Mar 6, 2008
What are the odds that the first name of a musician is the exact adjective one would use to describe his work? Well, for Sunny Levine, who grew up in Los Angeles and now makes his home in Venice, this is just the case. Levine's music seems to soak up the temperature, color, and landscape of California's southern region a with the kind of fervor characteristic to only a native.
“People say my music has a California sound, a new California sound, and I think definitely geography has a big influence over me,” said Levine. “I think the music sounds sort of easygoing - stuff that would work outside in the sunshine and late at night with the palm trees blowing.”
Growing up as the grandson of the iconic Quincy Jones, son of music producer Stewart Levine (Simply Red, Joe Cocker and B.B. King, to name a few) and nephew of QD3, who has produced albums for rappers Tupac Shakur and Ice Cube, Levine was destined for a career in the industry.
“As a kid, I never thought I would do anything else other than be involved in music,” said Levine.
Released this week, Levine's solo album “Love Rhino” came pouring out of the young musician, who recorded it in between his work on other projects as a producer.
“I think on this record, more than anything else that I've worked on, I didn't overthink it,” said Levine. “I didn't try to lock it down to one style or genre - I just tried to make it a real and honest of a record - even the musical parts.”
The term “Love Rhino,” originally an inside joke, developed into a metaphor about the emotional wreckage left in the wake of love gone wrong and the confessional tales that came out of the experience.
“When you're a love rhino, it's not always that you're hurt from love, you can also be a love rhino because you believe in love,” said Levine. “So I feel like when you are a love rhino it just means you're open to the possibility of love and that's why you can get hurt also.”
While some of the lyrical content may be a bit melancholy, the music is layered with all sorts of upbeat and quirky sounds that make the record a symphonic tale straight out of the Southland.
“The way this record was written (lyrically), it was from actual events that happened so it was all about trying to give them a voice,” said Levine. “It was very easy because the words just flew out. Normally it's a little harder.”
The opening sounds of the first song “Relations” are the unmistakable dreamy guitar lines from Ry Cooder, who plays on the album as a guest musician, which coupled Levine's narrative - the matter-of-fact outlook on the beginnings of what could be love - and the exquisite vocal harmonies from a few female friends on the chorus (Levine's other guest musicians are Amir Yaghmai, Holly Palmer and Joachim Cooder) make for a tender and hopeful tune that sways like a beach-loving guy, clad in a T-shirt and jeans, skating around Venice on his Sector 9 longboard.