Sonny Smith began playing Jimmy Yancey covers on piano in little mountain town clubs of Colorado when he was 18. These piano gigs led him to Denver and then into Central America where he busked up and down the Telemanca Coast with a couple friends in a band. At this time he was working on screenplays which ultimately broke apart into long-winded songs with characters and dialogues and plots.
In 2000, he wrote and directed his first short movie “Kid Gus Man.” In 2005, he garnered a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts to write and perform the play The Dangerous Stranger, and received a residency in 2006 from the LAB in San Francisco to produce part two of the saga, “Stranger Danger!”
Sonny also wrote “Steppin’ Out,” a column for the New Mission Newspaper, in addition to publishing stories in various literary magazines.
In 2005, Watchword Literary Magazine commissioned Sonny to produce One Act Plays, a CD that includes Edith Frost, Neko Case, Miranda July, Jolie Holland, Andy Cabic, Virgil Shaw, Mark Eitzel, John Dwyer and Mekons’ Rico Bell, among other talented artists. Following this was the release of Fruitvale, a collaboration with Wilco’s Leroy Bach and other Chicago musicians that features songs Sonny wrote about his then neighborhood in Oakland.
In 2009 he released Tomorrow is Alright (soft abuse/secret seven) with his band Sonny & the Sunsets, a loose collective of musicians including Shayde Sartin & Tim Cohen of the Fresh & Onlys, Tahlia Harbour of Citay and The Dry Spells as well as Sub Pop recording artist Kelley Stoltz. The Sunsets now include Ryan Browne, Tahlia Harbour, and Kelley Stoltz.
In 2009 he acted in a short film by Robert Arnold All Animals.
In March of 2009, he gained another residency through The Headlands Center for the Arts to begin a large project called “100 records” in which 100 artists make 7” record covers of fictional bands that he supplies the music for. The show debuted for a seven week run at Gallery 16 in San Francisco in April 2010. It then travelled to Okay Mnt Gallery in Austin, Texas and will finish in New York at Cinders Gallery. Artists involved were William Wiley, Alika Cooper, Chris Johansen, Alice Shaw, Paul Wackers, Rebecca Miller, and about 90 more…
He recently released the new album Longtime Companion (Polyvinyl, 2012).