanticizes a perfect day without a to-do list, spent reading Hemingway and sipping on a glass of wine. Billboard noted the track’s "delicate acoustic guitar, steady percussion, soaring electric guitar parts and warm vocals.” The upbeat rocker “Story of My New Year” showcases Rizzio’s versatility as a singer and declares that as a new year rolls in, the future is boundless. Wide Open Country shined an early spotlight on “My Sweet Heart,” a love song advising a younger self whose heart is aching.
Rizzio collaborated with longtime friend Mindy Smith for the first time on “While With You,” with PopMatters noting that the "love song [sinks] into its soothing groove early, with beautiful mandolin-driven instrumentation filling the spaces between the layered serenity of Rizzio and Smith's vocal performance." Featuring a Jerry Garcia-esque electric guitar, “The Shire” perfectly captures the ethos of The Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, where it was written. Growing up in a small town in East Texas, Rizzio did what many people do in such settings: she learned to sing gospel hymns in church and received an education in classic country music, listening to Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Connie Francis and Dolly Parton. “Don’t Keep Me Up Waiting” is a waltz inspired by years of endlessly spinning Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger album, premiered by The Bluegrass Situation. “Little Bit of Truth” centers around an eye-opening 30 days during Washashore Cowgirl’s album release tour, which found her reconciling evangelical childhood lessons with her current beliefs. On “Sunday” she examines the intricacies of a relationship gone wrong -- the track focuses on her faith and how that’s changed since she was a child.
Throughout Sunshine Is Free, it’s clear Rizzio has a keen ability to connect; her songs are often autobiographical, yet delivered through a fictional approach that creates a universal experience for the listener -- whether expressed using her trademark sense of humor or with such striking honesty that the pain in her voice is tangible.
“Left with no choice to go my own way, out here looking for a little bit of truth,” she sings, and you can bet she’ll be happy to share the lessons she’s learned soon.