SONiA wins the Spirit of Folk Award at Folk Alliance 
  congratulations to all the winners Bruce Coburn, Molly Tuttle and all...
 Rhythms Magazine Live at Maximal - TOP TEN ALBUMS 

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An American and an Aussie walk into a Church...

January 27, 2018
Matthew Erdely
Music Gig Review

SONiA (Disappear Fear) took to the stage and showed every bit of why she was the headline act. SONiA is a singer/song-writer from Baltimore, Maryland, the setting for the excellent TV Show The Wire. SONiA continued where Zac Eden left of and intricately wove a set full of meaning, heart and passion. Her songs, music and sheer presence held the audience in total captivation. It was clear that each song held personal significance. Theme and lyrics came across as mission statements that we all could and should live by.

Video: SONiA (Disappear Fear) live at Trinity Session. Credit to Arty Records for the footage

SONiA could not be faulted in anyway, she was rather faultless. The brilliant acoustics were such that you could just swear that the chords lingered in the air, each crisply played. In actual fact the skill with which the guitar was played was a mere after thought. SONiA's most endearing quality was her ability to paint a picture with wit, humour and humility. She created a context for her songs that allowed her fans to imagine that they themselves were going on a journey and the subject of the songs. When delving into the world of politically influenced song writing, the importance of connecting with your audience can't be understated. SONiA was a master at this!

Picture: SONiA (Disappear Fear) at Trinity Sessions

People, at the Trinity, were content to just sit and process what they had just experienced, almost with an element of awe and shock. I was half expecting an emergency medical response team to burst through the doors and take us all to hospital for observation! However, this wasn't to be the end. SONiA felt inspired to unplug her guitar and lead us in a sing along version of 'Imagine' by John Lennon. It was the perfect finish and one of those musical memories that I will treasure for as long as I remember it! Check out my sneaky footage below...

SONiA disappear fear

Wauchope Arts and Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group will host a very special concert this month, to raise funds for Sanctuary Australia’s Refugee Support Programs. Baltimore based singer-songwriter SONiA diappear fear (Sonia Rutstein) and local performer Helen Mottee will present a show to remember… We chat to both Sonia and Krissa Wilkinson from Wauchope Arts ahead of the December 8 performance…


Hi Krissa. What’s the aim of the show on December 8, featuring SONiA disappear fear and Helen Mottee – where will funds raised go?
Historically, music has successfully shaped the world, raising awareness during campaigns for civil rights, social justice, women’s rights and peace.
Sonia Rutstein and local support artist Helen Mottee use their musical talents as singer songwriters to raise concerns about injustice, human rights and the plight of refugees.
Helen is a much-loved local performer, who pens heartfelt tunes that she will play on the grand piano. Some say she is our local Carol King!
The aim of this event is to cultivate compassion and encourage generosity. This event is a fundraiser for Sanctuary Australia’s Refugee Support Programs.
Like the influx of people after WWII and the holocaust, or people fleeing Vietnam after the war, refugees who manage to settle in Australia face many hardships and are dependent on the kindness of strangers.

You’ll have additional offerings on the night, including a raffle. What are the refreshment arrangements, and what prizes can people win?
A light dinner will be for sale from 6:30pm for $10. There will be an array of delicious home cooked vegetarian food, much of it harvested from local organic gardens.
The raffle includes beautiful original prints by designer Annie Georgeson, hand woven and handmade items, including some beautiful ceramic bowls, as well as organic produce.

How much are tickets, and where can they be purchased?
Tickets can be purchased at the door from 6:30pm or online at – $25, or $20 for Arts Council and refugee group members.

Thanks Krissa.



Hi Sonia. Introduce us to SONiA disappear fear, which has undergone a few changes since its inception…
The basic spine and soul of disappear fear has always been me and my Santa Cruz guitar. My sister, CiNDY, and I created the band disappear fear and at its inception we were a duo in October of 1987 – and then we worked with different members, depending on my writing and our dating habits. The first band was a marimba percussionist and cellist. Next was a basic rock formation.
Currently I work with bassist Christopher Sellman, who I’ve performed and recorded with off and on for 20 years and percussionist Ezell Jones Jr.
Originally we were heavy into sisterhood harmonies, so when CiNDY left, I had to really focus on great songwriting to stay alive and engaging.

The songs you write reflect issues of today …  issues you’re obviously very passionate about. What are some of the key messages you hope to convey with your music?
Every choice we make has a price of defining our future; hence by definition, “free will”. Before doing music full-time, I worked at a Rape Crisis Centre. I was acutely aware of self empowerment after an assault. This can apply, as does the essence of the idea of disappearing fear to many situations that we might feel powerless in, so I hope my songs inspire people to find their own courage and live in the moment and to love out loud.
Of course, this transpires into political realms as well as religious, sexual, stereotypes and scientific applications.

You buck the trend by performing in places/venues other performers would shun. For you personally, what’s been one of your more memorable performances?
One concert I loved was at a V.A hospital near Austin, Texas, on Memorial Day. There was an old soldier who’d been badly wounded in Vietnam – in a wheelchair – who at the end of my song actually stood up to give me a personal and extremely difficult standing ovation.
Another wonderful experience was at concert I did in a bomb shelter in Israel during the second antifada – it was very powerful and especially memorable, because we never knew who would live or what would happen next.
But the most amazing experience I can think of was for this 10 year child in Massachusetts near Boston – she had extreme cerebral palsy. She was in love and very familiar with my singing voice. When I started to sing her favourite song, she went absolutely ecstatic. I’ve never seen so much joy bursting out of a human being like that – ever. It was all encompassing in loveliness.

When you perform in Wauchope on December 8, who’ll be supporting you – both on stage and behind the scenes?
I travel with my manager, who lucky for me is also my wife.

What are your thoughts ahead of travelling “down under”… Have you visited here before?
Yes, I have toured in Oz before. I’ve played the Woodford Folk Festival about four times, also the Illawarra festival, Cygnet and Mardi Gras. My last tour in 2009 I played the Sydney Opera House, State Theatre in Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne. I have shared the stage with Kristina Olsen, Kristy Apps, George, the Waifs, Blue House, Fred Smith, Aurora Jane, Ember Swift, and many other great performers.

When you have the chance to wind down from your Australian experience, what are your plans?
This time I hope to hit the waves at Noosa and also venture out to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and maybe get to snorkel again at the Great Barrier Reef – but must importantly, reconnect with my Aussie mates.

Thanks Sonia.

Photos by Lea Morales.

SONiA to play Wauchope Arts
on December 8 in refugee fundraiser

3 Dec 2017, noon









Don’t miss Baltimore singer/songwriter SONiA at Wauchope Arts on Friday December 8 in a concert fundraiser for Sanctuary Australia’s refugee support programs.

Helen Mottee is the local support artist at the event, organised jointly by Wauchope Arts Council and the Mid Coast Refugee Support Group.

Light dinner, supper and drinks for sale from 6.30pm plus a huge raffle with great prizes.

This will not be the first time SONiA has used her musical talents to benefit others. She frequently performs her powerful songs of passion and hope at events that challenge injustice, and was awarded the Coin Of Honor from a joint coalition of United States military for her humanitarian efforts.

Earlier this year she organised a relief concert in Texas to raise hearts and money for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. As a musician, SONiA has received the GLAMA (Gay and Lesbian Music Awards) for Female Artist of the year, and a nomination for Best Live Album by the Independent Music Awards (USA).

Her 17 award-winning CDs include songs written in Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, German and in multiple genres, from blues to middle eastern, folk to country and western. Since 1994, when she and her sister Cindy Frank formed the indie-folk duo “disappear fear”, SONiA has released albums as a group member and even more as a solo artist, selling over a million units.

Her music is a vivid celebration of the human spirit, and according to Don Kening from the Chicago Daily Herald, "has a singular sound that makes labeling and categorizing a waste of time.”

Although SONiA spends a large portion of her time in Europe, every few years she comes back to tour Australia and New Zealand, which she enjoys very much.

From the Opera House in Sydney, to the bomb shelters of the Middle East, SONiA has shared the stage with many of her heroes including Bruce Springsteen, Peter, Paul and Mary, Green Day, John Fullbright and Sheryl Crow.

The Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group chose to fundraise for Sanctuary Australia Foundation as a means of supporting a community-based organisation that provides valuable services to refugees seeking to resettle to Australia.

Tickets for the December 8 fundraiser cost $25 and are available online at or at the door. A light meal, drinks and treats will be available for purchase from 6.30pm, with music from 8pm. For more information about Sanctuary Australia Foundation, go to

The story Wauchope concert by SONiA will help refugees in Australia first appeared on Port Macquarie News.



Have no fear at Jacob’s Ladder 
Audiences will have nothing to be afraid of when SONiA Rutstein and her Disappear Fear band take the stage at this weekend’s fun-filled annual country, folk and rock festival at Kibbutz Ginosaur.

05/14/2015 10:38

SONiA Rutstein. (photo credit: Courtesy) 

SONiA Rutstein was clearly way ahead of her time. Long before it was considered sexy – by marketing executives and PR dudes – to mix upper case and lower case letters in the names of, for example, new software or even companies, the American musician had an instinctive feel for the then highly conventional blend of graphic scale. 

“That is how I spelled my name before I knew how to write,” states the 56-year-old US singer-songwriter, who is on this weekend’s annual Jacob’s Ladder Festival roster taking place at Kibbutz Ginosaur. 

There are other hindsight benefits to the script synthesis. 

“It stands out as a logo,” Rutstein continues, adding that it also helps to keep her on an even keel. “I like the small ‘i,’ it is good for balancing [my] ego.” Fair enough. 

In fact, Rutstein, if she were so disposed, has plenty of grounds for blowing her own trumpet. She has been globetrotting with great success for over 30 years now, performing material from her extensive discography in various languages, including Hebrew and Arabic, together with her Disappear Fear band. 

The group’s moniker also conjures up an important associative message. “The idea for the name came up after the band had started,” explains Rutstein. “It was a good empowering idea for different situations in life. It just seemed to grow naturally. The thought process was that when you do that, you can be with people.” 

That is an admirable goal, which Rutstein spelled out in a song, called “Tango,” which she wrote in 1989. The lyrics include the following heartwarming lines: “The world is ready to disappear fear. A world that is not afraid of itself or who it loves. A world that is ending hunger in every form that hunger exists – no one is left out.” Amen to that. 

Rutstein is clearly keen on getting messages of unity, love and peace out there, and she does so across a broad spectrum of musical styles and genres. The folkie strand is central to her oeuvre, but there are some grungier elements in there too, in addition to an ethnic spread. The “disappear fear” pairing originally featured in a more rock-oriented number on 1999 album Me Too, called “Opinion # 33.” 

“That’s a sort of hip hop song, which I wrote out of a bass line, it’s kind of funky.” 

Disappear Fear is certainly a funky catchphrase, although Rutstein doesn’t want us to get too lost in that. “People like it, but I think that some people don’t even realize that Disappear Fear is a band name, and not just an idea. That’s good too, but I’d like people to hear the music too.” 

Rutstein gained a rich and diverse musical education in her formative years. “I grew up with a lot of classical music, and I loved Broadway musicals and opera too,” she recalls. Some of her early influences passed through a parental prism. 

“My dad loved jazz, people like [guitarist] Wes Montgomery but also [legendary 20th century Spanish classical guitarist Andrés] Segovia. So I got a lot of different stuff as a kid, plus I went to Hebrew school and my Aunt Shoshana and I did a lot of Hebrew songs together, and I went to camp where we sang Hebrew songs, and we did folk dancing too. There was lots of music.” 

Growing up in the late Sixties, Rutstein also naturally imbibed the beat and melodies of the Fab Four, but also songs from closer to home. “Living in Baltimore, we got a lot of [soul record label] Motown stuff – a lot of Diana Ross, the Temptations, Dionne Warwick and all of that stuff, which was big back then.” 

The maternal side of the family pulled the youngster to the crooner side of the market, while the parental confluence led to more folk-based acoustic fare. “My mother liked people like Frank Sinatra and Perry Como,” says Rutstein. “But, I guess, my parents meant musically with things like The Kingston Trio and [folk singer] Odetta.” 

Both of the latter were instrumental in fueling the folk music revival of the late Fifties and early Sixties, while Odetta was active in the Civil Rights movement. “I got to see Odetta when I was very young, when she appeared with the Baltimore Symphony. “I also got to see [iconic jazz trumpeter- vocalist] Louis Armstrong.” 

Thankfully, Rutstein not only admired some of her childhood idols from afar, she also got to gig with one of the legends of the folk community, banjo player-singer, civil rights activist and environmentalist Pete Seeger, who passed away last year at the age of 94. 

“We played together at the Clearwater Revival Folk Festival which was a festival Pete started. He was amazing. A very sweet soul,” says Rutstein. 

Rutstein started out on her own musical path at the age of 13, when she first picked up a guitar and started putting poems she found to music. When she mustered the courage to try out her own lyrics, she initially got little encouragement from her peers. 

“My friends would laugh at the songs I wrote myself,” she recalls. That early rejection led her to place more faith in something which wouldn’t make fun of her. “My guitar became my best friend. I could tell it anything and it wouldn’t let the secret go. Me and my guitar spent a lot of time together, and we got really close. I was able to say things I really wanted to say, with my voice.” 

Things got more serious when, at the age of 19, Rutstein received a sisterly boost. Her parents had gotten divorced and she had dropped out of school and didn’t know which way to head, until her younger sister, Cindy, suggested becoming a professional musician. 

“She said my songs were really great and that was what I should do,” says Rutstein. And the rest is history. 

The Disappear Fear discography now numbers 17, and Rutstein says she is proud of her work to date. 

“I can listen to my first CD and not cringe,” she notes. “I think that is great. I may or may not do the music differently today but I like what I was saying back then.” 

Thousands of fans across the globe and, no doubt, at Jacob’s Ladder this weekend, would go along with that. 

Elsewhere on the Jacob’s Ladder roster there are plenty of familiar names and sounds. Festival veteran singer-songwriter Diane Kaplan will team up with longtime cohort vocalist, flutist and percussionist Dana Keren – with Kaplan’s singer son Edan putting in a guest appearance – for a program of Beatles, Dylan and Carole King covers, plus some originals, while the ever-popular Larry & Mindy duo will proffer an acoustic folk rock show. Dynamic vocalist Libi will team up with her Flashback Trio for a no doubt high-energy show of country, folk and blues music, while folk and country music stalwart Lynn Lewis will be joined by a bunch of pals for his May 16 slot.  

Jacob’s Ladder wouldn’t be the same without guitarist-harmonica player Shai Tochner, and his sometime singing partner Maya Johanna-Menachem is also in the festival mix. One of the offshore headliners is the Abrams Brothers bluegrass rock outfit from Canada, while the European contingent features Berlin-based virtuoso violinist Alexey Kochetkov and the German-Israeli Aletchko quartet. 

For more information about the Jacob’s Ladder Festival: (04) 685-0403 and 
The Jerusalem Post annual NY conference- save your seat now with early bird tickets



North Texas’s LGBT community steps up to aid hurricane victims

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Benefit concert
Poor David’s Pub is holding a 12-hour benefit concert for flood victims on Sat., Sept 2, from noon to midnight.

Lesbian singer-songwriter SONiA will be among the performers. She and her band were scheduled to perform at the Kerrville Folk Festival, which was canceled because of the hurricane.

“My sister Cindy was flying in from Seattle, and my Baltimore band mates too, so I was really initially disappointed. But then I thought we can help — it’s what we do,” she said.
Before coming to Dallas, she organized a benefit concert in Baltimore.

SONiA is scheduled to go on stage at Poor David’s at 7:55 p.m. and play a 25-minute set. A number of others who were scheduled to perform in Kerrville will be in Dallas for the benefit including Sam Baker and Grace Pettis.







Sonia & Disappear Fear Brings ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ to Baltimore

Written by Frankie Kujawa
Friday, June 23, 2017

Sonia photo: Lea Morales

The soulful music of Sonia & Disappear Fear is set to captivate audiences at Baldwin’s Station this Pride month. Performing in the historic town of Sykesville, Sonia’s music wilincrease font sizel enchant listeners on Thursday, June 22nd at 8 p.m. “Audiences will be able to really celebrate June Pride at this performance” explained Sonia Rutstein, who performs under the moniker Sonia Disappear Fear. The Baltimore born and raised singer/songwriter has been making music for nearly 30 years. She has toured the world with 18 award-winning albums delivering powerful songs that challenge injustice, while performing with passion and hope. She’s gained a devoted and growing fan base in over 20 countries.

“I call the kind of music I do ‘Global Americana.’ I’m singing Americana from my perspective and the issues that affect my culture. However, I have a lot of different means to get there. I sing a lot of different genres from pure rock, pure blues into Reggae, Latin, Middle Eastern, or even Country music. I go to a variety of styles in which to write.”

Even though she circles the globe with her music, Sonia still calls Baltimore home. “Besides being born and raised here, we started Disappear Fear in Baltimore. Baltimore was such a geographically desirable location because we are within 300 miles of 80% of the population of the U.S. This is where a lot of people are. That’s just smart business, but even beyond that this city really feels like home to me.”

Sonia notes that her roots run deep in Baltimore. “My closest Disappear Fear family are here, and I love Baltimore traditions. I love beer and crabs and the quirkiness of Baltimore. It’s a weird place which is great, because I feel that we’re all a little weird here, and it’s a good thing. My deepest roots are here. My name Rutstein means ‘root stone’ – and I have my deepest roots here. I’m connected to the Jewish and gay communities here, as well.” Sonia added that the mix of people is what gives Baltimore it’s flavor. “Culturally, we grab on to each other and we’ve been able to maintain some really good traditions that may be lost by assimilation of living in another place. We have really maintained that and there are so many ethnic groups here.”

Sonia & Disappear Fear’s performance at Baldwin Station will be a celebration of Pride. “I’ve been out in my music for my entire career. I was out before Melissa [Etheridge] came out, and before Indigo came out. Before my colleagues came out, I came out. That was over 20 years ago and that’s old news. But I guess my thing is that Disappear Fear – the name of my band – is something that represents me. I’ve done a lot of work to make it okay for people who are discovering themselves to be proud of themselves and not be ashamed of who they are. The LGBT community has always been embracing of my music.”

To Sonia’s, music is transcendent among all people “Music is a special gift that can transform any situation and we’re blessed to have it. It’s the eighth wonder of the world.”

For more info, it’s



SONiA will perform on Saturday at the Center for Well Being in Lemont. Helen Hausmann Photo provided

SONiA leads fall Acoustic Brew Concerts series

For the CDT

SEPTEMBER 22, 2017 11:34 AM

The fall season of the Acoustic Brew Concerts series will kick off Saturday when SONiA disappear fear performs at the Center for Well Being in Lemont.

SONiA, a folk singer from Maryland, has a canon of 17 albums encompass folk, blues, world music and everything in between.

“Well, I think the good ones they call magic shows,” Evans said. “It’s me with my Santa Cruz guitar, my Parker fly guitar, some harmonicas and a piano if they have one.”

Acoustic Brew board member Jim Colbert, who booked the show, said he’s been familiar with SONiA’s music for a number of years.

“A fellow board member and I saw her perform at a now-defunct festival in Maryland and I saw her again in upstate New York,” he said. “But last October, she was one of the featured performers and teaching artists at the Folk Project Fall Getaway, a folk-oriented weekend in New Jersey. I was just enamored of her passion, her sincerity, her heart.”

Her latest album is a double-disc record, “Live at Maxima.” It was created during a sold-out 2014 concert in Rodgau, Germany.

“It was pumping, it was real, it was sweaty, it was fun,” she said. “It was like throwing paint up into the air and watching it fall and hit the canvas, forming perfect portraits and landscapes as if I had meticulously sculpted every split second of each worded sound. I just sang my songs and played my guitar and the whole room was in love.”

SONiA has traversed the globe playing her music for the masses. She plans on playing some new material at Acoustic Brew.

“I’ve been on tour across North America, the UK and Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Israel for most of the past 30 years,” she said. “Currently, I’m working on songs for a new CD, so I will be debuting some here at this show.”

SONiA believes in the unifying power of music, and she thinks this upcoming show at Acoustic Brew will be another memorable experience for all who attend.

“Together we can touch heaven,” she said. “In a dark room full of strangers, we become one completely alone and together.”

Colbert, who has been involved with Acoustic Brew for almost 14 years, thinks these kind of intimate shows are not only beneficial but also necessary. The shows are special in that they remove the physical and metaphorical barriers between performer and audience.

“When you come to a Brew show, you experience a true sense of community, of people working together for a common goal, sharing music in its most pure and distilled sense,” he said. “For most of our shows, there is basically nothing between the performer and the audience. It’s organic, it’s real, and I think in some small way, we’re putting a little bit of beauty, love and fellowship back out into the universe.”

Other Acoustic Brew Concerts this season are Ramblin’ Dan Stevens on Oct. 14, Maeve Gilchrist and Keith Murphy on Nov. 4 and The Early Mays on Dec. 9.


  • What: Acoustic Brew Concerts: SONiA
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Center For Well Being, 123 Mount Nittany Road, Lemont
  • Info: www.acousticbrew .org

The Journal of Roots Music

Global Americana with

disappear fear by Lea Morales
March 17, 2017

The original Disappear Fear band (stylized as disappear fear) formed 30 years ago and consisted of sisters Sonia Rutstein (aka SONiA) and Cindy Frank (aka CiNDY). SONiA has continued, performing and recording solo with the latest version of disappear fear.

Bill Frater: What got you started in the music business and when and why?
SONiA: When I was 15 years old I got paid $1.40 an hour to make pizza and ice cream sundaes and fill ketchup bottles. That spring I got booked to perform at a Purim holiday concert for what turned out to be three songs in ten minutes and I was paid $50. The choice to earn a living making music was obvious, and it was amazing to me that I could be paid for what I love to do. Not that making pizza doesn’t rock, just not as much.

What have you done since then?
We have released 18 full-length albums on Rounder Records and my own label, disappear records. I have toured in 20 countries and received many awards, including the Spirit of Folk Music Award 2017, a Coin of Honor from the United States Military for Humanitarian Efforts, GLAAD Album of the Year and Female Artist of the Year. I have shared the stage with many of my heroes, including Bruce Springsteen, John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, Chris Thile, Pete Seeger, and Billy Bragg. I am member of the Recording Academy and have many times over been in the first round of voting.

What do you do now and how do you describe your business?
I'm an international touring singer-songwriter. My job is to open people's hearts so that the sky can come through day or night.

How do you describe your music to someone who’s never heard you?
I write global Americana, or we sometimes call it gangsta folk.

What was the first artist or album that got you into music?
I listened when I was quite young to the Limelighters, Odetta, Louie Armstrong, Peter Paul and Mary, and Frank Sinatra. I also listened to a lot of jazz like Wes Montgomery and Charlie Byrd from my dad; and a lot of classical music, Broadway musicals, and operas from my mom. My brother turned me on to Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, early Billy Joel, early Elton John, and Joni Mitchell. The first single I ever bought with my allowance money was Kentucky Rain by Elvis Presley. The first live concert I ever saw when the song I heard on the radio came to life right in front of me was "Hello Dolly" performed at the Flower Mart in Baltimore, Maryland, when I was 5 years old. I also remember loving "Big Rock Candy Mountain":,"Oh the buzzing of the bees and the cigarette trees the soda water fountains" ... I still do.

Who are your favorite artists from any genre?
I think Bruce Springsteen and James Taylor define Americana music for me. I love the technique of Lulo Reinhardt. I especially love the words of Phil Ochs and John Prine. I love Bernstein, Armstrong, Mitchell, and Wonder, to name a few. I like the textures of Ramy Essam and Idan Raichel. I love the voices of Andrea Bocelli, Mindy Smith, and Bob Marley and the passion of the Gypsy Kings. I would love to be to music what Charlie Chaplin is to movies and what Van Gogh is to art.

Where do you see Americana radio going in the future?
I hope Americana Radio can continue to be fueled by great artists and great songs but with more variety. Americana is like America – a melting pot of many immigrants – and the music programmers hopefully will make more open choices in the future because there is an endless exciting magnitude of rhythms and languages. This is what Americana music means to me.

What recent albums or artists are you excited about?
I'm really enjoying the Folk Alliance International CD 2017, Korby Lenker, Mari Black. And I love pretty much every song by John Fullbright and his buddy Wink from Oklahoma, especially live in concert. I like the new Bon Iver and Cage the Elephant, but I go back and listen to older stuff like Benny Mardones and James Taylor and early Patti Smith, Patty Griffin, and Mary Gauthier.

What are your most memorable experiences from working in the music industry?
There are several stand-out moments to me tonight:

One indelible memory is of a concert I did during the second Lebanon War in a miklat – a bomb shelter – in the Misgav in northern Israel. I can still see every face that was there.
Another strong memory of a concert was at Camp Sister Spirit Music Festival in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, when homophobic angry men were shooting at us for being there and being queer.
And lastly I remember asking my sister and the merch people to not set up our cassettes and albums within my performance site. I had to really work on getting over the fact that I couldn’t just give everything away for free and we that had to sell the stuff.
I performed in Kansas City at Folk Alliance International a few weeks ago. It was a great event, very memorable, but I was reminded of the first time I shared the bill with Ani DiFranco. It was a club in Pittsburgh, a fan was talking to me really loudly during Ani’s set and I felt so bad, but I was with the band and we had, of course, another long ride to another faraway concert and I never got to apologize. Still haunts me.
I remember getting a Best Album award from k.d. lang at the Manhattan Club in NYC and meeting her for the first time on stage as I was accepting the award that I think she thought would go to her girlfriend and not me. There was an awkward pause and then she was just the biggest flirt. I was all sorts of embarrassed but it was great moment.
And my favorite memory of singing it up with Pete Seeger was at the Clear Water Festival. All the performers were on the stage with the Hudson River on our left and the sun in our faces and looking out and seeing this amazing golden glow across the outdoor tent. It was so dynamic to have those words that I sang so many many times to his records and then to live into that exact vision – to tell my rainbow race it’s too soon to die...

What inspires you or what keeps you going?
What keeps me going is the possibility of writing the best song that could ever be written and my beautiful wife. And the amazing transformation that happens in a live concert, the connection, the love on the edge of time.

How do you want to be remembered?
When my name comes up I hope people will say, "She made this world a little bit better – she made me laugh, she made me dance, she made me cry, she made me try to be better by being happy with myself or knowing what to change, she was inspiring and she never made me eat baked beans.
But my favorite epitaph is Ruth Gordon's:  "Other than this, things went pretty well."

Catching Up with Musician SONiA

by William Linker | Apr 13, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment, Fun, Music

For the past three decades, indie pop/folk singer Sonia Rutstein, better known by her stage name SONiA, has been bringing her jam everywhere, from her native Charm City, where she lives, to Germany to the Middle East. SONiA, 57, previously worked with her sister, Cindy Frank, in the band disappear fear.

Jmore recently spoke with SONiA about her roots, current tour, songwriting and thoughts on the national political scene.

Where’s the new tour taking you?
Mostly, I’ll be based in Germany. I’ve had just great success playing there, and I love it. I’ve made some great friends.

In the amazing way that we look back and hug our past, this tour is a way to hug my past. My last name, Rutstein, is a German name. My grandfather was born in Romania, and I didn’t actually know the meaning of the name. Everyone in my family told me it meant “Redstone,” and it doesn’t. It actually means “rootstone,” like the cornerstone of a building. To kind of embrace that, it just gives me so much support

Anything you’re introducing on this tour?
Well, there will be new songs, and I’m doing this combination between my song, “Sink the Censorship,” and the Bob Dylan song “Blowin’ in the Wind.” It’s very interesting because of all the political happenings, with the current president in office. I’ve always been classified as a political songwriter, so it’s interesting to hear these songs and see how far we’ve come and far we have to go.

What do you plan to tackle in your songs in the future?
In some respects, we’ve come a long way. I’m in a legal, married relationship, which wasn’t available five years ago. So it’s a beautiful thing to see that evolution, and to see people following through. But there has definitely been a rumbling that some [who don’t approve of same-sex marriages] feel alienated and scared and angry that I can have that right now.
It seems like there is no end to the fear, and my music never ceases to address that. I speak to those things that affect us. I write about all these things that this administration is destroying. Respect for our animals, our environment, our allies, our health and much more. All of those things are in jeopardy right now, and that brings along fear. But there are more of us that love each other than there are of that are greedy

Do your fans abroad ask your feelings about the Trump administration?
Yes, they absolutely ask me about what’s going on in the United States. I don’t shy away from it. I left Germany in September, promising that “Hair Force One” would not become our president, and he did. So now, I have to go back and face my people, and I will. I’m very saddened that he did become president, but the essence of what our democracy is will be preserved. We just have to fix the electoral system, since the way it’s been cut up it’s become very skewed. We need to work on that, for sure.

What keeps drawing you back to Baltimore from other parts of the country and the world?
I think it’s just where my roots are. My family is from Baltimore, though I’m the only remaining Rutstein in the area. I have very deep friendships there, and of course my synagogue, Beit Tikvah Congregation, is in Baltimore. It’s simply home to me.

What, in your opinion, is folk music’s future?
Well, folk music is a funny genre. It encompasses so much. It isn’t about the business. It can be sold, but it isn’t the essence of it. You don’t need electricity, you don’t need anything except yourself. It’s a raw form of emotion, just like prayer. So I can see it sticking around. As long as we’re living and breathing, there will be folk music.

What advice do you have for those who want to be successful in music and other arts?
Take chances. Be real, don’t lose sight of the goal, and take chances to get there. But equally important, if it isn’t working, then this line of work will let you know. There are lots of ways to be creative, you’ve just got to find yours, and put your passion for it into that daily grind.

SONiA will perform on May 28 at the Virginia Women’s Music Festival in Henrico, Va., on June 4 at the Jewish Music Festival in Wilmington, Del., and on June 22 at Baldwin’s Station, 7618 Main St. in Sykesville. For information on SONiA and her tour, go to .

William Linker is a Jmore editorial staff intern.


Baltimore Musician Organizes Concert for Hurricane Harvey Victims

by Simone Ellin, Associate Editor | Aug 29, 2017 | Baltimore, Local, Maryland, National, News

This Thursday night, Aug. 31, Baltimore-based singer-songwriter Sonia Rutstein was all set to travel to Kerrville, Texas, for the three-day Kerrville Fall Music Festival. But due to the impact of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas last Friday night, Aug. 25, the annual festival, scheduled to run from Sept. 1-3, was cancelled.

“It was very disappointing,” said Rutstein, who was particularly looking forward to performing at Kerrville with her sister and disappear fear band co-founder, Seattle resident Cindy Frank, for a rare appearance.

“We were all excited, saying, ‘The band’s getting back together! It had been four years [since Frank performed with disappear fear],’” said Rutstein. “But then I thought, why not have a concert in Baltimore to raise hearts and money for the victims of Hurricane Harvey?”

This Sunday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m., the Relief Concert for Victims of Hurricane Harvey will be held at the Corner Community Center at 5802 Roland Ave, which is home to Rutstein’s synagogue, Congregation Beit Tikvah.

Sonia Rutstein is flanked by her disappear fear bandmates Chris Sellman and Ezell Jones Jr.

Almost single-handedly, Rutstein put the event together in a 24-hour period. Besides Rutstein and current disappear fear members Ezell Jones Jr. and Chris Sellman, local performers will include Tom Prasada-Rao, Seth Kibel, Sarah Pinsker, Georgie Jessup and Tony Correlli.

In addition, New York-based performer Tret Fure and Jack Wetherall will play at the concert. Rutstein said she expects the list of performers to grow by concert time.

Meanwhile, she is encouraging fellow Kerrville artists to hold benefit concerts in their own cities and communities. She will likely perform at an upcoming Hurricane Harvey benefit concert in Dallas.

“I’m the only non-Texan on the bill,” said Rutstein, noting that she has a personal connection to the dire situation in Texas. “I have an Uncle Harvey who lives in Houston. He and my aunt are OK so far, but they’re getting so much more rain. “

With disappear fear, which was founded in 1987, Rutstein has recorded 17 award-winning CDs and performs all over the world.

She said she hopes the community will come together to support those impacted by the hurricane, particularly with upcoming High Holiday season.

“Harvey is happening now in Texas, but Baltimore could be next,” Rutstein said. “I’m hoping we can come together and raise money and hearts. This is a situation where we can make good on our good intentions. And Baltimore is great about that. I think we have that reputation. …

“In Judaism, it is our custom to actually come forward and perform our very best — to put our money where our mouth is,” she said. “Because this is when we have the opportunity to show the holy one we are worthy to be named in the Book of Life.”

Tickets to the Relief Concert for Victims of Hurricane Harvey can be purchased online at Suggested donations are $18 for adults over 21 and $10 for those under 21. Funds collected from ticket donations will be distributed through the Jewish Federation of North America and several other nonprofits. Fans can also hear Rutstein live on radio station WTMD 89.7 on Thursday, Aug. 31, at 9:30 a.m.

Top photo: SONiA by Lea Morales


SONiA Headlines Beit Tikvah Benefit



With Baltimore’s flourishing Jewish community comes a plethora of synagogue options. For folk singer Sonia Rutstein, it was a matter of finding a place where she felt at home.

“I chose Beit Tikvah because everybody’s a little weird and that’s normal,” she said. “I fit right in.”

The globetrotting musician, who performs as SONiA disappear fear, plays a benefit concert for Congregation Beit Tikvah, which was Baltimore’s first Reconstructionist synagogue, on Saturday, March 4. The show will be her last in the U.S. before an extensive German tour.

“Of course I’m Jewish and my Jewishness is very important to me, and we have an amazing rabbi,” Rutstein said. “Those are the pillars of why I go there, and that’s why I’m doing this benefit. I get so much from going there, and they ask so little of me.”

She plans to play some 12-string guitar, which she said she’s been playing more of lately and will do some live looping. There may be some new songs in the mix too.

Like most Americans, the presidency of Donald Trump has inspired Rutstein. Some have protested, some have rallied, others, like Rutstein, have written music.

“The first song I wrote right after Hillary lost the election was called ‘Funeral for America,’ but I abandoned that song because we’re already there,” she said.

The next song she wrote, “Abraham,” for which she released a bare-bones music video, was dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. and released on Jan. 16, the holiday named for him.

“Abraham is about great leaders … who affect us and who have affected me,” Rutstein said of the song, which mentions Abraham Lincoln and Mother Teresa.

Rutstein spent the past week at the Folk Alliance International Conference, which had the theme of “forbidden folk” and celebrated activism in art. She said she’s recorded 33 political songs and finds the themes still ringing true today.

“The ‘Washington Work Song’ I wrote in 1999; it’s about democracy and each of us having a voice and showing up,” she said. “It’s still prevalent … what’s nice about that for me is people are much more attuned to the preciousness of this thing called democracy.”

During a presentation on songs that have been censored at the Folk Alliance Conference, Rutstein performed a reworking of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” combined with her song “Sink the Censorship.”

For Rutstein, folk music is all about speaking one’s truth.

“It’s saying the things you need to hear that nobody else is willing to say and you just do it,” she said. “For me, I always said that if Joni Mitchell had been gay and wrote about her lesbian love affairs, I probably wouldn’t have been a songwriter. Nobody was saying what I needed to hear.”

SONiA disappear fear performs at Congregation Beit Tikvah, 5802 Roland Ave., Baltimore, on Saturday, March 4. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets, which range from $10 to $100, can be purchased at

SONiA disappear fear to host Baltimore concert for Hurricane Harvey relief

Wesley Case
The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore singer/songwriter Sonia Rutstein, better known as SONiA disappear fear, was scheduled to perform at her “second home” this weekend — Texas, specifically, the Kerrville Fall Music Festival. Hurricane Harvey, however, led to the event’s cancellation.

In response, Rutstein has organized a relief concert to benefit the victims of the hurricane to take place Sunday night at Roland Park’s Corner Community Center. Rutstein said she spends “a good amount of time every year” in Texas, including Houston, where her relatives live.

“I just thought, ‘We’re here, we can make this happen,’” Rutstein said. “Why not help to raise hearts and money for the victims of Texas?”

After any nominal overhead costs — musicians and production people are working for free, she said — all proceeds will be donated to a number of charitable organizations working to help those affected by the hurricane, Rutstein said.

The plan is to donate half of the proceeds to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund established by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, she said. The other half, Rutsein said, will be divided between Houston’s Montrose LGBTQ Center, Organizacion Latina de Trans en Texas and the Houston Food Bank, along with Harvey relief funds established by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and Catholic Charities USA.

Rutstein will perform with her full band. Other performers include Tret Fure, Ezell Jones Jr., Tom Prasada-Rao, Seth Kibel, Sarah Pinsker, Georgie Jessup and more.

Before Sunday, Rutstein will fly to Dallas to perform at another benefit concert. She’ll perform Saturday night and then fly back to Baltimore the next morning.

She’s accepting donations online for those who can’t attend, but the singer/songwriter encouraged local residents to attend Sunday.

“I think it’s good for people to come together in times like this,” Rutstein said.

Tickets for Sunday’s relief concert (7 p.m.-11 p.m.) at Corner Community Center (5802 Roland Ave.) are $10 (under 21) and $18 (general admission). For more information, go to
Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad

Metro Weekly

Sorry About That: SONiA’s Bon Voyage

SONiA gets ready to embark on a European tour to apologize for Trump

SONiA – Photo: Helen Hausmann

By Doug Rule on February 26, 2017 @ruleonwriting

SONiA wants to make amends with her German fans.

“I was there last September and I promised everyone that Trump would not become our president,” says the singer-songwriter. “So now I have to go back and apologize.”

She will do so chiefly by singing from her repertoire of progressive-minded folk songs, including new single “Abraham.” “I’ve gotten very positive responses on it. People have said, ‘that’s exactly what I needed to hear.'” And despite feeling a bit sheepish, the Jewish, lesbian musician from Baltimore is mostly looking forward to her return to Germany, a two-month trek that will mark her seventh tour of the country. “I’m doing very well in Europe,” she says. “They have a great respect for the arts and… just great connections with people.”

“It’s very empowering to be with people who feel this way as well,” she adds, “because it forwards our motion and it forwards our ideals.” That’s both inspiring and important because, as she points out, “in Europe, they’re fighting the same situation that we are…. The last election in Germany before [Angela] Merkel became leader again, 25 percent voted for a person that was like Trump, who really wanted to destroy democracy — the same kind of person [with] isolationist ideas.”

Between bouts of “feeling very angry and very sad” in the months after the U.S. election, SONiA found moments of inspiration when she saw that “so many people feel exactly and think exactly the way you do.” And she’s still on a high from the Women’s March on Washington in January. “It was amazing,” she says. “And every time I wear my pussy hat so many people smile and nod or give me thumbs up on the street. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

Before departing for overseas, SONiA will present a local “Bon Voyage” concert that also doubles as a benefit for her “very, very, very gay-friendly” Reconstructionist synagogue, Beit Tikvah. The “House of Hope” shares space in Baltimore with several progressive Christian denominations in what used to be known as First Christian Church, but last fall became known as the Corner Community Center.

“It’s nice to use the same facility and also share cultures with different groups. We all take care of the landscaping together, and it’s in a very beautiful building,” she says. “It’s very open and very, very multicultural.”

SONiA & Disappear Fear performs Saturday, March 4, at 7 p.m. at the Corner Community Center, 5802 Roland Ave. in Baltimore. Tickets are $10 to $20. Call 410-913-2773 or visit

Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

Rhythms Magazine - Australia's Music Magazine

                                                                                                                                   September/October 2016





Baltimore-based singer SONiA posts tribute to Orlando shooting victims

SONiA music video

Dan Rodricks
Singer-songwriter SONiA will perform live solo concert from Baltimore Sun lobby on Thursday.

SONiA disappear fear, the singer-songwriter from Baltimore, attended a gay wedding in Dallas Saturday night. She and her wife and manager, Terry Irons, were feeling great when they awoke Sunday morning. And then they heard the horrific news from Orlando. SONiA, who grew up Sonia Rutstein and who performed for several years with her sister, Cindy Frank, as the indie folk duo disappear fear, immediately turned to her music, which has been speaking to LGBT fans since the early 1990s. SONiA turned specifically to the award-winning song from her album, “Blood, Bones and Baltimore,” to produce a new video to honor the victims of the Pulse massacre.

The song is, “Who I Am (Say Amen).” It won an OUTMusic Award for best single of 2010. It speaks to SONiA’s sexuality and resonates with anyone in quest of their identity, and yearning for peace and love. “I am sending the video out to help heal all of the victims of Orlando, which is all of the world, especially once again gay people,” SONiA says. “‘Who I Am’ is a personal letter to my myself, my mom and God and humanity, whom I call John, about accepting my sexuality.” SONiA is scheduled to perform a solo concert on Facebook Live from the Baltimore Sun lobby on Thursday at 12:30 pm. More details about that to follow.

Here are the lyrics to the song in the video:

I never meant for us, I never meant to fall,
I never meant to ask or risk it all.
But one look in your eyes makes me believe
I can touch the stars, I can kiss the moon
with just my voice in perfect tune.
And Mom, is it okay that I am who I am?
Cold December morn, I need a witches broom.
I move my little heater from room to room.
Like a happy hunter in a thankful prayer,
I taste your perfume nearly everywhere.
And the priest remarks, “What do you believe?”
 “I’m out of tricks mate, nothing up my sleeve.”
And God, is it ok if I am?
Yes God say it’s ok that I am who I am.
And after we’re all, all dead and gone,
our children will rise and on that morn,
The universe is one, queens equal pawns
and I am proud just to be born.
And Mom say it’s Ok if I’m . . . .
and God says it’s Ok if I’m . . .
And John, Make it Ok if I’m Who I am . . .
Say amen . . . Say amen . . . . '

Copyright © 2016, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore singer-songwriter SONiA disappear fear talks new live album, upcoming musical

Baltimore singer/songwriter SONiA disappear fear performs tonight at Temple Oheb Shalom in Baltimore.

Wesley Case
The Baltimore Sun

Checking in with Baltimore singer-songwriter SONiA disappear fear.

Sonia Rutstein is on the phone from her North Baltimore home, less than 24 hours since her return flight from Germany landed. 
“We were away for about five weeks. We were in Germany, Austria, Holland, Switzerland and Italy,” the Baltimore-based singer-songwriter said last week. “It’s good to be home.”
Rutstein, who performs under the moniker SONiA disappear fear, is used to traveling. Since 1994 — when she and her sister, Cindy Frank, formed the indie-folk duo disappear fear — Rutstein has released albums as a group member and even more as a solo artist.



Roughly Speaking: GOP debate, Oscars, Z on TV, O's camp, singer-songwriter SONiA (episode 36)

Tonight, Rutstein — who plays guitar, piano and harmonica — performs at Temple Oheb Shalom. It’s a release show for her new double live album, “LiVE at MAXiMAL,” and also a benefit for Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc., a nonprofit organization that fights against housing discrimination. A known humanitarian, Rutstein has found audiences around the world through songs about compassion, love and not allowing fear to dictate her life. 
Before the show, the Pikesville native discussed what she’s been up to, working on a new musical and more. This conversation has been edited and condensed.

We last checked in with you nearly 10 years ago. For readers who haven’t kept up, how would you describe your career in recent years? 
A good chunk of my year, I’m in Europe, and then every few years or so I go back to Australia and New Zealand, which I love very much. I’m touring a whole lot more solo now. I think [back when we last talked], it was much more band-based. I love my guys in Baltimore — Baltimore [drummer] Ezell Jones Jr. and also [bassist] Chris Sellman. That’s my core band, and those are my first-choice guys to go anywhere with, but mostly I have been doing a whole lot of solo stuff. Maybe I’ll take the band over to Germany next spring. 
The other thing, too, that’s a new development is my first musical is in pre-production right now at Carroll Community College.

What can you tell me about that?
It’s called “Small House, No Secrets.” Basically, as you can imagine, it is a small house but there really actually are some large secrets that unravel and get explained and shock the characters in the play. It’s [about] personal relationships and personal development. There’s drama, there’s humor. It’s really just based on four characters, but the development goes through looking back at what happened 20 years ago to two of the characters and a relationship that they had. 
The book was written by another Baltimorean, whose name is Jody Nusholtz. She teaches creative writing and English at Carroll College. So it’s being orchestrated, and it’s really fun. The play is theirs to do and it’s their development. I’ve been away for the past six weeks but I’m actually going to a rehearsal tonight to check in and see what the development is with the orchestration. The release date is Nov. 16 through 19.


The cover art to SONiA disappear fear's new double live album, "LiVE at MAXiMAL."

What did this new live album capture that you thought was worth putting out?
The reason I wanted to share it is because it captures a very nice live show. Basically, if you don’t know what I sound like live with just a guitar, this is what it is. This is 90 percent of what I’m doing — me and my guitar or me and my piano and harmonica. So it’s a sold-out night in Rodgau [Germany] in a club called Maximal. The energy — my energy and the energy of the room — it’s a very good feeling. I think music is very healing, and it’s very real. So this kind of energy is really good for people. When you hear something that’s real and unaltered, I think it makes you more in-tune with and aligned with our own personal energies and potential. That happens at my concerts, and that definitely happened that night. 
So distributing that and making that available to people continues the possibility of that good energy. So it’s not only fun to listen to and pleasing, but I think it’s very organic. It’s not fixed. In a studio album, you can play with every single millisecond. Your pitch is off, that can get corrected. Your timing is wrong, that can be changed. Nothing is changed with this CD — it’s just cut. 

Are you working on new material?
I’m always writing. I’m always taking bits of ideas and jotting down notes and stuff. That’s a daily thing for me. Now that I’m back in Baltimore for good, I’ll be working on the orchestral arrangements of the musical. I have a whole lot more touring and stuff to do. I’m pretty much in the focus of the new CD, but I am planning on doing some video work for some new songs this summer in New York, but we’ll see. 

You began your career singing with your sister. What is she up to these days?
She’s doing great. We worked together for about seven years of the 28 I’ve been doing it. She stopped so she could raise her family. She has two sons. … She’s going to join me for a song or two at the concert on Tuesday. At least that’s what she says. [laughs]

You’ve been doing this for decades. What are you most proud of?
Being true to the idea of disappear fear. Living into that for myself, and how it teaches me every day to appreciate the opportunity to be a full-time musician, and all of the blessings that I’m given.

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Copyright © 2016, The Baltimore Sun


If you go
SONiA disappear fear performs tonight at Temple Oheb Shalom, 7310 Park Heights Ave., Fallstaff. Concerts begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18 for students and $35 general admission. For more information, go to and

      Philadelphia Gay News
Out singer-songwriter releases live album

Larry Nichols
 May 19, 2016

Award-winning, and internationally renowned, out singer-songwriter SONiA is back on the road this month to promote her new double CD, “Live at the Maximal,” with a CD release concert May 20 at Phoenixville’s Steel City Coffeehouse.
When we talked to SONiA, a.k.a. Sonia Rutstein — founding member of Baltimore indie folk-rock group Disappear Fear — she had just returned from performing in Germany, where “Live at the Maximal” was recorded.

“I just really fell in love with that place,” Rutstein said about the club where her live CD was recorded. “It wasn’t my intention to make a live CD. The potential was there; they recorded all the concerts I’ve ever done there. They just do that. There will be a DVD and YouTube videos to accompany it to give people a fuller experience.”

Rutstein, who has 17 albums and many, many years of touring the world under her belt, said she’s had a substantial following in Germany since she first performed there at a festival.

“When I first came over to Germany, I played the acoustic stage at Musikmesse, which is this huge music-manufacturing conference in Frankfurt every spring,” she said. “They have these folk culture clubs throughout the country and someone connected with those clubs invited me to play them after seeing me at Musikmesse.”
Rutstein said that the career-spanning live CD gives her fans a more stripped-down experience of her songs compared to her studio albums.  

“They are very different in the fact that a live experience is really created with the energy that’s in the room and my energy at that particular point in my life and what’s happening in the world,” she said about the difference between the live album and her studio albums. “All of that comes together and there’s no fixing it. In the studio, you can sculpt everything down to the millisecond. Here, it’s just turn on the volume and let it go. Very little has been done to it. It’s very raw. It’s very real and it does exemplify what a fun night with a venue concert is. Obviously I can listen to it and pick it apart but I think the essence of the songs is great in a natural setting.”
Before the CD-release show in Phoenixville and the following tour of festivals this spring and summer, Rutstein will perform a benefit concert in her hometown of Baltimore.

“It’s going to benefit Baltimore Neighborhoods Incorporated, an action group that helps finance those who are economically challenged to gain access to good representation and information in regards to where they live,” she said. “If they have an irresponsible property owner where they may live in an apartment, they can get some help with taking care of that issue.”

If the CD and the touring wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Rutstein is also overseeing the production of her first musical, “Small House, No Secrets,” which will debut this fall.

“Basically, it’s four people meeting together in a small house, but there’s a lot of secrets,” she said about the project. “That unravels and explodes as the tale unfolds. It’s my first musical and features 16 songs. It’s being produced by California Community College. It’s in pre-production and will be performed for three semesters. The first time will be the week before Thanksgiving because it has to do with Thanksgiving. It’s a Thanksgiving musical, including the pumpkin pie. It speaks to family conundrums and personal choices and homophobia. It’s got gay relationships that are very pivotal and powerful.”

Rutstein said that touring behind her new live CD and preparing for the debut of her musical means that the idea of recording new music is getting put on the backburner for the time being.  

“I’m focused on the live CD and the musical right now,” she said. “The CD just came out and it’s not like I don’t sit down at the piano every day and write a little bit. I have lots of things in the works. I’m always writing, adding notes and possible lyrics here, an idea here. It’s a matter of time and focus. I have a couple of new songs that I wrote this fall that are not on the CD that I might pop into a performance. I also have a new cover that I like that is really working. I might pop that into my set. It’s different every night. I’ve always been consistently inconsistent.”

SONiA performs 8 p.m. May 20 at Steel City Coffeehouse, 203 Bridge St., Phoenixville. For more information or tickets, call 610-933-4043 or visit or



Author: A Wider Bridge's Staff 
Published: May 8, 2015 

Performing with her SONiA Santa Cruz guitar, piano, harmonica or a full band she is frequently described as the ‘Female Dylan’. Though that comparison is flattering there is more to this gal from Baltimore who sings and writes in Hebrew, Spanish, English and Arabic. Yesterday she began her 2015 Israel tour. 

SONiA Disappear Fear (Sonia Rutstein) was raised in Pikesville, MD and got her Bat Mitzvah at Beth El Congregation of Baltimore. Judaism and Sephardic melodies had a huge influence on SONiA’s music. She’s even based a few songs around Jewish prayers. SONiA loves Israel, the land and the people, and was last on tour in Israel during the 2006 war with Lebanon and performed in bomb shelters. 
“Being jewish and born and raised in  the USA, Israel has always been a precious gem in my life,” SONiA says. “My first time in Israel was when I was on a USY trip when I was 15. It was then also that my Dad was completing his Marco Polo Expedition and we met in Tel Aviv. He was living his passion to travel and exchange the best of cultures, and he encouraged me to follow my dreams. I was taught that it is incumbent among all jewish people to visit and connect with our Israeli brothers and sisters for it is because of them that our ancestry can and will survive.” 
“I have toured now in Israel 6 times starting in 1999,” she adds. “I love the Hebrew language and I hope to be more fluid in Hebrew conversation as my life progresses. I performed a benefit for a lesbian group called CLAF – these women were very supportive and excited about my music. “ 
SONiA disappear fear has gained a devoted fan base in more than 20 countries performing her songs that range in the styles of Rock, Folk, Country, Latin, blues and Reggae. Selling over half a million records – the honesty of her songs touches the hearts and minds of people from a wide spectrum of social and ethnic backgrounds based on the premise that “when you disappear fear between people what you have is love”. 
SONiA has always been open about being a Lesbian. She performs at Gay and Lesbian festivals around the world and says that the “Love Out Loud” became a theme for her. 
“I think there are definite parallels to be Jewish in a mostly Christian country as is the USA and also bring gay in a mostly heterosexual society,” SONiA says. “My band name disappear fear is not  just a couple of words that rhyme it is about that when you disappear fear between people what you have is love. This is the essence of my music And I feel that it is important to grow good solid roots here in our communities to be honest with ourselves and each other. It was a great honor to be invited to perform the first concert at The Open House in Jerusalem. I feel quite blessed to travel the world with my wife who is also as of this month my manager of 18 years.” 
What makes SONiA SONiA is her powerful lyrics delivered in her inimitable style filled with passion and hope. She has recently shared the stage with some of her heroes including Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger,and Chris Thiele. SONiA’s proudest moments were singing with Peter, Paul and Mary at the Lincoln Memorial in 2002 and in 2012 receiving the Coin of Honor from the United States Army for her humanitarian songs while on tour in Mackenbach, Germany. 
SONiA Disappear Fear Israel Tour May 7- May 21 

Thursday May 7  – Karmiel, Karmiel Folk Klub 
Saturday May 9 -Kiryat Tivon, Spira House Concert. 
Sunday May 10 – Tel Aviv 
Monday May 11 – Tel Aviv, MIKE’S PLACE 
Wednesday May 13 – Eilat, MIKE’S PLACE 
Thursday May 14 – Saturday May 16 – Nof Ginosaur, Jacob’s Ladder 
Monday May 18 -Jerusalem, Ein Kerem 

More details on the shows can be found here:


Southwest Regional Folk Alliance - Austin, TX

Written by Eddie Ferranti   
Sep 25, 2014 at 08:00 PM

SONiA of Disappear Fear (real name Sonia Rustein)  
This pepper pot of a lady sizzled at her Showcase performance and had me chasing her down whenever I could which was 3 times.  Her powerful lyrics and prowess with her SONiA Santa Cruz guitar and mouth harp has had her described as a 'Female Dylan'.  All I know is that this Baltimore ball of fire excites and ignites like a rebel hippie from the 60's to me!   Lotta 'spunk'.  Girl even stashes her guitar pick on her tongue while she sings.  One song during her Showcase set had the room shaking shakers that were passed out and the electric guitar scorched the room with a good rockin' vibe.  Goose bumps  sheet.  "Broken Film," her Nashville made 17th album, exudes the seeds of activism, love, and world awareness throughout the record.  Love to catch this globe trottin' upstart artist with her full 8 piece Disappear Band in tow some day!  The reggae infused Americana folk-rock package is all there with one for sure.  


THE TITLE OF SONiA and Disappear Fear's new CD, "Tango," suggests a South American excursion, something romantic and passionate. It's not entirely misleading, but the fine print crediting Arabic, Hebrew and Spanish translators points to the album's world-beat charms and spiritual thrust. 

Although the songs on "Tango" were composed by Sonia Rutstein, they're inspired by a global array of ethnic music. Rutstein's sensuous voice has a prominent place in the mix, beginning with "Telepatia Sexual." Yet the songs that stand out are equipped with more substantial lyrics, whether the tone is political, as on "Porque Estamos Aqui," or poetic, as on "Shorashim," which features a lead vocal by Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton.<br><br>

As for the album's title track, its lyrics sum up a recurring Disappear Fear theme: 
"A world that is not scared of itself and who it loves, a world that is ending 
hunger in its many forms." (Downloads from the album benefit the U.N. World 
Food Programme.) Rutstein, on guitar and piano, and Disappear Fear mate 
Laura Cerulli, on percussion and vocal harmonies, are nothing if not resourceful. 
With the help of guitarist-producer John Grant and a small circle of friends, they 
create lean yet surprisingly colorful folk-pop arrangements.

-- Mike Joyce 

Appearing Monday at St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 10701 Old Georgetown Rd., 
Rockville (301-754 3611, Show starts at 7:30


THE TITLE OF SONiA and Disappear Fear's new CD, "Tango," suggests a South American excursion, something romantic and passionate. It's not entirely misleading, but the fine print crediting Arabic, Hebrew and Spanish translators points to the album's world-beat charms and spiritual thrust.

Although the songs on "Tango" were composed by Sonia Rutstein, they're inspired by a global array of ethnic music. Rutstein's sensuous voice has a prominent place in the mix, beginning with "Telepatia Sexual." Yet the songs that stand out are equipped with more substantial lyrics, whether the tone is political, as on "Porque Estamos Aqui," or poetic, as on "Shorashim," which features a lead vocal by Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton.

As for the album's title track, its lyrics sum up a recurring Disappear Fear theme: "A world that is not scared of itself and who it loves, a world that is ending hunger in its many forms." (Downloads from the album benefit the U.N. World Food Programme.) Rutstein, on guitar and piano, and Disappear Fear mate Laura Cerulli, on percussion and vocal harmonies, are nothing if not resourceful. With the help of guitarist-producer John Grant and a small circle of friends, they create lean yet surprisingly colorful folk-pop arrangements.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Monday at St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 10701 Old Georgetown Rd., Rockville (301-754 3611, Show starts at 7:30

SONiA’s music is a social conscience that cannot be ignored and should be applauded.    BY JESSICA LILEY 
SONiA, aka disappear fear is an enigmatic singer/songwriter making music to challenge hypocrisies and a champion for the message of acceptance and peace.  Her latest offering is the album Broken Film, which blends a cool sense of folk with a strong underlying country feel.  This time backed with a full band the album presents the listener with 11 classy tracks.

SONiA’s music is a social conscience that cannot be ignored and should be applauded. BY JESSICA LILEY SONiA, aka disappear fear is an enigmatic singer/songwriter making music to challenge hypocrisies and a champion for the message of acceptance and peace. Her latest offering is the album Broken Film, which blends a cool sense of folk with a strong underlying country feel. This time backed with a full band the album presents the listener with 11 classy tracks.

SONiA of disappear fear had the audience actually holding our collective breath in awe. It was one of the most electric live  ‘performances I'd ever seen. In SONiA, I found a contemporary artist with Lennon's way with a phrase. From that night until this, she's been my            favorite singer/songwriter."  - Cliff Weimer, In the Balcony

SONiA of disappear fear had the audience actually holding our collective breath in awe. It was one of the most electric live ‘performances I'd ever seen. In SONiA, I found a contemporary artist with Lennon's way with a phrase. From that night until this, she's been my favorite singer/songwriter." - Cliff Weimer, In the Balcony

Singers highlight their songwriting
at two
Woody Guthrie Center Shows

SONiA, who was influenced by the music of Woody Guthrie and
Phil Ochs, will perform Friday at the Woody Guthrie Center.
Courtesy/Lea Morales

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 12:00 am
By JERRY WOFFORD World Scene Writer

The Woody Guthrie Center is set to bring in two singers who have put a focus on their songwriting, much like the center’s namesake.

SONiA Rutstein, known just as SONiA, is performing Friday. On Saturday is Brian Whelan, a member of Dwight
Yoakam’s band who has kept his own songwriting prominent throughout his career. Both shows are at the Brady Arts District venue at 102 E. M.B. Brady St.

Baltimore native SONiA was in high school the first time she heard the works of folk singer Phil Ochs.

“I guess perhaps I was young when I heard his music; what he sang about just rang so true for me,” SONiA said. “I guess his sort of lone star brutal honesty in his songwriting. It seems like he had to say what he needed to say and if no one gets it except him or if thousands of people loved it, that was good, too — that’s the same process of writing songs.”

Ochs appealed to her so deeply that she recorded an album made up of his music. “Get Your Phil” in 2011 from SONiA andher band, Disappear Fear, includes several of Ochs’ best-known songs.  And it’s fitting for SONiA to play the Woody Guthrie Center: Ochs’ archive was recently donated to the center, with an exhibit  on his work and life recently installed there.

In SONiA’s own songwriting, she draws extensively on influences from Ochs and Guthrie, she said. She strives for honesty about the current state and reflection on where we’ve come from.

“I have a song on the new album called ‘The Banker,’ which I would call sort of a modern-day Phil song,” SONiA said. “The influence that Woody has and did have on Phil I think sort of was more processing his own angst at times where Woody was more Hank Williams-y. Let’s sing this together and see if we can feel better about all the misery that’s around, whether it’s political or personal.”

That album, “Broken Film,” is available now. Tickets to the show Friday are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.


SONiA's celluloid memories
Ariana Kramer | Posted: Saturday, November 16, 2013 7:57 am | Updated: 8:38 am, Sun Nov 17, 2013.






For some time now, Taos-based singer-songwriter Don Conoscenti has been raving about SONiA Rutstein’s new CD, “Broken Film.” Conoscenti has followed SONiA’s work for years and is an avid fan as well as friend, so he was thrilled when she asked him to contribute his guitar playing to her latest recording project.   SONiA of Disappear Fear Now, he’s traveling as part of her touring band, Disappear Fear, and is excited to bring SONiA’s live music to his Taos friends. Hear SONiA and Disappear Fear on Saturday (Nov. 16) from 8-11 p.m. at the KTAOS Solar Center, 9 State Road 150, north of El Prado.
For their Taos show, Conoscenti will open the concert with a special set featuring Patrick Turnmire and Jennifer Peterson. “I absolutely adore SONiA and her music and would love for my Taos friends to turn out and see why,” gushes Conoscenti. “Please tell everyone I said SONiA’s new album, ‘Broken Film,’ is one of the best listening experiences on a compact disc or digital download in years.”
SONiA is best known to her international audiences as one of the creators of the indie folk group Disappear Fear. The band has gone through various iterations over the years, and SONiA continues to take her heart-filled, uplifting, thought-provoking music around the world. Rich with stories and potent images, Rutstein’s music serves to inspire, not just entertain, an audience. For Disappear Fear’s current tour, band members on the road with SONiA are Don Conoscenti on lead guitar, Katie Marie from London, England on drums, and Laran Snyder from Austin, Texas, singing vocal harmonies.
“Broken Film” was released in mid-September in Baltimore. “We’ve had a lot of fun,” said SONiA. “We had a sold out show in Berkeley, Calif., and sold out in Chicago. It’s going good.” SONiA said she has been on the road for the past dozen years, but has mostly performed as a soloist, duo or trio. She said touring with the band has been “new,” “crazy,” and “fun.” Following their 50-city U.S. tour they plan to travel to Europe in the spring.

From the Opera House in Sydney to the Open House in Jerusalem, SONiA and Disappear Fear have performed in 16 countries. “Broken Film” is her seventeenth album, and some fans consider it the best of her award-winning career. The songs for “Broken Film” were recorded over a two-year period, SONiA said. During this time SONiA’s father died, and her sister went through a divorce that in many ways mirrored the divorce of their own parents. Both events heavily influenced the songwriting for “Broken Film.”

The CD’s title came when SONiA was sorting through some old movies that belonged to her father. “I was given a box of 18 mm films. On one of the reels, he’d written ‘broken film,’” recalled SONiA. “When I saw that ... most of the songs on the CD were written and I knew what I would be doing; I really felt that was the right title for the CD.” The CD has a variety of influences from rock to reggae to blues to ballads.

The opening track,“Start,” launches SONiA’s storytelling directly into the limelight. The song begins with the story of a group of children listening to a veteran with one arm and no legs who says to them, “I don’t need hands to hold somebody’s heart.” The song was inspired by a real veteran on TV who “was just totally inspiring,” SONiA said. The veteran’s story paralleled that of SONiA’s nephew, Sgt. Jason Irons who served as a marine in Afghanistan and saved the life of Corporal Kerns, a fellow marine who also lost both his legs and one arm. “Princess and the Honeybee” is a sweet song about a honeybee who is too busy to notice the love that a princess tries to give him. Rutstein said she wrote the song at a songwriter’s retreat together with Kasper Lapp. The song caught the attention of Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. He asked SONiA if he could record it with a different ending. Much to Yarrow’s dismay, SONiA declined the offer explaining that she wanted to keep the song’s original form. And, it is in this form, that SONiA recorded it for “Broken Film.” SONiA often includes Hebrew in her songs. “L Kol L Vavcha” is a song she wrote after her father passed away. “It’s part of a Jewish prayer called the Shema,” SONiA explained. “It’s about giving all of your heart, your soul, and all of your self — meaning your phsyical self and your might — to being the best person you can be, so that what you leave in your life is your best in the world.” Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 the day of show. Advance tickets are available through 

June/July 2008 Vol. 89 No. 10
The latest CD from Sonia Rutstein and her band, Dis­appear Fear, fully embraces their world music journey, with Israel figuring prominently in these 13 original compositions. Themes of love, peace and equality are sung in English, Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic. Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton sings the Hebrew lead in “Shorashim.” The pray­er-like melody is in­fused with Middle Eastern tones.   Pro­duced by Rutstein with John Grant (
—Penny Schwartz

Phil ’Er Up

Alan H. Feiler
Senior Editor
July 22, 2011

Sonia Rutstein calls the late protest singer/songwriter Phil Ochs “a rope that I needed over rough waters when I did not think there was even one soul out there.” Now, she wants to toss that rope to others.
The Grammy Award-nominated musician/activist recently reunited with her sister, Cindy Frank, as part of the indie pop/folk band disappear fear for “Get Your Phil,” a 10-song tribute album to Ochs, who committed suicide in 1976 at age 35.
A 1977 Pikesville High School graduate who lives in Rodgers Forge and attends Congregation Beit Tikvah, Rutstein — who goes by the professional name  SONiA — recently spoke with the Baltimore Jewish Times about the new CD.

How’d you become a Phil fanatic?
I was in high school. I remember Steve Tabor, my boyfriend, telling me the shocking news that Phil Ochs had committed suicide. It was April 9, 1976, and I said, ‘Oh that is terrible — who is Phil Ochs?’ Steve was surprised I had not heard of Ochs and proceeded to lend me a couple of his albums.
So when I heard Phil’s honky nasal voice and the things that he sung about, it touched me. He sounded sad and angry and alone, and it resonated for me. All at once, I knew why he was not more famous, because some folks really like his voice and some really don’t like it so much. It has grown on me, so I love it. But he also gave me courage to sing because I thought, if he could get a record deal, well, maybe I can, too.

What’s special about Ochs and his songs?
Phil seemed disgruntled with the same facade of America that I was feeling. … The cool thing in the ’70s was not to care, and it bugged me. So I felt a kinship and connection to Phil.
Also, I liked the simplicity of just one guitar and his voice. It was not all fuzzy and macho like the metal bands on the radio, and it was not fake and phony like the stars on the TV talk shows. I could relate to his realness. That is what I love about folk music — it is accessible and it is a ‘let’s see what you’ve got on the spot’ kind of performance. Just one soul on stage, sharing an idea with an audience.

A Jewish sensibility in Ochs’ work?
The essence of Phil’s music is truly in the modus operandi of tikkun olam [repairing the world].  And our tradition says that if you save one soul, it is as if you have saved the whole world. He certainly ‘saved’ thousands of souls, though he could not save his own.

Why isn’t Ochs as well remembered as some of his contemporaries from that period?
Phil Ochs never had the commercial success that Bob [Dylan] and Joni [Mitchell] and James [Taylor] had. Plus, he did not have Albert Grossman as his manager. Phil had his brother, Michael. With all due respect, Albert was like a reptile and Michael was like a lamb. Every artist that has a big name has a reptile in their back pocket or is reptile-like themselves. It seems like someone has to be nearly immune to morality, integrity and profanity to succeed for longer than a three-minute pop song. Phil did not have that kind of protection.

Why a tribute album to him?
Because it is what I want to hear, and it seems it is what my circle of fans wants to hear as well. … So many of his lyrics are so enormously, bitingly  true. I had to make this CD.
I dedicated my first album to Phil. I really thought in all my beautiful youth and naivete that some or more of these ’60s issues would be over. But they are so loud and present, and so since Phil can’t sing these songs himself, I hope to honor his life by singing them for folks now.

Is some of the material dated?
I think I changed one or three lyrics around, [but] the meaning is pretty much the same. The wonderfulness and tragedy about this CD is that this stuff is not dated. It is all happening before our breathing lungs, beating hearts and tearful eyes. The love songs are timeless, ‘Changes’ and ‘When I’m Gone’ and ‘There But For Fortune’ and ‘I’ve Had Her.’  The topical songs like ‘Draft Dodger Rag’ and ‘I  Ain’t  A Marching’ are still perfectly applicable. I really wish this was not true.

Why’d you and Cindy decide to reunite for this project?
Cindy loves singing with me and me with her. Timing was right. I worked with this sound engineer in Northern California and I told him about this project. He said he would be thrilled to be involved, and he gave some great Phil stories of personally meeting him and Phil showing him some chords to some songs. It was a perfect connection.

A favorite Ochs song?
It would have to be the one I am singing at any given time or the one I am listening to. I think ‘Cops of the World.’ Another great song is ‘Crucifixion,’ about John F. Kennedy and maybe Robert Kennedy, too. On the CD, I am particularly proud of ‘I’ve Had Her/Because the Night.’

OK, so why a Springsteen tune in the midst of a Phil Ochs tribute CD?
I was rehearsing ‘I’ve Had Her’ and Phil never really wrote a bridge to any song. So I was working on the song [and] I found myself playing the chord progression for ‘Because The Night’ for the intro. I don’t know why, songs just come out when I am holding a guitar. Plus, it gives an angle to the song that I feel is more of what I wanted to say.

Why should young folks care about Phil Ochs?
Phil’s music is totally relatable now as it was then, maybe even more so because there is such a void in the media today and the media is so much louder with all of our technological progress. We need to feel the humanity of our own souls in voices and to eliminate the static and bring forth truth and love.

Does Ochs have an overall message in his work?
Ultimately, maybe he was doing what I do — gentle open-heart surgery called disappear fear. When you disappear fear between people, what you have is love. Very simple.

For information about “Get Your Phil,” disappear fear and SONiA, visit nSite_09/index.html .

Facts About Phil
• Born in El Paso, Texas.  Raised  in a secular Jewish family in Long Island, upstate New York and Columbus, Ohio;
• Formed his left-wing political beliefs while majoring in journalism at Ohio State University and started incorporating them into his music;
• Dropped out of college during the early ’60s and moved to Greenwich Village, singing at open mic nights and passing the hat. In 1964, released his first album, “All The News That’s Fit To Sing.” A year later, came out with his second album, “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”;
• In 1966, sold out Carnegie Hall for his solo concert. His songs during that period largely dealt with topics of the day — civil rights, Vietnam, labor relations, social and political injustice, etc.;
• Invited by John Lennon to sing at a December 1971 benefit concert for John Sinclair, an activist poet arrested on minor drug charges and given a severe sentence. Other performers there included Lennon, Stevie Wonder, Allen Ginsberg and Yoko Ono;
• While traveling through Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1973, was mugged and strangled, lost the top three notes of his vocal range. This led to spiraling depression, paranoia and alcohol abuse;
• Hanged himself on April 9, 1976, at his sister’s home in Far Rockaway, N.Y. He was 35;
• Recommended Reading: “There But For Fortune — The Life Of Phil Ochs” (Hyperion Books) by Michael Schumacher. Recommended Listening: Rhino Records’ “Farewells & Fantasies,” a three-CD compilation of Ochs’ work.

Photo captions:
Sister Act: Sonia Rutstein and Cindy Frank of disappear fear reunited to record “Get Your Phil,” a new tribute CD to the late protest singer Phil Ochs. (Photo Erica Gloger; CD Art Photo Provided)

Though highly influential and respected, Phil Ochs, who committed suicide in 1976, never achieved the commercial success of such contemporaries as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Peter, Paul & Mary. (Photo Jim Marshall)

Broken Film: New Music by SONiA of Disappear Fear
October 17, 2013 | Filed under: Entertainment |

Broken Film: New Music by SONiA of Disappear Fear

October 17, 2013 | Filed under: Entertainment | Posted by: The Seattle Lesbian

Posted by: The Seattle Lesbian

That’s right, new music from disappear fear. This CD may very well be the best of SONiA Rutstein’s career. SONiA is best known to audiences around
the world as one of the creators of the indie folk group disappear fear. While that group has gone through several iterations over the years, SONiA has
continued to tour the globe, writing and performing songs that speak to important issues of the heart and of society. Broken Film released on September 17, 2013 in Baltimore, launching a 50 city North American tour. On the road with SONiA is Don Conoscenti. He plays lead guitar as heard on the Broken FilmCD.  Moving across the Atlantic to play the drums is Katie Marie from London, UK and from Austin, Texas Laran Snyder on vocal harmonies. From the Opera House in Sydney to the Open House in Jerusalem, SONiA writes and performs captivating love songs and confronts the hypocrisies and biases of our culture with a positive message of openness and optimism. Jewish and Gay from the USA, she has performed in 16 countries and has just as many award winning albums to her credit. SONiA received the GLAMA award for Female Artist of the Year, Best Band, Best Song, WAMA award for best Vocalist, Out Music Awards OUTStanding World Music CD, and OUTStanding Single Best Out Single.


“....with a voice that is raspy yet pure and lyrical melodies reminiscent of Bob Dylan, Springsteen, and Joni Mitcell."  - Waiheke Jazz Festival, New Zealand"

“....with a voice that is raspy yet pure and lyrical melodies reminiscent of Bob Dylan, Springsteen, and Joni Mitcell." - Waiheke Jazz Festival, New Zealand"

Philadelphia Gay News

International singer-songwriter to perform at folk festival
by Larry Nichols

Out folk-rock singer-songwriter SONiA Disappear Fear is steering her world tour through Philadelphia this weekend to perform at Philadelphia Folk Festival.
SONiA’s (real name Sonia Rutstein) latest album, last year’s “Broken Film,” found her returning to recording under the name Disappear Fear, the band she founded in Baltimore in 1987.

“There’s no difference at all,” she said about her solo and band work. “The goal and objective is to stop confusing people. I am Disappear Fear and I am SONiA. Now, my official performance title is SONiA Disappear Fear. I started Disappear Fear with my sister and I always have been the one who has written all the songs, whether it’s just me and my guitar or me and an eight-piece band. So it’s one and the same.”

SONiA recorded her most recent album in Nashville. She said Nashville, a nerve center for country music and the music industry as a whole, has more resources for her to work with as a musician than her stomping grounds in Baltimore.

“I wouldn’t want to diss my hometown but there’s a lot of great players [in Nashville] and great studios too,” she said. “There’s so much work there. Musicians are playing all the time and they get darn good at that. You just have a lot more choices and it is reasonable budget-wise. The demand and supply seem to balance out favorably for me.”

We talked to SONiA before she jetted off to Germany to perform at Hamburg Pride. Over the last year, she has performed in countries including Germany and Israel. With the growing tensions globally, we asked if the events around the world making headlines ever concern her in regard to traveling and performing.

“I did perform in Israel in 2006 when the Lebanon war was happening,” she said. “At that time, we were allowed to fly, I named my Disappear Fear. It wasn’t just an idea of putting together a cool set of words that rhyme. The idea was I would live into that [name]. It was no question for me to support humanity continually forever and ever no matter what. I certainly don’t want to die on the road, but it is important to not just talk the talk but also walk the walk. My life would be meaningless without that. And yes ,I am a little scared, but it’s not going to stop me.”

Meanwhile, SONiA said she is working through prospects for new songs for her next album.

“I write 20 or 30 songs and then I choose the best of those,” she said. “Actually, the audience will choose the best of those because I will run them through for people.”

She added that some of the fans attending Philadelphia Folk Festival might get to hear some of her newer songs that she is considering for the album.

“It’s going to be very amazing,” she said about what festival attendees can expect. “My main set Saturday will be the biggest part for me. I’m hoping to do two songs that I have not performed much at all. I’m going to be playing more piano this time, so there will be something completely new.”

SONiA Disappear Fear performs Aug. 15-17 at Philadelphia Folk Festival, 1323 Salford Station Road, Harleysville. For more information or tickets, visit or



Folk | Americana, Folk, & Bluegrass | Published every Saturday

Positive World Vision on Broken Film
by disappear fear

October 10, 2013 by Jody Nusholtz  

Truly talented artists ripen and evolve with time. So it is for SONiA of disappear fear. The seeds of activism, love, and world awareness have always been planted in her songs, and now they have blossomed in Broken Film, SONiA’S seventeenth and latest album, recorded in Nashville in December 2012 and engineered and co-produced by Mike Poole (Keith Urban, John Prine, Robert Plant and Band of Joy, Patty Griffin, Martina McBride, Johnny Cash).  

Broken Film is quintessential SONiA, offering insight into life’s most challenging and precious moments in a tender and upbeat atmosphere. SONiA articulates the truth in these new songs, and her vocal presence assures us that she feels what it means to be Human, to be Gay, to be Jewish, to be Muslim, to be American, to be Vulnerable, to be Courageous—and to create music that connects us through, across, and beyond all our twenty-first century labels and issues.

Broken Film calls for a personal response and global responsibility in the language of round, melodic rock and folky Americana with a warm sense of humor and a big cup of self-awareness. disappear fear is currently on a fifty-city tour in the US and Canada, with shows in Portland (opening for Peter Mulvey), Seattle, San Francisco, Vancouver, Berkeley, Los Angeles, New York City, and Boston. On the road with SONiA are critically acclaimed and Broken Film featured guitarist Don Conoscenti, drummer and percussionist Katie Marie, and, on vocal harmonies, Laran Snyder. The live show vibrates with the energy of SONiA’s positive world vision synthesized by like-spirited musicians.  

As Radio host Len Holton of KUAR in Little Rock observes, “disappear fear's latest album (Broken Film) features SONiA with full band backing and shows that even after 17 albums the indie pop/indie folk activist remains an insightful, potent and razor-sharp chronicler of Life and the human condition whose creative milieu includes Old Time Country, reggae, folk-rock, Americana recorded in Nashville with an approach that captures the early rockier disappear fear sound.”   SONiA and disappear fear are a voice for those who wish for peace over conflict, for acceptance over judgment, for words over wars, for love over fear. The seeds have been sewn, and Broken Film and the CD tour are the garden where we are invited to sit, pour a cup of healing, and listen.   Sonia will be at Portland's Alberta Rose Theatre on October 17th.

Bay Area Reporter

Oct 17, 2013
Queer songwriting all year
Published 10/17/2013 by Gregg Shapiro
After detours into blues (Blood, Bones & Baltimore), Latin music (Tango) and other genres, Disappear Fear, led by the versatile SONiA,returns with its best album in years, Broken Film ( Incorporating politics and social commentary in her distinctive style, SONiA takes on family ("Farmland and the Sky"), spirituality ("Ari Ari") and of course, love (the anthemic "Love Out Loud" and "L Kol L Vavcha," partially sung in Hebrew). But the album's high point is the breathtaking "The Banker," in which SONiA deftly addresses the impact of the financial crisis with wisdom, sensitivity and fury.









SONiA's music finds global inspiration
Disappear Fear plays Saturday in Oxford 9:03 PM, Jun 18, 2014

The latest Disappear Fear album, 'Broken Film,' was released last year. / Provided
Written by Chris Kocher @PSBChrisKocher ZOOM

SONiA and her band, disappear fear, will perform Saturday at 6 on the Square's Seventh Anniversary Party. / Provided IF YOU GO • What: 6 on the Square’s Seventh Anniversary Party with SONiA and disappear fear 
• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday 
• Where: 6 on the Square, 

6 Lafayette Park, Oxford 
• Tickets: $20 online; $25 at the door (get tickets 
• More information:

More For more than 25 years, singer-songwriter Sonia Rutstein — better known by the stylized moniker SONiA — has been exploring pretty much any
genre that captures her attention, either as a solo artist or with her band, Disappear Fear. Folk, rock, pop, blues, world music, reggae — nothing is really

The 11 new tracks on the latest Disappear Fear album, “Broken Film” (released last year), showcase her eclectic abilities and reflect Rutstein’s
strong social conscience. Also inspiring her songwriting are her travels around the world, from America, Europe and Australia to the Middle East. (She and
her band will stop at 6 On The Square in Oxford on Saturday night to help celebrate the listening room’s seventh anniversary.)

Asked last week if there’s such a thing as having too many tools in the toolbox from which to choose, Rutstein said it’s a good problem to have — that the different moods that stories present require different methods of telling them. “I follow where the song wants to go,” she said in an interview. “Leonard Cohen said that anybody can write a song, but not everybody has the patience to write a great song — and it really does take a lot of patience.”

The seeds for her wide-ranging tastes were sewn early on: When she was very young, her parents would need to tend to her even-younger sister, and the only thing that caught Sonia’s attention was sitting her down in front of the family’s stereo and playing records. Rutstein recalls hearing Louis Armstrong’s version of “Hello Dolly” and being captivated by it— and she had the chance to see Satchmo in the flesh at her native Baltimore’s Flower Mart festival, held near the city’s Washington Monument. “He was performing right there on the stage — not too high. Looking up as a 5-year-old, it was blocking the sun,” she said. “But there it was, the sound I had heard on the radio, and there was a human being actually making that music live. I was just wowed out! Something about his voice and his demeanor — I love him.”  

Another early influence was folk legend Odetta, who Rutstein saw perform with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Rutstein rose to prominence in folk circles in the late 1980s and early 1990s as half of Disappear Fear with her sister, Cindy Frank (CiNDY) — but after Frank dropped out of the music scene to raise a family, Rutstein continued as a solo act for almost 10 years. In 2005, after getting Frank’s blessing, she reformed Disappear Fear, with several different lineups evolving over the past decade.

The current core band includes Rutstein (guitar, piano and lead vocals), Don Conoscenti (guitar), Colleen Clark (drums and percussion) and Isaac Tabor (bass), but sometimes others are recruited for a “Disappear Fear orchestra.” Conoscenti is himself a singer-songwriter, record producer and multi-instrumentalist who has performed with Kristian Bush of Sugarland, Ellis Paul, John Mayer, Nils Lofgren and The Indigo Girls. He helped to shape the recording
of “Broken Film,” and Rutstein lured him back on the road after he had semi-retired from touring. “He said, ‘If you’re going to be touring this CD, I’d love to be a
part of it.’ I thought, ‘Wow, that’s awesome!’” she said. “So a lot of people who hadn’t got to see him play live in a long time have been able to come out and do that.”
Although Rutstein could be considered a prolific songwriter, she admits that she has no particular discipline or routine that says she must write a certain number of songs per week or per month. “I’ll write maybe 20, 30, 40 songs every couple of years and take what I think will be the 10 to 12 strongest songs, then build a CD around that,” she said. “There are usually one or two or three driving songs that make me say, ‘You need to kick it in and wrote some more so you can put out a full CD!’” Good ideas for her songs can come from any number of sources.

The 2007 album “Tango” offered original songs in four languages — English, Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish based on her experiences as a globetrotting musician. “When English is not the first language, it makes words that are precious even more precious,” Rutstein said. “I really like the movement of languages into other languages because you get a sense of how that culture experiences it.”

Shifting gears, 2010’s release “Blood, Bones & Baltimore” had a blues vibe, and she reunited with her sister in 2011 for “Get Your Phil,” a tribute to late folk singer Phil Ochs. A Rolling Stone article about the Wall Street wizards behind the recession inspired one tune on “Broken Film,” called “The Banker.” “I was so angry that I had to let off some steam,” she said. “We drive down through our lives and we see billboards for huge corporations — you probably drink Coca-Cola, but have you ever met the person who makes it or been to a Coca-Cola factory? We’re so removed from the things that affect us, including banks, our gasoline, our clothes, practically everything. We’re so far away from everything that it minimizes the human experience. “I was so frustrated — I just couldn’t believe the degree of greed that created this world financial crisis because of a few really selfish people. Not that they intended the whole world to crash around them, but it didn’t seem to matter if they didn’t.”

After 6 On The Square on Saturday, Rutstein heads back to Europe in July, then will tour the United States again through November. She’ll take December off, escape the Baltimore winter to play around Australia in January, and expects to start thinking about a new CD in February. Many things have changed since the early days of her music career — for one, beds are guaranteed at every stop and are better than sleeping on floors — and she’s grateful for the thousands of friends she’s made along the way. “I’m very lucky,” she said. “I’m in a very positive place and I get a lot of love from a lot of different people in different places who think it’s important enough to keep my music happening, so I’m able to keep doing it.”


German Engineering - disappear fear's SONiA reflects on her experiences in Germany
By Doug Rule

Published on April 3, 2014, 8:20am

Sonia Rutstein recently met a man in Germany who inquired about her name. ''Oh, 'Rutstein.' This is a German name. Are you German?'' she recalls the man asking. ''And I said, 'Well, I was once.' And it felt really good to say that, because that's my heritage.'' Germany has also become part of the Jewish-American folk artist's present-day life. ''My friends have been wondering if I'm speaking in German and French yet, because I've spent quite a bit of time now here in Germany and also in France,'' Rutstein says during a recent phone call from, naturally, Germany. But Rutstein, who records using just her first name, stylized as ''SONiA,'' is preparing to return to her homeland. The Baltimore native is coming back to promote the new album Broken Film with her band disappear fear – also stylized, but with lower-case letters – including a tour stop at Jammin Java Saturday, April 12. ''Most of the concert will be in English,'' she says, teasing that there ''may be a little in German,'' a language she's currently studying. SONiA will also sing a few songs in Spanish and in Hebrew drawn from her recorded repertoire, featuring lyrics often touching on progressive themes and LGBT rights. After a few years away, the lesbian artist anticipates returning to this year's LGBT Pride festival circuit. But she only expects to hit one or two events in the U.S. -- which is nothing like the near-omnipresence she had 15 or so years ago. ''I think I did like 20 festivals in one summer,'' she sighs, reminiscing about a year in the late 1990s. Rutstein's sights these days are mostly on the broader international summer festival circuit, with gigs anticipated at events in the United States and Canada as well as in Europe. She's also finalizing plans to perform at a large gay festival in Germany, where she recently wrapped a string of concerts in conjunction with a music convention. ''Most of my concerts have been sold out, which is so cool,'' she says -- just one among many positive experiences the she's had in the country. ''There's been, absolutely, just complete open-arms welcoming to me. I feel completely embraced.'' 

disappear fear performs Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m.
Jammin Java, 227 Maple Ave. E., Vienna. Tickets are $18 to $20. Call 703-255-3747 or visit


Baltimore Jewish Times  NEWS Disappear Fear Releasing New Album Sept. 17 In Baltimore Leave a reply SONiA Rutstein (Provided) For SONiA Rutstein, releasing her new album in Baltimore was a no-brainer. “This is my community,” the singer-songwriter and leader of Disappear Fear said via email. “From my bat mitzvah at Beth El Congregation, [my] classmates at Pikesville High, being a member of Beit Tikvah now … these are my peeps.” Disappear Fear releases its new album, “Broken Film,” on Sept. 17 at Creative Alliance at The Patterson. The show also kicks off her tour, the first in years in which she’ll be playing with a five-piece band. “Broken Film, Rutstein’s 17th album, is being lauded as perhaps the best of her career. “There have been a lot of life-changing events for me in recent years, and my guitar [has been] there by my side to help through [them],” she said. “I am not sure what keeps that spark going. I suppose it is my basic philosophy of life. Every morning I say the Shema, and we go from there.” Two songs on the album, “L’Kol L’Vavcha” and “Ari Ari,” speak directly to her Judaism and Zionism. “‘L’Kol L’Vavcha’ (with all my heart) is really a hug around myself, my soul, to breathe in what makes me more than strong and to touch my umbilical chord with Hashem,” she said. She hopes the rock beat gets the crowd singing along to the song, the first she wrote after her father passed away. “Ari Ari,” a reggae song, closes out the album. “Its lyrics describe my time in Israel when we went to a party up in the Golan Heights and how some of my Jewish friends seem to deny their experience of shechina (the presence of God),” she said. “And I feel that if they went to Israel and stood in that desert, they would have no doubt. This is my truth based on my experiences in Israel.” For more information and to order tickets to the show, visit creative

Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents Pittsburgh's LGBTQ Blog Since 2005 
Giveaway and Interview: SONiA and disappear fear are coming to Pittsburgh September 03.2013. 5 Comments Sue Kerr Recording artists disappear fear’s brand new release Broken Film debuts this month and the band with SONia will be playing Club Cafe on Wednesday September 18  (7:00 doors/8:00 show) as part of the CD release party tour. With stellar musicians from NYC and L.A. joining Baltimore’s own SONiA (Rutstein) this disappear fear CD release show could easily be the best concert you’ll see this year.  SONiA’s powerful honesty touches people of varied social and ethnic backgrounds, especially those moving towards a positive world vision. She tours the USA, Europe, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Canada cultivating fans everywhere she goes. She has 16 award winning CDs, that include the GLAAD award for album of the year & Female Artist of the Year for the GLAMAS, OUTMusic Awards for OUTStanding International Song . SONiA is a proud member of the Recording Academy of America that presents the Grammy Awards. As an added touch, local artist Anne Feeney is the opening act.  At the end of this post, learn how you can win tickets to the show or a copy of the “No Bomb Is Smart” album. I recently had the opportunity to chat with SONiA of disappear fear. They will be at Club Cafe on September 18. SONia Describe your impression of Pittsburgh. What do you love about our City? Any memorable experiences when you’ve visited? there was a bar a lesbian bar and in the early years of disappear fear late 80s early 90′s when it was just me, my guitar and Cindy…we played this place near the river…and i don’t remember the name of it but is was ultra smokey.and the Bartender was a woman named Bear and she was just so sweet and generous to us…made us feel right at home there in Pittsburgh…and we kept on coming back too. the pittsburgh gals showed us a whole lotta love!  When I hear “Love Out Loud” I immediately think of Harvey Milk’s battle cry to come out, to live out loud as the only way to change hearts. Was that part of your message?  i am sure it was and it is. although…i did not know about Harvey Milk when i penned the words LOVE OUT LOUD in 1989 for our t-shirts and then as a lyric in one of my songs…but the essence is so vital to a good life where we can each hold up a proud piece of the sky and feel like we helped make someone’s day better…it is a way to hug yourself psychologically and that’s a great thing. Being who we are shares the love and makes for better lives better living the whole world over one soul at a time.  Another thought crosses my mind as I listen to the single – the love we show another another as neighbors, as a community. Marriage equality can often overshadow the very real discrimination and oppression many of us face in our jobs, our neighborhoods and our schools. How do we love out loud to tend to these needs as well? i think by being honest with yourself you can start to be honest with those in your community and when you feel good about your life your words your communications your, job you start to live into a world that is happier because you are happier…you are stronger and your honesty creates a shift that allows you to shine in ways you may never have imagined before you took that step of responsibility for WHO you really are and THIS is how the love out loud theme works. each moment counts…and there are likely some in your circle of challenged relationships that have had far more failure and difficulty to breathe free more than you have had.  Your record label supports the United Nations World Food Programme This is a very timely issue – changes to food stamp regulations (SNAP) mean Pennsylvania families lose 21 meals amonth while our regional Food Bank just closed 12 pantries, mostly in senior hi-rises. Yet many deny that hunger is a serious issue in the US.  This was a program that disappear records has been involved in for about a decade now…currently disappear records does not do direct downloads from our site but we do usually make an annual donation to the United Nations World Food Programme. Hunger is a serious issue in the US. There are many kinds of hunger and some of it looks like obesity. It is the result of someone feeling like they are in survival and cannot get enough and so the result is overeating too. There are many many injustices in our great country. I’m just trying to write songs and sing it with all my heart to hopefully touch someone who’s listening and make their moment a little bit better. Are there any Pittsburgh performers (based here or born here) that influence you? i love the music of Anne Feeney. She is a great person and can write a darn great song too. She’s a true folk artist. She’s mostly fighting the good fight that the media ignores so you may not have heard of her but she is a true hero all the way. Who was the first LGBTQ person that you met and how did that impact you?  i think it was my great aunt but she never came out not even to herself. The impact was fear…so if you can take your weakness and make it your strength you gotta good chance at success. Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character in television, song, film or literature? Skipper on Gilligan’s island is first that comes to mind. but in my perfect world they’re all gay scarlett in gone with the wind, rick in casablanca, and most of all the lioness in Born Free.  What is one simple thing a reader can do to support the LGBTQ community?  the one thing a reader can do to support the LGBTQ community is that in everything see and know a drop a gratitude..for even the darkest day will be followed by the sun rising. I love that you have branded reusable water bottles in your merch! How does a culture of reuse impact your career and your art?  My manager and wife is acutely aware of waste and wastefulness we use this personal morality and attach to our business…it makes this whole world better even if our impact is just one person one sale at a time Thanks again for answering my questions. I am looking forward to your Pgh show! 

The Daily Tar Heel  
Eclectic band disappear fear to perform new political album
By Tat'yana Berdan

Disappear Fear Time: 8 p.m.

Where: The Arts Center

More from the DTH

Reggae, Americana, folk and rock are just some of the words Sonia Rutstein uses to describe the sound of her band’s new record. The four members of disappear fear will be stopping by The Carrboro ArtsCenter tonight as part of the tour for Broken Film, the band’s latest album. The band is fronted by Rutstein, who formed the Baltimore-based band 25 years ago with her sister. Since then, the band has released numerous albums. Rutstein said her inspiration comes from her life experiences and national news.
“Every breath I take could be part of it,” Rutstein said. “When you’re awake, you’re seeing things that could affect you.” Broken Film was released on Sept. 17, the second anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the album features a mix of songs that deal with national political events, as well as events from Rutstein’s own personal life. One track, “The Banker,” discusses the events surrounding the 2008 economic crisis, calling out greedy investment bankers, she said. “Sonia and disappear fear have an amazing ability of making the political personal,” said Art Menius, the executive director of The ArtsCenter. Menius said he has been a fan of disappear fear since the ’90s and jumped at the chance to bring them to The ArtsCenter, which hosts about 60 to 70 musical guests a year. “I didn’t think more than a couple of minutes before committing to it,” Menius said. Rutstein said she wrote the first song for Broken Film back in 2010 and created the record in two and a half years, taking time off to write songs for a musical and a global warming project. Don Conoscenti, the lead guitarist for the band’s tour, is a musician in his own right and joined disappear fear last year to work on recording Broken Film. He said he agreed to tour with the group because he loved working with Rutstein. “I have a great admiration for Sonia and her work. I also love her to pieces,” Conoscenti said. The musician said he fell in love with music at an early age. “I played symphony in high school because they got out early,” he said jokingly. He said he hopes audiences will not only connect to the message behind Sonia’s music but also appreciate the musicality and beautiful sound of the band’s songs. Conoscenti said his favorite part of performing is really getting to build a relationship with the audience. “It’s not about being clapped at, it’s about sharing everything with the audience,” Conoscenti said. For Rutstein, the best part is also the chance to connect with the audience. She said she is really grateful to her fans for allowing her to have such a long and prosperous career as an independent artist. “This is the type of career that your fans let you know what works and doesn’t work. You get better at it, or you really don’t survive,” she said. She hopes audiences will walk away feeling uplifted and more at peace with themselves and the rest of the world. “When you disappear fear between people, you’re left with love,” Rutstein said.

Published October 29, 2013 in Arts

Santa Fe New Mexican Pasatiempo 
The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture November 15, 2013
Onstage — Going global: Disappear Fear in concert at Santa Fe Sol 1
Posted: Friday, November 15, 2013 5:00 am
Updated: 11:45 am, Tue Dec 10, 2013. Loren Bienvenu

Since founding the group Disappear Fear in 1987, Sonia Rutstein has shared her progressive-minded pop, folk, and blues songs with audiences around the world. She sings in Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish, and English while playing a signature “SONiA” model guitar made for her by the Santa Cruz Guitar Company. The band’s newest album, Broken Film, is propelled by upbeat bluesy riffs and the gravelly conviction of Rutstein’s vocals. Disappear Fear is currently promoting the release with a 50-city tour that comes to 
Santa Fe Sol Stage & Grill (37 Fire Place) on Friday, Nov. 15, 
at 7 p.m. Advance tickets, $15, are available through; admission is $23 at the door. Visit

thegavoice Lesbian-led band Disappear Fear brings new album to Decatur
By Laura Douglas Brown
November 11, 2011

When sisters Sonia Rutstein and Cindy Frank formed the band disappear fear back in the mid-1980s, Ronald Reagan was president, “trickle down economics” was the buzzword, gay couples were not allowed to marry anywhere in the United States, and there were no out pop music stars. “On one side there was ‘Women’s Music’ (which we felt was sweet but boring) and there was rock and dance,” recalls SONiA, a Jewish lesbian who prefers to go by just her first name, complete with creative capitalization. “Today countless singer songwriters and fans approach me and say, thank you — your strength and courage gave me the courage to be true to myself and my life,” she says, while adding, “I am glad to be the medium for such light and healing. It is not me — it just comes through me.”

MORE INFORMATION: Disappear Fear, 
Sunday, Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m. 

Eddie’s Attic

515 N McDonough St.

Decatur, GA 30030

Quirky and smart, a poet with a guitar, SONiA is a master of crafting songs that make you want to simultaneously dance, sing and change the world. “Many people term my songs ‘protest’ songs, where actually what I write about is love and moments of inspiration and stories,” she says. Founded in 1987, disappear fear featured SONiA and Cindy singing powerful, socially conscious songs backed by SONiA’s guitar and harmonica. Cindy left the band in 1996 to focus on her family and kids, though she occasionally contributed backing vocals on some recordings. Now, the sisters are back together and on tour for disappear fear’s new tribute album to folk legend Phil Ochs — a tour that brings them to Decatur’s Eddie’s Attic on Nov. 20. Asked what it is like to tour with Cindy again after so many years, SONiA answers like a typical sister. “Cindy stays up late watching TV and doesn’t turn the TV off —that drives me crazy. And she reads magazines all the time when she is not texting her friends. So, we are really different,” she says. “And yet, still after raising two boys she loves my songs and singing with me, so it works out. Politically we agree and that is a strong connection. We have not really done the tour yet, so there may be a meltdown,” SONiA says. “We were in our late 20s when we started disappear fear.” More than two decades since the band formed, their songs continue to resonate, from the ongoing struggle for LGBT equality to the current Occupy Wall Street movement. SONiA married her partner, former Atlantan Terry Irons, in California before Proposition 8 repealed marriage equality there, and praises the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in New York as “as big and great as walking on the moon.” “One vote for New York equals one gigantic message to the country. … The more we as gays are just honest about ourselves, sharing ourselves and not segregating ourselves, the more we will lose the archaic stereotypes and with it the shrouds of misconception fade and fall and then the fear is disappeared,” SONiA says. She also expresses solidarity with the “Occupy” movements that are highlighting the disproportionate wealth and resources of the country’s richest one percent. “We are calling this mini disappear fear tour the ‘we are the 99 percent tour,’” SONiA says. “I am thrilled to see folks around this country and abroad speaking out for fairness … we really ARE the world.” Tribute to a folk legend The timing of disappear fear’s Phil Ochs cover album, titled “Get Your Phil,” may be particularly apt. Ochs died in 1976. “Most of the songs on the ‘Get Your Phil’ CD were written by Phil Ochs between 1963 and 1967, at that time he was speaking to the effect of the Vietnam War and war in general as the choice for our government’s survival,” she says. “While most of what Phil Ochs wrote is perfectly and sadly still true, there have happily been some great advancements.” These days, SONiA describes herself as “against war” but “pro soldier,” citing the Ochs song “Is There Anybody Here,” which she covers on the new album and on the 1994 self-titled album, “disappear fear.” “To give your life to what you believe in, there is nothing I respect more than that. However, it is good to look inside and see what drives us too,” she says. “We all reach out to survive … some by gun, some by guitar … and that defines us and that is the road we walk.” SONiA says she has always been drawn to Ochs’ music, which inspired her own career. “His songs make you think and touch your heart, make you realize you have a heart and that makes this planet a better place to be,” she says. “My religion says I am supposed to leave where I have been better than how I found it so, that’s what and why we are doing the 99% Tour.” ‘Moments of magic’ in Atlanta As for what Atlanta fans can expect from the rare SONiA and Cindy show, SONiA promises “a beautiful night” and quotes from the Ochs song “Changes,” included on the new album: “Moments of magic will glow in the dark all fears of the forest are gone.” The show will include songs from “Get Your Phil,” as well as other disappear fear songs including “Who I Am,” which won an Out Media award for Best Out Single. SONiA also promises beloved older songs like “Box of Tissues,” “Washington Work Song,” “Me, Too,” “Postcard from Texas,” “Who’s So Scared,” and “Sink the Censorship.” SONiA’s ties to Atlanta go beyond simply performing here through the years. Irons, who is also her manager, lived in Atlanta and served as entertainment coordinator for Atlanta Pride back in the 1990s. The two have now been together for almost 15 years. She fondly recalls previous Atlanta shows — “My gigs in Atlanta at Eddie’s, at the Variety Playhouse, at Pride...there have been so many really awesome moments!” — and also other places she loves to visit. “I used to also like Stone Mountain for nice walks and shopping around Little 5 Points— got some cool stuff there, a sequin cardigan and a wild belt,” she says. “Makes me smile.”   Top photo: SONiA, a Jewish lesbian who prefers to go by just her first name, formed the band disappear fear with her sister Cindy in 1987. Cindy left the duo to focus on her family, but the two are back together for a new album and tour, which comes to Decatur on Nov. 20.

Lawrence Kansas Interview

Interview: SONiA of disappear fear

By Trevan McGee
Monday, November 14, 2011

Sonia Rutstein has toured either solo or as a part of disappear fear since 1986. Now, she's touring with her sister Cindy Frank in support of the Phil Ochs cover album, "Get Your Phil."

SONiA and CiNDY/disappear fear
Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive, KU campus, Lawrence
All ages / $20

More Sonia Rutstein, or SONiA, as she's known professionally has been playing with independent folk/pop group disappear fear for more than 20 years, many of those years alongside her sister, Cindy Frank or CiNDY. In 1996 Frank stopped perfuming regularly with her sister to focus on motherhood and her education, while SONiA continued to tour, write and perform her own material as well as covers as both a solo act and a part of disappear fear. Now, the sisters have reunited under disappear fear and are touring in support of "Get Your Phil," a collection of 10 covers of Phil Ochs songs that will bring them by the Lied Center Pavillion, 1600 Stewart Drive, this Thursday. SONiA took time to talk about the album, the importance of Phil Ochs and performing with her sister again.

Trevan McGee: Tell me a bit about the new album.
SONiA Rutstein: I was planning on doing a CD of Phil Ochs songs at some point in my career and now seemed like a good time to do it. As a songwriter I’m kind of an independent singer/songwriter, I’m always writing songs. I’m going back to Phil Ochs, who was a big inspiration for me to, not only write the kind of songs that I write in terms of certain topics like particular news stories that strike my eye, but the Phil Ochs/Bob Dylan method that makes you say, “What!?!” And perhaps bring attention to an issue or give some more credit to an unsung hero becoming a sung hero. There was all of that for Phil Ochs, but I had to find my own time to do it because I’m recording my own CDs. I mentioned it to Cindy (Frank) that I was going to go in and record a CD of Phil’s music and she said, “Oh man, I would love to sing with you on that.” So the timing was right. She had graduated. She was taking classes where she lives and I live in Baltimore. I found an engineer who seemed to be the perfect guy to be the engineer. He had actually met Phil a couple of times and Phil had shown him a couple chords from some songs, one of which I was doing, “Changes.” Cindy flew down from Seattle on Friday night and by Sunday night we had basically the CD. I had done some of the rhythm tracks before, but a lot of it just went down pretty live. It felt really good. We had chosen all the songs beforehand to rehearse and get everything together. Cindy and I have been singing together now for most of our lives, so we got that down too.

TM: You dedicated your first album to Phil Ochs. Do you have a memory of the first time you heard a Phil Ochs song?
SR: Yes. I remember when I first heard his music ... I really liked the words of his music. I was familiar with the song “Changes” before I knew it was by Phil Ochs. It was a camp song, so it was just like, “Oooh, that’s really pretty.” I don’t think I had heard of anything else. I know Joan Baez had recorded “There But For Fortune,” but if I did hear that, it never came out strong for me. It was really more reading his lyrics. His voice, I actually thought was a little weird when I first heard it. It’s kind of nasaled and not very rock ‘n’ roll. I was listening more to the people of the day like Cat Stevens or James Taylor or Joni Mitchell — folky stuff. Simon and Garfunkel, which I loved. His voice wasn’t really that and it certainly wasn’t Bob Dylan either. Bob sort of had a kind nasal in the same way that Phil’s was, but it was different. I didn’t really understand his singing, but I really, really liked the melodies a lot. And I liked the songs as well. I think the next thing I heard was an album called “Chords of Fame,” which was a double album. It was just him and occasionally another artist was playing and singing, but it was live and it was just guitars and vocals. It was amazing. I just loved it. I guess the other thing that struck me about it was ... here’s a guy who’s making this amazingly great songs and I’ve never heard him on the radio. Ever. I remember thinking, “Wow, there’a whole other world out there where you can actually have a musical career and write great songs and they might not be big hits, but they can touch people deeply and that’s how it really was for me. Phil’s songs really touched me. I would just turn people on to him all of the time, I would play his songs in my car for people. Much later, after I recorded “Is There Anybody Here” on my first CD in 1994, later that year I heard of Sonny Ochs, who is Phil’s surviving older sister. She loved the version, loved our voices and I ended up doing a series of shows with her, which are called “The Phil Ochs Song Nights.” She takes about about eight to 15 people on stage, singer/songwriters themselves, and they do one or two of Phil’s songs and one or two of their own. It’s kind of depending on his generation, but a new generation of songwriters too to create new arrangements and so on. That’s happening again in the spring. I’m doing another Sonny Ochs tour then.

TM: What informed your song choices for this album?
SR: Some of them were just songs of his that are part of my definitive Phil Ochs connection such as "Is There Anybody Here," which I've recorded before and also "Outside a Small Circle of Friends," which I've never recorded. I've done it live lots of times. I've personally performed those with just me and my guitar or with Cindy. Some of the other songs on the CD are just the mainstay songs from Phil Ochs nights. We open with "Power and Glory" and we frequently close the nights with "When I'm gone." The biggest critique I've gotten on the CD has been, "Why did you do 'Pleasures Of The Harbor?'" "Why didn't you do 'The Highway Man?'" Well, because it wasn't going to be 97 songs long, you know? [laughs]

TM: There are meaner things to say than, "You didn't play enough songs."
SR: Yeah, yeah. What was the other one …. "Cops of The World," that's another one. where a few people said, "Why didn't you do 'Cops of The World'? It's so perfect for us right now."

TM: With this show coming up at the Lied Center, how much will be dedicated to the Phil Ochs album and how much will be music you and your sister have made from throughout your career?
SR: I wouldn't say I know the exact percentages, but I'll say it will be representative of both, which probably makes it around 50/50. And I also don't know how long we're performing for. I think our set is around 90 minutes, I'm guessing. We should be able to get a chunk of everything, whether it's songs of the past and i'm sure we'll do a good representation of songs from the CD as well.

TM: Do you see any collaborations like this in the future? Would you do another collection of covers like this one?
SR: Well you know, it's funny you asked me about this because I was just driving home singing "Moon River." I love that song. [laughs] Yes. It could happen. There are some great songs out there some songs that I just really love and shouldn't be that difficult to do this because most of the work is already done. Again, I would say a good third of the songs I already knew, if not by heart, nearly by heart. It could happen. It think it would be all over the place because songs that I love, for instance "Moon River," or "Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters" by Elton John, I'm not sure they'd go well with each other on a CD. My songwriting is, nicely said, a mix of many different genres and a little less nicely said, is all over the place. I've got reggae songs. I've got blues songs. I've got rock songs, I've got a couple of funny songs, country. It's not so different for me, but as a songwriter it keeps me awake and challenged. And I never would want to do a performance where things were unchallenging or be on automatic. I like keeping it fresh and to do that, it's sort of like, "What's around this corner? What rug and I lift up?"

TM: Do you know a difference in response between U.S. audiences and international audiences?
SR: Oddly enough, no. I was going to say they (international audiences) are quieter, but that's not even true. Really they just vary from club-to-club. If I'm playing a large festival in Europe it's the same kind of feeling as there is here. It's a good sound, there's people excited. It also depends on the time of day and if I'm the headliner or if I'm less known and playing earlier. I think that when I'm performing a song, or when anyone is performing a song, there is a frequency that people are responding to and beyond the lyrics and the music and the other content, physical creation of it, there's something happening on another level and that transcends continents. It transcends thoughts and political opinions. It's something else.

SONiA and disappear fear back to launch new season of Green Wood Coffee House concerts  
Ann Arbor's Green Wood Coffee House concert series resumes Friday night with the return of an old favorite, SONiA and disappear fear. The show is a CD release concert celebrating the new album “Broken Film.” SONiaA (full name, Sonia Rutstein) has performed as far away as Jerusalem (where she toured bomb shelters), Fiji and Australia's Sydney Opera House. An activist artist, her lyrics often address love, life, lesbian/gay rights and progressive political issues.

Singing in Hebrew, Spanish, Arabic and English, her honesty touches people of many social and ethnic backgrounds, especially those moving towards a positive world vision. "I feel like my calling is to be who I am and to speak what I need to speak – to speak my truth – and that’s what’s important to me,” she says. “My premise has always been that love is love and when you disappear fear between people what you have left is love." She has received awards from the Great Lakes Acoustic Music Association and the Washington Acoustic Music Association, the Out Music Award for OUTstanding World Music CD and was a finalist for the Telluride Song Competition. SONiA and disappear fear play at Green Wood Coffee House, First United Methodist Church, 1001 Green Road, Friday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Details at or 734-665-8558.

The Jewish TImes Interview

by Alan Feiler in The Jewish Times
Alan H.Feiler Managing Editor

Sonia Rutstein is going around in circles. Sitting in a Mount Washington cafe and casually attired in a white, short-sleeved top, navy slacks and cowboy boots, she attempts to explain what she meant in the track “Call Me Sonia”off her new CD,“Blood,Bones & Baltimore.” “U-tube me a groovy hokie pokie folkie star/call me Sonia cause I play the pinkest blues,” she sings, accompanied only by a blistering slide guitar. Ms.Rutstein—who professionally goes by the name SONiA—tends to speak in a circuitous, halting yet endearing manner, struggling to find just the right words to describe what she sees clearly in her mind but might not be able to convey adequately to someone else. “I play the pinkest blues. It’s a play on…,” she says before her mind wanders. “ Sometimes I think of something and have to look at all of what I’m saying. You have pink and blue and purple. The main thing is it’s not red.” Ms. Rutstein chuckles, stops for a moment and picks it up again.  “OK, your blood is red when it’s full of oxygen and becomes purple or blue when it’s out of oxygen,” she says.“It’s the other end of the spectrum. It’s the whole male-female thing—boys blue, girls pink, you know?” At this point, Ms.Rutstein merely offers a childlike smile, her blue eyes shining, and moves on to other thoughts.
But when it comes to her music and career, Ms.Rutstein always manages to stay completely on track and focused.  A 1977 graduate of Pikesville High School who now lives in Rodgers Forge and attends Congregation Beit Tikvah, she has been a staple on Baltimore’s music scene since the mid-1980s,largely in the band disappear fear, which she started with her sister, Cindy Frank. (Ms. Frank now lives in the Seattle area.) “Blood, Bones & Baltimore” represents a new musical journey for Ms. Rutstein and disappear fear as they venture into the blues.  “SONiA pulls it off by re-imagining this music and claiming it as her own,” John Lewis of Baltimore magazine wrote in a review. On Saturday, June 19, at 7:30 p.m., Ms. Rutstein and most of the musicians who played on “Blood, Bones & Baltimore” will perform at a “world premiere concert” for the CD at Beit Tikvah, 5802 Roland Ave. in Roland Park.  In the months ahead, Ms. Rutstein—who has sold more than 500,000 albums throughout her career and recently toured Holland and Germany—will play dates across North America, including next month’s Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, Okla.  She will end the year at the Woodford Folk Festival in Australia.
The Grammy Award-nominated Ms. Rutstein reflected on her musical vision in a recent conversation with the BALTIMORE JEWISH TIMES.

What exactly is disappear fear? A revolving band of local musicians?
It’s a band and it’s a concept. Every song I’ve ever written falls under the umbrella of disappear fear, that when you disappear fear between people, you have love and also peace.

What’s with the ‘world premiere concert’?
Everybody basically who played on the CD will be there. It’s like a re-enactment. It’s the only concert scheduled at this point with the original players.  On the road, I’ll take some of the musicians, and frequently I’ll be solo.  The cool thing is that it’s at the First Christian Church [where Beit Tikvah is  based], where there are five congregations—three Christian, one Jewish and one that’s non-denominational, all in this octagonal building, being there for each other, supporting each other. It’s a great place. This CD is a departure for you. This is the most organic CD I’ve ever done in a studio.  The majority of the work was done in one day.  We walked in and did everything, and then we came back and I added the last two songs, ‘Call Me Sonia’ and ‘Worried Man Blues.’  When people come to these concerts, they’ll hear it all the way it is on this CD, maybe even better because we’re playing it more.  We’ll be playing stuff from [1995’s] ‘Deep Soul Diver’ to ‘Biggest Baddest Heart’ [from ‘Blood,Bones & Baltimore’].

You’ve always been considered a folkie.  Where did your bluesy side come from?
Folkie people think I’m pop and non-folkie people call me a folkie. But it’s all interrelated.  The blues comes from a different place [than other music]. You have to feel it, you can’t learn it or fake it. It has to be real, and I think that’s more indicative of what my music is about. It’s like, do you want to memorize your haftorah or really feel it? I see my musical journeys as trying to figure out why we’rehere in the first place, and music is such a healing point.  The blues have always been in my back pocket. It’s a very communicative format that allows me to work with other musicians in other countries. It’s universal. I can go anywhere and people getit. It’s closer to the earth.

Have you been listening to a lot of blues lately?
Oh yeah.  Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Big Bill Broonzy, Elizabeth Cotten. I got a recording from 1953 of Big Bill in concert in Amsterdam. It sounds like a small venue, very intimate, and it’s so good. I grew up in suburbia. What do I know about the African-American blues genre, right? But I do. I feel it. At the same time, I know I’m not B. B. King. It’s not the Delta. I was just having a little fun.

Why did you throw in Woody Guthrie’s ‘Worried Man Blues’?
I was going to do a cover on the CD and I just thought, ‘This is a great song with a great metaphor. ’I feel a kinship of sincerity with Woody Guthrie.  Everything he’s written I just love. Who are some of your other musical favorites? Louis Armstrong.  He just shines so bright. Phil Ochs is why I became a songwriter. And I love Leonard Bernstein, and Rosemary Clooney. She’s so great, so giving and yet reserved. Ever been star-struck? k.d. lang presented an award to me once for the album ‘Me, Too’ at a ceremony in NewYork. I was very nervous.  She’s such an amazing talent.  I was also shy around John Prine. He was so nice. Also, Bruce Springsteen. I know [E Street bassist] Garry Tallent, and [E Street pianist] Roy Bittan produced my ‘Seed In The Sahara’ CD, so I was backstage [at a Springsteen concert] and my manager wanted to introduce me to Bruce.  But I was too shy. I love him so much.  If  I had the opportunity now, I would do it.

Ever get stage fright?
Oh yes.  Before a performance, it can be excruciating. But at the time on stage, if everything is just right, that’s the greatest thing there is. It’s magic, just to be in that moment.  So thrilling, so alive. Your past CDs have often dealt with weighty topics, including the Arab-Israeli conflict.  'Blood, Bones & Baltimore’  feels lighter. It’s nice to breathe. I wanted to have some fun. It’s funny, the blues would’ve been a heavier place for most people, but it’s lighter for me [Laughs]. I wanted the contrast of having songs that people can dance to and enjoy and appreciate the voice of an instrument. It makes for a better concert, makes me a better artist.

Why have you stayed in Baltimore all these years?
I was at a crossroads 15 years ago when Cindy left the band.  I was looking to move to New York, Nashville or L.A.  But I love Baltimore.  It’s quirky, and I love the people here. There are things that certainly could be better.  The level of violent crime in our city is frightening. People in Canada asked me if Baltimore’s like “The Wire,’ and I had to say yes. But I’m proud of  Baltimore and I want to put a spotlight on the musicians and artists who make ‘the Baltimore Sound.’ ‘The Baltimore Sound’? Huh? [Pauses] It’s got a little edge to it.  Throw in some Attman’s Deli, some John Waters and some [WBAL-TV’s] Rod Daniels [Laughs].When he gives you the news, you know he really means it. He’s not just reading it like other anchormen [Laughs again]. Music is a tough business and involves a lot of touring.  What keeps you going? Robert Johnson used to set up a chair and sing songs in front of a barbershop. That really inspires me.  You can do it all on a computer now, but it’s more about having a connection between people. I always want to get better—sing better, play guitar better, write better songs. I feel this is my way of figuring out who I am and why I’m here, and other people can hopefully get inspiration and satisfaction from that. I think underneath all the stuff, our inner voice, our inner conscience, is what’s important. I don’t want to be the flavor of the week.

Your take on today’s popular music?  Lady  Gaga?
It doesn’t really speak to me. It’s boring. You can do a lot of cool stuff with techno stuff, but before 1994 you actually had to hit a note. Now, everything has pitch correction. I prefer keeping it real. What is Guitars for Peace? I was in Israel [in 2006] and had a friend who was communicating with Palestinians in the West Bank. So through her, I performed at a girls school in a Palestinian village called Bidda. There were hundreds of Palestinian girls, yelling, ‘Sonia! Sonia!’ I did my songs, and at the end they wanted to keep my guitar. I told them I needed it for my living but I promised I’d send them a guitar, and I did—a moderately-priced Gibson. Then, I talked to friends and in December 2009 we set up a non-profit called Guitars for Peace.  We take old guitars from people’s closets and restring them and send them [to youngsters in the Middle East and Third World nations]. I’ve talked to manufacturers in the music industry, companies that endorse my playing, and they’ve been incredibly supportive.

What’s your next big project?
I’m writing a musical called ‘Small Home, No Secrets.’ Jody Nusholtz, a professor at Carroll Community College, wrote the libretto. It has a lot of religious twists to it. It takes place on one day—Thanksgiving—and it’s a coming-of-age for the main character named Elizabeth. She’s 40 and runs into a lover she knew in college, and a bunch of crazy events predicate it all.  It’s the first musical I’ve written since fifth grade at Wellwood Elementary, and that had a Thanksgiving theme, too. It was about getting a little sister instead of a turkey on  Thanksgiving [Laughs]. Also, I recently produced a CD by a young violinist named Sam Weiser, a 15-year-old prodigy from Westport, Conn. He’s incredible, amazing.

What would you tell a young musician getting into the business today?
The first thing I’d say is…run! [Laughs] But be true to your talent.Put your seatbelt on because this is a wild roller coaster.  The highs are high and the lows are really low. I’ve made some good decisions and bad ones. If you can master who to trust and who not to trust in your career decisions, that would be monumentally helpful. And please tune your guitar. A lot of the young ones don’t.

Tickets for the world premiere concert of “Blood, Bones & Baltimore” at Beit Tikvah are $18 in advance ($10 for children 14 and under) and $25 at the door. For information, visit

Disappear Fear’s SONiA to Release "Broken Film"

by Winnie McCroy EDGE Editor
Saturday Aug 31, 2013
Entertainment :: Music

After 25 years as a folksy lesbian rocker, SONiA Rutstein of disappear fear has hit her stride, releasing "Broken Film," which may be her best album yet. This Baltimore-based performer will release her seventeenth album on September 17, with a world release concert at Creative Alliance at The Patterson Theatre. And these roots go deep. 

"My sounds is folk-rock, Americana alternative, and even some sugar pop thrown in," Rutstein told EDGE in a recent interview. "And from my CD of music that is well-known outside the U.S., there is even a Bob Dylan protest song vibe." 

Growing up in the ’60s, she was influenced by Dylan, who is a distant cousin. She admits that while her "harmonica playing is a lot like his," her music is more akin to the spirit of his intention than his style.

 Rutstein said that these types of songs go over big when she tours in Germany, Holland and Israel. While rockers brand her as too folksy, and folkies brand her a rocker, her new album is very much in line with the kick-and-snare, rock guitar sound and rich vocal harmonies she created in the ’80s with her sister Cindy Frank as the band disappear fear. 

"I think people really connect with me on the energy that happens during a disappear fear show," said Rutstein. "Although my sister moved to Seattle and is doing environmental work now, disappear fear is still really my mantra, for all of my songs."

Although she views "SONiA" as a brand -- "me with a guitar" -- she sees disappear fear as a full ensemble, with her and five piece band. As she tours the U.S., she will be accompanied by the guitarists who recorded the CD with her, the lesbian drummer Katy Murray from London, lesbian Larin Snyder from Austin on backup vocals and Jason Luckett of L.A. on bass. According to Rutstein, "they are all very Aquarian-minded." She counts among her inspirations the music of Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Phil Oaks, the Grateful Dead and Gershwin. Philosophically, she was influenced by Vincent Van Gogh and Charlie Chaplin. But she is very much a product of her environment. 

Rutstein was influenced by growing up Jewish in Baltimore, being bat mitzvahed and attending public school, and coming into the "wonderful, scary recognition of my sexual identity as a lesbian."

"That definitely blew things up," she said. "It challenged my brain and my heart, and falling in love definitely clenched my soul. It’s been working out amazing well!"

Rutstein started playing guitar when she was five, and later started writing songs. When she first began performing, she wasn’t out, and admitted, "I feel like I lost 10 years of my life being scared of who I am and was, who I was meant to be. I never want anyone to be ashamed or diminished by any society or person that would let them be less than that brilliant unique individual inside of them."

She recently married her longtime partner Terry Irons, who also serves as her manager. A trip with her partner from Amsterdam to Leiden inspired her new track "Farmland and the Sky."

"I was looking out on the horizon, at the things that were there before I was there and will still be there way after I’m gone, and the whole cycle of it," said Rutstein. "Before Terry and I got married, my half-sister Jane gave birth to her first child, and said to us, ’Stay awake, it all goes by so fast.’ That became the chorus of the song."

The new album "Broken Film" can be viewed as the "movie soundtrack of my life," said Rustein, as the songs in it move from personal to political in poetic fashion, as is pretty standard for her. There is angst, heartbreak, a lot of promise, hope and inspiration. The album’s first song, "Start," was inspired by the heroism of her nephew’s feat in saving the life of a fellow Marine as a bomb sweeper in Afghanistan. 

"The chorus of the song is, ’I don’t need hands to hold someone’s heart,’" she said. "He saved the life of a fellow Marine who has one arm and no legs. And Corp. Kearns asked Terry to dance at our wedding. She said that her knees were bothering her, and he said, ’Well, I don’t have any legs.’ So of course she got up and danced with that beautiful man." 

Her tune "American Artist" meshes harmonica over guitar, and deals with, "this thing called the music business and success." "Be Like You" is an agitated pop tune that is fast and free, like early disappear fear material. She wrote "Princess and The Honey Bee" at a swimming pool in Nashville, with motorcycles and planes going by, and a dog barking in the distance. And her track "Ari Ari" is a reggae-influenced tune that equates Athena with the presence of God, who is always there. As Rutstein said, "Awareness brings new depth and light to the surface, and every moment of my life, I remember that." 

Most high profile right now, however, is the track "Love Out Loud." Rutstein said she first came up with the credo in 1998, and put it on T-shirts that she sold at concert venues where she played. But it was only a line in a song until the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, and she penned it as a gay anthem.

"It is kicking up some energy, actually," she said. "Folks are starting to sizzle with that one. Terry and I got married before Prop 8 went through in 2008 in Oakland, when I was on tour. Then two years later on the same date, we got married in Maryland with a rabbi there. It was beautiful."

With 17 albums under her belt, one would imagine that Rutstein has seen and done it all. But she admitted that what she has learned throughout the years is "that I know very little." She can never really peg what will be people’s favorite song, a phenom she said has not changed since her first breakthrough album, "Deep Soul Diver."

"I guess I’m still deep soul diving," said Rutstein. "I think it’s a lot more fun now, but I still stress out a lot. I have a whole lot of support, and I’m grounded now. I think I can actually do this, which is a very good feeling."

In addition to making music, Rutstein has been busy of late, making art. She has had several murals commissioned in Europe and the U.S., about which she said, "It is very cathartic, and very fun. I love doing it, and it’s another way of getting color and expression out there." She said she created cover arts for her first CD, "Defying Gravity" as well as her release "Sahara." 

"I have two and a half months to do a painting for a Kickstarter-commissioned program," said Rutstein. "We are on our way to Paris now, but I did a painting in Germany two years ago, and my friend there still has my brushes and paints ready for when I come back."

She is also producing the work of other talented musicians, including Sara Pinkser and Sam Weiser. Rutstein said she liked to seize the life in all its incarnations.

"I think it’s important to breathe in life deeply, and I’m breathing in mine deeply and exhaling songs and artwork," she said. "The music biz is clear about who they want to hear. If they do, you’ll be able to work, and if not, you’re not going to be able to survive. That tells you what’s working and what’s not. Thank God the industry likes me; I would still be making music anyway, but I’d be folding clothes at the Gap."

Sonia & Disappear Fear

A vision of equality and peace fuels a restless musical spirit
March/April 2010

Sonia Rutstein has never had trouble adapting to her surroundings. She leads the band disappear fear, and also records solo as simply SONiA. She’s gone from operating as a DIY artist to a successful stint with Rounder Records,  then back to managing her own independent record label. And even as she has advocated feminism, gay activism and other expressions of social consciousness, she’s always maintained her musical integrity. “It’s really from my heart,” says SONiA of her social concerns, taking a break between gigs at the recent Folk Alliance conference in Memphis. “Yes, it’s in the sphere of what people might call political. But it’s more about alerting people that they can affect what happens with their government, and to say, ‘Hey, you’re not alone.’ It’s simply saying there should be equal rights for everyone.” SONiA—the small “i” is meant to indicate a rejection of the ego—forged a musical bond with sister Cindy while in her early teens. The two first collaborated in a band called Exhibit A in their native Baltimore, then performed as a duo after the group imploded. They chose the name disappear fear, which SONiA had suggested for the name of the abused women’s safe house where she worked. Determined to get its music out by any means necessary, the group pressed 1,000 copies of its initial album and mailed 400 to radio stations “from Alaska to Florida, and everywhere in between.” They toured relentlessly, crisscrossing the country in their cargo van. “It was a lot of go-go-go,” SONiA recalls. The steady gigging found disappear fear making business connections that helped its music infiltrate some of the nation’s larger retailers. After recording three albums under its own auspices, the group was courted by Rounder. “It was a very exponential step, because all I wanted to do was just focus on the music,” she says. “My brother Rick was running our record label, and it was a lot to do. We were already in the major chains, so we were just putting another record company label on it.” Cindy eventually quit to be a full-time parent, leaving SONiA to maintain the disappear fear moniker while simultaneously establishing herself as a solo act. Later, she and the label amicably parted ways. “Rounder was putting out 100 albums a month and I wanted a little more attention,” she says with a chuckle. “I have the needy child syndrome.” While SONiA won’t rule out another record company affiliation, she’s perfectly content being back at the helm of her own Disappear Records. In addition to the debut from 16-year-old violin prodigy Sam Weiser, Sam I Am, she’s currently celebrating the release of Blood, Bones & Baltimore, a new album credited jointly to SONiA & disappear fear. After the world-music-tinged Tango, the new set marks a return to her roots with a faithful read of Woody Guthrie’s “Worried Man Blues” and an unapologetic statement of purpose called “I Am SONiA.” And she continues to merge her musical side with her social consciousness. “I have a vision of a planet that works for everyone,” she says. “In that sense, music is my way of connecting people together.” – Lee Zimmerman March/April 2010 Issue of M Music & Musicians

"Tango," SONiA and disappear fear

7-10-2008 Press Connects

Let's face it: Most Americans are lazy about languages. We figure that if foreign folks can't speak English, then they should learn it pretty darn quick if they want us to pay attention. On her new CD, "Tango," Baltimore folk-rocker SONiA takes the opposite tack, daring to offer original songs in four languages -- English, Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish -- and inviting the whole world to dance. In the hands of another musician, such an effort could seem like a gimmick -- but from the socially conscious SONiA, who has such an obvious passion about promoting global harmony, the result is nothing short of magic. "Tango," released late last month, is the first studio album for SONiA (born Sonia Rutstein) since disappear fear was revived in 2005. Touring partner Laura Cerulli is featured on percussion and harmony vocals, and producer John Grant does double duty on electric guitar and other instruments. Former disappear fear members Christopher Sellman (bass) and Brian Simm (piano and accordion) rejoin here to add depth to the 13-track CD's intricate and multi-layered production. Djembes, tin whistles, violins and acoustic guitars give an indigenous sound quite unlike anything SONiA has tried on her previous 12 albums. But hints of techno and rock hover around the edges as subtle nods to more modern times. The project's origins as a Spanish-only release (at one point titled "La Tormenta Santa," which means "The Holy Storm") can be heard in the translations of four previously written SONiA songs: "Telepatia Sexual" ("Sexual Telepathy"), "Cayendo" ("Fallin'"), "Se Tu Aquella" ("Be The One") and "Porque Estamos Aqui" ("Because We're Here"). All of them benefit from the infusion of Spanish-style guitar picking and Latin rhythms; in particular, high-energy album opener, "Telepatia Sexual," rides SONiA's soaring vocals, Cerulli's steel drums and Grant's electric guitar into the stratosphere. A 2006 trip to Israel during its conflict with Lebanon and the Palestinians brought a sharper political focus and a message of unity to “Tango.” Impressions from that journey inspired the key song “Mica Moca” (“Who is Greater”): Flying into a war zone to perform, SONiA finds kindness from a young girl even as the bombs are falling, perhaps suggesting that a new generation can connect and help solve centuries of bloodshed. The English/Hebrew song invokes a Jewish prayer from the book of Exodus and suggests to Muslims, “I think your god likes me / and my god likes you, too” – a reminder of common origins in the Middle East. Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton, a former opera singer and cantor who leads SONiA's Baltimore congregation, shares the lead vocals in the Hebrew track "Shorashim" ("Roots"). As Incan-style flute mixes with Eastern European violin, the two women's voices blend beautifully when nature meets nationalism: "The seagulls rest on the buildings / at the borders / They fly without a passport / they don't speak English / or French or Hebrew or Arabic." (For those not fluent in all four languages, translations of the lyrics are provided in an attractive CD.) The name of the CD comes both from the world-fusion Arabic track "Tango (Li Annaka)" and because "tango" is the only word on the album that is the same in all the languages -- again, harkening back to the theme of commonality. But the real unifier here is SONiA's sweet and true voice, which is so captivating throughout that even when she's singing in a language you don't understand, you still hang on every word.

Summer 2008

SONiA and Disappear Fear

Disappear 1012

Proudly embodying her lifelong commitment to a world without fear, Sonia Rutstein (with her musical partner Laura Cerulli) fearlessly reimagines her own music on tango, a collection of new and previously-recorded songs sung in Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic and English and set to Latin and Middle-Eastern rhythms. The combination of languages reflects the album’s ambition – to break down political and national boundaries by breaking down linguistic barriers (the name tango was chosen because it is a word that has the same meaning in all four languages). It also is the result of SONiA’s eye-opening visit to the Middle East in 2006, when she stayed in bomb shelters, kibbutzim and Palestinian villages and camps. That experience gave this album, originally intended to be all in Spanish, an expanded direction, one of showing how music can create unity and peace. A beautiful example of that theme is “Mica Mocha”, a moving anthem woven from the Hebrew prayer Mi Chamocah (Who is Like You?). Although the Mi Cahmocah is pointedly parochial, asking “Who is like you, O Lord, among all the Gods that are worshipped?, it is contrasted with the chorus “I think your God likes me/And my god likes you, too.” Similarly, “Shorashim”, sung as a duet with SONiA’s rabbi and former opera singer Elizabeth Bolton, sums up nationalism this way: “The seagulls rest on the buildings at the borders/They fly without a passport/They don’t speak in English or French or Hebrew or Arabic.” All told, tango presents thirteen songs, of which seven are in Spanish, three in Hebrew, three in Arabic and English, From disappear fear’s twenty years of recording come Spanish versions of “Sexual Telepathy” “Fallin’”, “Be The One”, “Because We Are There, and “Millions of Rope”. The Latin-inflected songs show a true study of that music, including Flamenco flourishes and intricate rhythms. The Midddle-Eastern melodies are modal and haunting. Rather that “world music”, this is a fearless experiment in “one-world music” , and it works. Just so, 18 cents from each download of the album (in the Hebrew tradition, 18 represents “chai” or life, so that a donation in a multiple of the number 18 is considered a gift of life) are donated to the United Nations World Food Program, which is the cost of one school meal for one child. --SS

Disappear Fear: Exclusive Interview with SONiA

by Sarah Toce | Article Date: 05/12/2010 5:20 PM

Disappear Fear formed back in 1987 with sisters SONiA and CiNDY Rutstein at the steering wheel. Over the years, Disappear Fear, has gone through a few changes relating to the world in general and to internal struggles. In 1994 the duo that had won the hearts of so many lesbian fans in the early nineties with their winning melange of inspiring music and strong politics, went their seperate ways when CiNDY decided to take some time off the road and focus on her family in Seattle, Washington. Meanwhile SONiA kept the candle burning performing on stages around the world and developing the non-profit organization Guitars for Peace.SONiA now has a permanent base in Maryland while CiNDY contributes from time to time in live performances and on tape. These two strong, successful women with intertwining messages came together over 23 years ago and changed the landscape of human culture by reminding us all to make the fear disappear. SONiA’s latest musical release is called Blood, Bones and Baltimore and pays homage to her roots in the Charm City. SONiA took some time out of her festival schedule to chat with SheWired about where she’s been and where she is going and Prop 8. Oh, and she’d love to chat with President Obama if he is ready.

SheWired: You have performed in venues around the world. Is there a country you look forward to performing in most when you go out on tour?
SONiA: My favorite country is whatever country I am going to next. Every time I perform a song, the culture, language, age of the audience, politics and the purpose of the concert all play a part in directing the dynamics of my performance of that song at that event. So, it's really not about a favorite country so much as the experiences there. I love Israel, Germany, Holland, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and on and on. I love this ride a whole lot of the time.

Your sister CiNDY took a little time off from Disappear Fear to focus on motherhood. How did the music change in her absence (if at all)? 
Actually, Disappear Fear is now comprised of just me. We founded the group in late 1987 and since 1994 CiNDY has joined me on almost every CD and for some special events. She is still focused on motherhood and living in Seattle. I think the thing most significant thing that changed in CiNDY's absence was naturally my growth -- in my songwriting and then in my guitar and piano development of technique and styles. It is easy for me to write a catchy melody and then for CiNDY to slap some cool harmony on it and make it enticing. It was far more challenging to write a song that could stand on its own without a harmony or a great band and with just a guitar and some chords. So, yeah, growth is what happened when CiNDY left, although she is never far away.  We are still the best of friends. I think she will join me again sometime (but then again, I thought the Beatles would get back together too).

Will you be performing at any upcoming festivals this summer?
I will be performing at Woody Fest in Okema, Oklahoma as well as Milwaukee Pride, Pittsburgh Pride, Raisin the Roof Women's Festival (Toronto), Campout in Virginia, Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival in Havre De Grace, Maryland and then I will be going back to Germany and Holland at the end of the summer.  There are some dates on hold that have not been announced yet even to me. I think there are some other Pride Fests, too. Also, I will be teaching a Music Program through the Texas Music Association in Kerrville, Texas at the Quiet Valley Ranch for teenagers.

You are going to be very busy! Let’s talk about Guitars for Peace. Guitars for Peace is an organization you started to help put instruments in the hands of impoverished children in war-torn countries. How have you been affected personally by this cause?
We just picked up five guitars tonight from a woman in Ellicot City, Maryland. When I went to Israel in August of 2006, it was during the second Lebanon War. It seemed vitally important to make music and peace when given the opportunity. A friend asked me if I would come and perform at a Palestinian All-Girls Camp in the West Bank. I agreed and, although I was scared, I was excited to be in action of my purpose. The girls wanted to keep my guitar so that they could play, too. I promised them that I would have a guitar delivered to them and I kept that promise. That day was the catalyst for Guitars for Peace - my non-profit organization.  How has it affected me?  I think that you will have to let history answer that question. I am glad to find so many people interested in the same purpose of peace, particularly the manufacturers of musical gear such as Shubb Capos, Santa Cruz Guitars, D'Addario and John Pearse Strings. They have all agreed to help contribute to Guitars for Peace. Not only are we getting corporate support, we are also getting grass root support by folks taking old dusty guitars out of their closets and giving them to us so that we can, in turn, put them in the hands of children that can use them to ease their pain, sing to angels, scream away their fears or learn another language. They can look into the eyes of another soul and see it is okay.

SONiA, you are an amazing advocate for love, love, love. How did the passage of Proposition 8 affect you and your outlook on the United States regarding marriage equality?
I think that the backbone of this great nation has become a spine where the vertebrae are uncomfortably fused together. It makes us strong yet unyielding in a stiff and unhealthy single puritanical position. I think the common mentality of the USA has stooped to please the excitability and economy of an irresponsible teenage heterosexual boy so that most of anything that is ostensibly beautifully sexual gets diminished and trashed before it ever gets to be seen and experienced. It really just echoes back to the dumbing-down of America that has thwarted our growth since its inception --which just brings to mind the idea of “yes, it is up to you to disappear fear”. On a personal note, I got married in California just two weeks before Proposition 8 passed. So I am legally married. However, I live in Maryland where gay marriage is not legally recognized. Although, recently our state's attorney Doug Ganzler said that it would be illegal to accept some marriages from other states and nations and not others so that legally Maryland has to recognize my marriage license. Happily legally married. If you could have a direct line to President Obama to ask him for attention on one issue, what would it be and why? I would ask him to take the death penalty away from every state and start with Texas because too many innocent people are being killed and we are the killers. If I received a second wish, I would ask him to make gay marriage legal. If I received a third wish, I would suggest that the law be to fine the companies that are hiring illegal aliens and not the immigrants themselves.

Your new album Blood, Bones and Baltimore pays homage to your Baltimore roots. How important was it to you to release this album?
This CD's time has come. Those of us who have been recording music since the days of analogue magnetic tapes on reels have a wonderful advantage to today's modern press a button quick fix. Before garage band and before pro-tools, there was a room, some microphones, a singer, a band, and an engineer. You actually had to get it 'right' because there was no hocus-pocus. I just wanted Blood, Bones and Baltimore to be organic. We made this CD with my musicians here and recorded 80% of it in one day. We started at 10:30am in the morning and at 11:30pm that night I drove home listening to the rough mix of the day's tracks and we were really close. I wanted my players to be great but also to actually love the tunes. It had to feel 'right' going down and it did. I think I owed that to my friends, fans and Baltimore. The best part is that it is a great CD to tour with because the tunes just come alive night after night. The solos get stronger and more daring while the arrangements breathe and sweat depending on the occasion. The band just gets hotter and hotter. I had no idea it would blossom with such vivacity. If not one person buys one of my CDs or paintings, that is okay with me. What I really want is for each of us to ask ourselves "what would I do if I wasn't afraid?" and then take that action.

First Review for “Get Your Phil” in the San Antonio Express
July 13, 2011 by thedailysonia

Album and Singles Reviews:  Sisters’ tribute to Ochs sings
ALBUM REVIEWS disappear fear “Get Your Phil” disappear records

Phil Ochs has been dead for 35 years. A passionate wordsmith and singer who displayed the courage of his convictions by writing and singing songs of peace, freedom and justice, Ochs didn’t score on the commercial music front. Still, his songs continue to resonate among singers and songwriters. For their first album together as disappear fear since the 1996 release “Seed in the Sahara,” sisters Cindy Rutstein Frank, fellow travelers on the peace, freedom and justice road, salute Ochs’ memory, words and music via 10 of his songs. When they sing together, when they bring that sibling harmony to bear, Sonia and Cindy create a powerful sound without histrionics and vocal gymnastics. The spare arrangements and instrumentation on still-topical selections “Power and Glory,” “I Ain’t Marching,” “No More Songs,” “Outside a Small Circle of Friends” and “Draft Dodger Rag” allow Ochs’ (mostly) serious words to shine while showcasing the sheer beauty of two wonderful voices working in concert. Ochs’ words were penned to make some people uncomfortable. The sound of Sonia and Cindy singing together makes people want to listen. Phil Ochs lives. Jim Beal Jr.


Sonia & Disappear Fear headline new Eastern Ontario lesbian fest
ON STAGE / Red Roof Women's Festival nabs iconic singer-songwriter

Lara Purvis / Capital Xtra / Wednesday, July 16, 2008 CANADA

"Soldiers march like centipedes / It's a hundred and ten degrees. / Is it written in the Koran/to take a hundred for every stolen one? // I go through the passport ritual. / Yes I'm leaving, it's habitual. / You say, "Buckle up for safety's sake." / Though bombs are falling / I'm eating frozen ice-cream cake."

*** A woman's lilting voice — direct, brave and gentle — is backed by acoustic guitar and the swell of strings. It slips from English to Hebrew, the transition seamless and beautiful.

The voice is Sonia Rutstein's and the track, Mica Moca from her 2008 album, Tango. She's referring to the Israel-Palestine conflict, an issue that is close to her heart as a Jewish lesbian.

Sonia (or, in her promotional capitalization, SONiA) has experienced tremendous success touring internationally with her world music and her personable message-based acoustic songs.

You can catch Sonia at Eastern Ontario's new lesbian music weekend, Red Roof Women's Festival Jul 19.

Not all of Rutstein's lyrics cover such serious topics. The rest of Tango is spicy and varied. There's Hebrew, Arabic, English and Spanish throughout the heartfelt acoustic ballads and Spanish dance tracks.

Tango, Rutstein's 12th album, shows an unusually deep musical evolution since her first album, Echo My Call, was released in 1988.

Like many artists, Rutstein's passion can be traced back to her earliest childhood days. In her case, it's an endearing memory of singing in the bathroom with her sister. But the experience was more than just a playful childhood game — singing in the tub was serious stuff for the aspiring musician. This became evident in a pivotal moment mid-song, which turned into a sisterly tiff.

"Cindy claims I told her to get off my note! I don't really remember that but Cindy says that she remembers," says Rutstein. "We continued to sing but Cindy had to figure out how to sing the harmony. I guess that was the first time."

From her home in Baltimore, Maryland, Rutstein chats comfortably over the phone, laughing as she tries to recall that moment of possessiveness over "her note."

Already this year, Rutstein has toured20her music as far as Australia, but it's a concert a bit closer to home that she is particularly excited to talk about: Red Roof, held for the first time this year near the tiny town of Marlbank (near Napanee, Ontario.)

Rutstein has been a solo artist for the past decade, her only frequent partner being Laura Cerulli on percussion and back-up vocals. But this set promises serious musical chemistry as Rutstein is joined by her earliest singing partner — her sister, Cindy Frank.

"We were so little when we first started singing together. And it was our parent's music that we sang — James Taylor, Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkel," Rutstein says. "I've always loved singing with my sister."

Back then, Rutstein and Frank did perform professionally together for the first ten years of Rutstein's career. It started with family weddings and bar mitzvahs, but they graduated from the event circuit when they were still young.

"I was always kicking her to sing with me. We officially launched our first band in high school and started performing a weekly gig at a bar. She was fifteen, I was sixteen. It was an Irish pub and our parents had to drive us down and pick us up afterwards. We were totally underage. They must have given the cops beer to go away!"

Back then, Rutstein and Frank called themselves, "Disappear Fear." It was a name that occurred to Rutstein when she was working at a sexual assault recovery centre. The centre needed a new name and Disappear Fear was Rutstein's suggestion. They didn't take it, so Rutstein nabbed it instead. Considering current world issues, Rutstein found the name to be increasingly apt over time.

"When we first said the name people would say, 'What?' I don't know if we were mumbling it or if there was no space in the universe for that concept yet. But it became the underlining meaning in every one of my songs and in everything I do. It's become my mantra and my approach to life."

Rutstein pauses, adding sagely, "When you disappear fear what you have left is love."

When Frank left the band to be with her husband and children, Rutstein continued in her music, but left the name Disappear Fear behind — its legacy continuing onlyin her songs.

Rutstein became SONiA and, while there had always been a political edge to her songs, her songs now forthrightly address both lesbian and world issues. She learned to speak and read languages that were close to her heart, singing about her struggles with the Israel-Palestine conflict, her experiences in love and relationships and reconciling being both lesbian and Jewish.

"What matters to me is my relationship with God. We're both real good with it," says Rutstein and chuckles before continuing thoughtfully.

"Truthfully, I would contest that it's all about the interpretation of the words of the Torah. I sang about it in the song, Laws of Nature. My interpretation is that it's perfectly acceptable to make love with another woman."

At this point that Rutstein is interrupted, her lover handing her a yellow rose from their garden. A smile warms her voice as Rutstein gathers her thoughts.

"It's funny, years ago I never thought I'd still be making music and travelling the world at this point. I had no idea I'd be as successful as I have been blessed to be. If I really think about it, it's Cindy that encouraged me to do this. She was the one who suggested it first, and planted the seed. I'm not sure I'd be doing this if it wasn't for her."

Sonia. Red Roof Women's Music Festival. Jul 19. Marlbank, ON. Weekend pass: $65.

Singer-songwriter Sonia Rutstein doesn't hide her sexuality or her feelings

12:00 AM CST on Sunday, November 28, 2010
The Dallas Morning News

Sonia Rutstein is a Jewish woman from Baltimore. She's a woman in love with a woman, a singer-songwriter who shakes her head at the prejudice toward gays and lesbians, a subject that fuels much of her edgy, bluesy, soulful music. She has 14 albums to her credit and tours with a band called disappear fear (a lower-case nod to the message she brings, that an absence of fear leads to sexual and racial tolerance). "I would describe it as true, from my heart," she says of her repertoire, which explores the notion that, "when you disappear fear between people, what you have is love. That theme in some way goes back to every song I've ever written." She has paid a price for being "out," she says, but doesn't care. Living in a closet or hiding who she is doesn't work, something she discovered long ago. She's trotting out her message and her music to a whole new generation of fans, who can see SONiA & disappear fear on Friday night at Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse. They will hear a lot of tunes from her new record, Blood, Bones & Baltimore, whose bent toward the blues carries echoes of Bonnie Raitt. They will also hear songs from a previous record, tango, which offers songs in English, Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic. Rutstein says she "lost a lot" between the ages of 14 and 24, when she refused to acknowledge who she was. "I was really shut down," she says. But she fell in love "and suddenly, things seemed to make sense." She and her partner were married in California but recently celebrated "a big wedding" in her native Maryland. She and her sister Cindy launched the band disappear fear in the 1980s, but Cindy left in 1996 to raise a son. At its zenith, disappear fear is a seven-member band. In Dallas, it will be Rutstein, plus a percussionist, lead guitarist and vocalist. The Friday night show at Uncle Calvin's is part of a 10-day Texas tour, which will take her to San Antonio, Houston and, of course, Austin. She recently bought an acre of land in the Texas Hill Country. "Austin has a lot of really good players and just a really easy, good feeling about it. It's such a welcoming place to a songwriter. People just really get it. I feel very much at home there." When it comes to her own songs, and which ones best describe who she is, she cites "Won't Let Go," a tribute to her late father, author Harry Rutstein, who wrote The Marco Polo Odyssey: In the Footsteps of a Merchant Who Changed the World. "Me, Too" addresses the fear she hopes to erase. "Moment of Glory" best illustrates the stunning diversity of her musical styles and influences. "And if you give me a fourth," she says, "I would say 'Play the Music,' a reggae song that makes you feel good. I'm not talking here about a plastic, sappy kind of feeling good but a going-the-distance, sweating-it-out, then-feeling-good kind of feeling." It's the emotional high she strives for, she says, in her music and her life.Plan your life SONiA & disappear fear will perform (with opening act Raina Rose) at 8 p.m. Friday at Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse, in the fellowship hall at Northpark Presbyterian Church, 9555 N. Central Expressway, Dallas. $12 in advance, $15 at the door. 214-363-0044.

SONiA & disappear fear do the Tango

by MICHAEL KORNFELD on Sep 29, 2007 • 7:17 am

The tango is a dance that originated in Argentina. It is also the name of the latest album by SONiA & disappear fear and represents their “dance with the world.” Featuring 13 songs sung in Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic and English, Tango has a very different aural feel from smoky-voiced, Baltimore-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Sonia Rutstein’s previous recordings, both solo and with disappear fear. Its Latin and Middle Eastern rhythms and instrumentation — featuring the indigenous sounds of djembes, tin whistles, violins and acoustic guitars — punctuate and lend new textures to her impassioned music. Included are several songs whose folk-rock melodies will be familiar to those who have come to know and love SONiA’s music over the past 20 years. “Fans that I have around the world have learned my songs in English,” said SONiA, during a wide-ranging phone interview this week. “I thought it would be nice to do them in their languages.” Lyrics in all four languages appear in a 24-page booklet that accompanies the CD. SONiA named the album Tango because “it is the only word that is the same in all four languages,” she noted. Seeking to Bring the World Closer Together Through Music “We think in languages. It very much carves out our world for us,” says SONiA, who claims she is trying, “in a small way, to bring the world closer together” through her music. She noted her dismay to learn that only six out of 1,000 U.S. employees engaged in diplomatic work with Iraq today speak Arabic. “Arabic and Hebrew are around 6,000 years old. They’re very different languages. So you can understand why they get misunderstood,” said SONiA, who has sought to bridge the cultures. “Maybe if John Lennon was making an album in 2007, he might be singing in Arabic too, and for the same reasons,” opined the socially conscious, dreadlocked troubadour and unabashed progressive, who wears her heart and her politics on her sleeve as she makes her own impassioned pleas for peace. “I like to think that I’m walking in his footsteps, both musically and, even more so, with his idea of peace and his visions of the world.” SONiA & disappear fear launch a 40-city North American tour to promote Tango on September 29, with a concert before a hometown crowd at the Gordon Center in Owings Mills, Maryland, near Baltimore. SONiA and her musical partner, Laura Cerulli, will travel to venues from Baltimore to Vancouver, down to Los Angeles, and back across the U.S. “in a trusty van that already has more than 290,000 miles on it,” according to SONiA. Shortly after their last U.S. tour date on December 30, the two head to Australia for a couple of months and may also tour New Zealand and Singapore. “Were going to be bringing a 77-key piano-keyboard with us on this tour,” SONiA noted. “The tone is nice, and it doesn’t weigh 1,000 pounds. The technology has made it possible for me to schlep it around.” Tango opens with a Spanish rendition of “Sexual Telepathy,” a love song that has been a staple of disappear fear’s live shows for years and appears, in English, on several of SONiA and disappear fear’s previous releases. “It is just a hot, fun song that I’ve always wanted to do in Spanish,” said SONiA. “It just turns people on. I think it was just a nice way to start off the CD.” SONiA, 48, says she’s always loved Latin music, and she has included one or two songs with a Latin feel and occasional verses in Spanish on her previous albums. She initially had considered doing a CD entirely in Spanish. But that changed following an inspiring trip to the Middle East last summer, during which SONiA spent time in both “miklats” (bomb shelters) in Israel and Palestinian villages and camps. Seven of Tango’s tracks are sung in Spanish; three are in Hebrew, and three are in Arabic and English. Middle East Peace is on SONiA’s Mind “My experience last summer, while in Northern Israel and the West Bank, was the big thing that shaped the making of this CD,” SONiA acknowledged. “The world is in major conflict, with all eyes focused on the Middle East,” she continued. “I wanted to share my experience of being in a war armed with a guitar, rather than a rocket launcher,” said the artist who has been using her heartfelt, poignant and often politically pointed music, at least in part, to press for peace and equality. “Music speaks from the heart, and that is where peace lives,” she asserts. “In the United States, we’re engaged in a war on terror. Terror is an idea. You can’t shoot an idea down with guns,” maintains SONiA. “If you react to terror with guns, then the terrorists have won the war. But if you react to terror with guitars, then you are creating peace — and that’s the only way to eliminate terror.” A congregant of Congregation Beit Tikvah in Baltimore, SONiA acknowledges her belief in Israel as the Jewish state. However, she believes “there is room for a Palestinian state and for a Jewish state. Land is land, and peace is most important. To kill to have access to certain sites is not what was ordained. I think what was ordained is peace. I believe there should be two states… and respect above all.” As Beit Tikvah’s Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton (a former opera singer and cantor, whose voice can be heard on Tango), told the Baltimore Jewish Times recently, “She [SONiA] is calling upon us to pay attention to how we are in the world and how we should walk this earth.” A writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer has suggested that “Sonia Rutstein has the potential to have a greater impact for good on the Middle East than the entire Bush Administration.” Recalling her first concert performance in the Mideast, SONiA said that girls in the West Bank wanted her guitar. She promised them one and, indeed, had a guitar sent over. That experience, coupled with her deeply held belief in the power of music to unite people, prompted SONiA to create a foundation called Guitars for Peace. Its aim is to get acoustic guitars into the hands of children in war-torn countries, particularly those in the Middle East. Although the foundation is still in its formative stages, SONiA expects to ratchet things up over the next year. She plans to tour Israel again in May and is creating an illustrated, multilingual guitar instruction book. disappear fear Began in 1987 2007 marks 20 years since SONiA initially launched disappear fear as a folk-rock duo with her sister, Cindy Frank, with whom she released four albums. Frank has not been performing regularly with her for the past decade, having left the band to pursue motherhood, although she does join disappear fear in concert occasionally. In the years since, SONiA has released several solo albums, and in 2005 recreated disappear fear with Cerulli on drums, percussion and harmony vocals. Explaining how the name disappear fear evolved, SONiA said, “When you disappear fear between people, what you have is love. It empowers me to do what I do.” She said, “The essence of disappear fear, and really why I went to Israel during the war, was to see if the name was just la di da, with no substance to it, or if I was going to live into it.” Clearly, SONiA embodies the concept of disappear fear. Committed also to helping eradicate world hunger and poverty, SONiA gives 18 percent of the proceeds from music downloads on the website to the United Nations World Food Project. “The reason for the 18 percent is it’s the number (‘Chai” in Hebrew) that signifies life,” she asserts. “It’s a powerful number. It’s a process of “tikkun olam,” healing the world and easy to do. People get the music forever and also help contribute to the betterment of the world — by helping lift children out of poverty and ending world hunger.” As SONiA views it, this is a way for those who love her music to feed their souls while also helping to feed the hungry. She expressed hope that iTunes would follow suit “to help eradicate maybe all of hunger.” SONiA Paints with Words & with a Brush Besides being a gifted singer-songwriter who paints with words, SONiA also is a visual artist. The 24-page booklet included with Tango features images that she painted, as digitally captured and graphically manipulated by Cerulli, who also is a graphic artist. “Tango is thoroughly a joint collaboration of our creative abilities, musically and otherwise,” says the artist. She views the watercolor backgrounds on which the lyrics appear as setting or reflecting the tone of the album — with the more vibrant reds, oranges and yellows corresponding with the Latin sound, and the warmer textures and tones associated with the Middle East. SONiA has been painting for years. She takes particular pride in a recurring theme of “kissing guitars” — two guitars bending into each other’s shapes. Although her current focus is “mostly bringing Tango to the world,” SONiA also plans to work on her Arabic, Hebrew and Spanish skills. “As time goes on, there may be other songs that I’ll translate. It’s different and it’s really fun,” she said. SONiA also has written several soundtracks for film. These include last year’s “Autumn’s Harvest,” a short documentary by Dave Marshall, chronicling the life of a migrant worker who is HIV positive, that is being screened at film festivals the world over. She hopes to contribute to more soundtracks in the future. “Writing music for film is quite different. You have to zone into the moment and the message,” she said. But for the moment and the near future, SONiA is focused on touring in support of Tango and plans to keep spreading the message of love, peace and equality through her music. Discography: Disappear fear: Tango (2007), DF05 Live (2005), Seed in the Sahara (1996), Live at the Bottom Line (1995), Deep Soul Diver (1995), disappear fear (1994), Echo My Call (1988) SONiA (solo): No Bomb is Smart (2004), Live at the Down Home (2003), Me, Too (2002), Almost Chocolate (1997) Compilations: The Songs of Phil Ochs For more information and a tour schedule, log on to

SONiA's Splash
The founder of Disappear Fear makes a special appearance at Wolf Trap

by Doug Rule

Published on March 12, 2009, 12:00am

Sonia Rutstein was as disheartened as every other gay person by the passage last fall of California's Propositon 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative. ''We move so much forward,'' she says, ''then it's like 10 steps back again.'' But the Baltimore singer-songwriter knows firsthand that the key is perseverance. ''I play all over the world,'' she says. ''Every year I play a little bit farther and for more people. It's very much one to one. And through my concerts that sense of connectivity happens.'' Rutstein is both a solo artist - who goes by SONiA - and leader of the folk-based band Disappear Fear, which she started with her sister Cindy nearly 22 years ago. She earned her first Grammy nomination five years ago with the studio album No Bomb Is Smart. 
SONiA ''It's meant as a way to get introduced to SONiA and Disappear Fear's music,'' she says of the wide-ranging compilation Splash, her most recent release. In addition to several live tracks and previously unreleased studio productions, the set includes several tracks from 2007's world-music focusedTango, with songs in Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic and English. SONiA loves the challenge of learning languages: ''It's like brain candy. The words just kind of slip around, and you laugh at yourself.'' She plans to record a blues-focused Disappear Fear album in the near future. First, though, she's working on producing an ''eclectic'' debut from young violin prodigy Sam Weiser, whom she met last year when both were on the tour honoring Daniel Pearl, the Jewish-American journalist beheaded in Pakistan earlier this decade. Next Wednesday, March 18, Disappear Fear will play what SONiA calls ''a special performance'' at Wolf Trap. ''It's with most of my original members -- my original drummer, my original guitarist, my original bass player. So I'm very excited.'' Only her sister Cindy, who now lives in Seattle and focuses fulltime on being a mother, can't make it. SONiA and Disappear Fear perform Wednesday, March 18, at 8 p.m. at The Barns at Wolf Trap, 1645 Trap Road, Vienna. Tickets are $18. Call 703-255-1900 or visit

CURVE MAGAZINE Written by: Ariane Conrad 

Disappear Fear’s SONiA keeps her “i” small to remind herself of her place in the world. But for all her lack of ego, this “acoustic activist,” as an Israeli fan recently dubbed her, is a force to be reckoned with. SONiA’s work fits somewhere in the noble tradition of political folk-rock; her lyrics are audacious and original. She recently talked with us about her take on issues ranging from homophobia and date rape to hunger, fossil fuel consumption and war. 

You’ve been on the road pretty consistently with your newest album. Where will we find you next? 
Basically, I’ll be across the United States over the summer, and then we end in August at World Pride in Jerusalem. I might be in Europe in the fall — recording, or doing another festival. And then we end the year in Australia. 

Wow. And have you played in Israel before? 

How does it feel performing there? 
I love performing there! And I also did a fundraiser for this group called CLAF. They’re a lesbian organization there, very politically-active, and really to be admired and respected. They publish Israel’s only lesbian magazine, Pandora. 

One of your songs has some lyrics in Hebrew and Arabic, isn’t that right? 
Yeah. “I Am the Enemy.” Actually, I’m working on another song that will have Hebrew and English, and maybe Arabic as well. The languages are very, very close. They’re so, so similar. The alphabets are almost the same. 

How ironic. So, has the reception that you get as a U.S. citizen traveling in the rest of the world has changed at all in the past few years? 
Absolutely. Not that I was traveling ever when the U.S. wasn’t in some sort of military conflict, because I didn’t really start touring internationally until the end of the ’90s. I think what happened is: In the 1990s the anti-American feeling was just because of our gluttony about using oil and other resources. We use 30 percent of the world’s resources and that’s a lot considering we’re something like 5 percent of the world’s population. What’s changed is that it’s become more widespread [to be critical of the United States]. 
But it feels excellent to speak as an American to the sentiment of most of the people I meet, which is against the war in Iraq. And to speak in favor of exploring and using as much alternative energy as we can, you know, moving away from oil and big cars that use lots of petroleum. 

Do you ever take time off to relax? 
You know, not much. What I like to do is bodysurf, actually. It’s my favorite thing. I also like to ski. But bodysurfing’s great because it’s warm, and you get a nice little workout, but you forget about it because you’re having so much fun. That’s my thing. Also, I just like to be in a warm climate, too, and read and relax. 

D.C. arts briefs
By Ayanna Alexander on September 27, 2012

SONiA Performs at the Alexandria Show: Out singer SONiA will perform at the Alexandria show for the Benefit for Separation of Church and State series of concerts Sunday at 7 p.m. SONiA of Disappear Fear is a LGBT singer, songwriter and guitar player, who performs love songs, while confronting all things negative with a positive message of being welcoming and optimistic. Her independent record label, Disappear Records, donates 18 percent of every download to the United Nations World Food’s Programme. A $25 donation is suggested. For more information,

Interview with SONiA (disappear fear)

Posted on March 26, 2014 by Tagg Magazine

disappear fear performs at Jammin’ Java on April 12 

From the Opera House in Sydney, to the Open House in Jerusalem, SONiA Rutstein (aka disappear fear) writes and performs captivating love songs and confronts the hypocrisies and biases of our culture with a positive message of openness and optimism. Having performed in Israel/ Palestine and in many parts of the world, SONiA’s Judaic roots live in the colors of her songs and paintings. SONiA has performed in 16 countries and has just as many award winning albums to her credit. Singing in Hebrew, Spanish, Arabic and English, her powerful honesty touches people of varied social and ethnic backgrounds, especially those moving towards a positive world vision.

If you were to describe yourself in a few words, what would it be?

A global folk artist painting in radio waves. Who were your musical influences growing up?
The Beatles, Rogers and Hammerstein, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, The Carpenters, Simon and Garfunkel, Elvis Costello, Leonard Bernstein, Puccini, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Mahler, and Stevie Wonder.

Apart from singing in English, you also sing in Hebrew, Spanish, and Arabic. Did you grow up learning these languages?

Mostly as a child I sang in English, but I grew up learning prayers in Hebrew and Aramaic. I sang a little in French and Spanish from songs in Broadway Musicals.

Have you always used the name “disappear fear”? If not, when did you decide that it fit your persona?

I created the name disappear fear for the band I started with my sister on October 10, 1987. Since then, when I am solo (though I am performing many of the same songs) it is billed as SONiA. When I am joined by other artists or a whole band performing the same material we ask them to bill it as disappear fear. There is only one disappear fear and that is me. So my web site, my phone app, twitter, and social media include the disappear fear name brand.

What inspired your “Love Out Loud” song?

I came up with the phrase in 1989. That’s when we made t-shirts that said “Love Out Loud”. I wrote the song when my manager was packing up a large suitcase of this merchandise to go on the next tour, and said “hey son, how about a ‘Love Out Loud’ song?” On the living room floor I wrote the first draft of the song… 25 years after I conceived the idea. I tweeted it a bit and it is one of the most popular tunes on the new Broken Film CD.

You’ve toured all across the world. What’s been your favorite country to visit?

My favorite country is the one I am touring in… at any particular time. To really be happy in your life it seems the best technique is to embrace the moment with all your heart with all your soul and with all of yourself. I especially love France, Holland, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, Switzerland, and Ireland.

As an “out” artist, have you experienced any discrimination (or issues) touring across the world?

Of course. But mostly I get respect and love. Today at a little boutique store that sells fancy flower arrangements with orchids and tulips and soaps and candles, there was a little white Jewish star on a bar of sweet smelling soap. I believe the owner held no negative intention, but for me history shows that in the German Nazi Era soaps and candles were made from the skin and fat of Jews and Holocaust Victims, so this reminded me of that. On television we heard from Ukrainians who are glad to be back as part to Russia because “the west is too influentially gay.” There is no shortage of stupidity but each day we become a better world from the mouths and hearts of souls who disappear fear.

Who has had the most influence on your musical career?

The first time I connected with a song on the radio to experiencing a performer re-create that song live on stage was when I was 5 years old. It was Louis Armstrong and it was an open air concert in Baltimore at the annual Flower Mart. I felt the powers of this connection then and it has never left me. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
In 5 years I’ll be touring my next wonderful CD. I may take a year and teach music and art in South America or Israel. I have some land in Texas so I might build a getaway house with pools. In ten years I am likely to be in France a lot.

You’re from Baltimore. What are your favorite hangout spots in the area?

Mostly I stay home with the shades drawn… just kidding! My favorite hangout is really to be home and in my neighborhood. [I like] walking to friends parties and play dates near by. My wife is an awesome cook and I like being spoiled. My favorite new restaurant is in Kansas City it’s called Cafe Gratitude, it’s vegan. But we don’t have this yet in Baltimore.

What should people expect from your show at Jammin’ Java?

It will be awesome. We fly in my guitarist Don Conoscenti from Taos and we will be joined by Ezell Jones Jr. on drums and one of my favorite musicians bassist Chris Sellman. We will perform much of the material from the newest Broken Film CD but also some old favorites. So everyone can be happy.

Anything else you want our readers to know?

I’m writing all these answers from this lovely little town called Besigheim towards the southern part of Germany. It is spring and on the days I’m not traveling on tour we take long walks through the sparkle fields and vineyards. I am so blessed to walk in the freedoms my country made possible for me and the graciousness of my German friends here now.

SONiA performs at Jammin’ Java on April 12 at 7 p.m. Advanced tickets are $18; Day of $20. For more information or to purchase tickets visit

A Fearless Tango

Cleveland Free TimesAnastasia Pantsios

When last seen here in January, Disappear Fear's Sonia Rutstein was putting the finishing touches on a new album which she and her drummer Laura Cerulli previewed for fans at the Beachland Tavern. Inspired by music she began writing the previous summer in a bomb shelter in Israel during the Israeli/Lebanon war, the new material, written in English, Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic, was all about breaking down boundaries between people and learning to communicate. That album, titled Tango, has just hit the streets and Disappear Fear returns to the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124) to offer a fuller taste of the new work. "The CD just launched on Saturday in Baltimore," says Rutstein, calling from a friend's apartment in New York City. "All the musicians on the CD were there and my rabbi who used to be an opera singer in Canada before she became a reconstructionist rabbi. It was like Tango meets Sgt. Pepper." On the road, though, their approach to the material will be simpler. "It doesn't really change," she says. "That's the essence, the two of us. When it changes is when I add someone else. It's all based on rhythms and textures, with harmonies that kind of weave in and out of the songs." But she feels that she's trying to say so much with her songs now that it's necessary to give people more background than ever before. She points to the track "Shorashim," saying, "I wrote that in Hebrew, looking at the border, where so much of the world is focused on conflict in the Middle East. I'm not carrying a sign or signing a petition but I'm trying to communicate with someone who has been called my enemy. It feels good to take positive action in that direction." Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets: $10. - Anastasia Pantsios

A long career covers the globe musically

David Steinberg / Journal Staff Writer on Fri, Nov 2, 2012

Singer/songwriter SONiA will perform Saturday at the Outpost Performance Space. Like the performer Prince, singer and multi-instrumentlaist SONiA goes by one name. Her songs cover a lot of territory – blues, country, Latin, political, rock. “I call it folk music because that seems to be a good umbrella for the various genres that I write in,” she said in a phone interview. After 25 years as a solo performer and as a member of the band Disappear Fear, SONiA is still doing well in her career. She is in the process of designing and picking the music for her 17th album. “I’ve probably written about 18 songs for it, and probably 11 or 12 will make it to the CD,” SONiA said. The music will be recorded this winter and released next spring. It is tentatively titled “Broken Film.” “When I wrote that song (“Broken Film”), I looked to see if it resonates for me. The song has nothing to do with celluloid. Songs are stories and also (reflect) my feelings about situations and things that I see,” she said. A song that will probably be on the CD is “The Invisible Middle Man,” alternatively titled “The Banker.” SONiA said it’s about the economy “and how it got the way it is.” Another song, “L’kol l’dav cha,” which translated from the Hebrew means “With All Your Heart,” is sung mostly in English. But at one point she’d sing the bridge in Hebrew and she alternates the chorus in Hebrew and English, she said. SONiA and Indigie Femme 
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3
WHERE: Outpost Performance Space, 210 Yale SE
HOW MUCH: $15 general public, $10 students and Outpost members at the Outpost or by calling 268-0044 or at the door SONiA recalled that in 2006 she released a CD that has songs in English, Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew. She and the Santa Fe duo Indigie Femme are in concert Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Outpost Performance Space. Indigie Femme – Elena Higgins and Tash Terry – will probably perform some of the songs from their soon-to-be-released CD that is inspired by the Maori songs that Higgins grew up with in her native New Zealand. “There are a couple that are our interpretations in our own Indigie Femme flavor,” said Higgins, who is part Maori. She and Terry, a Navajo from Black Mesa, Ariz., have been involved in Native American and environmental issues. Their last album, “GrandMother Earth, Grandfather Sky,” won the 2011 New Mexico Music Award for Native American Contemporary.

SONiA (of Disappear Fear)
About SONiA & disappear fear

SONiA [Rutstein] has nine award winning albums to her credit and is popular in ten countries around the world (Israel, Australia, The Netherlands). She has performed at the major music festivals from Stockholm to Vancouver since 1998. In April, 2005 SONiA re-formed her band disappear fear. The new band includes Laura Cerulli on percussion and vocals, and Angela Edge on bass and trumpet. This summer they will be performing at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas and many pride festivals throughout the country. SONiA has received several GLAMA awards and a Grammy nomination for her ninth CD, No Bomb Is Smart. SONiA & disappear fear (USA) are on tour across America supporting their CD, DF05 LiVE, (disappear records). After concerts in the pacific northwest, SONiA will be performing at the NAMM conference in Germany showcasing the new "SONiA" H Model guitar and then rejoin the band in the States for the major folk festivals this summer and as well as a performance in August at World Pride in Jerusalem. Download SONiA's Music and help disappear hunger SONiA has just made 7 of her 10 albums available online. By downloading her music, SONiA is using this opportunity to help feed hungry children. In a recent interview by Jon Takiff of the Philidaelphia Daily News SONiA explains her effort. "For every 99 cent song download, 19 cents goes to the World Food Programme administered by the United Nations. That 19 cents will feed one child one meal in school in a developing country." You can order her music through the website.

Ft. Lauderdale FLORIDA

SONiA Brings Timeless Songs to the Shack in the Back

By Liz Tracy Tue., Apr. 3 2012 at 5:51 AM
Categories: Concert Preview ​

SONiA is a singer and songwriter who's been in the business for more than 20 years, making music alone and with her group, Disappear Fear. She tours endlessly and writes music constantly, singing in Hebrew, Spanish, Arabic, and English. Her résumé and list of awards is extensive and includes 16 albums.  SONiA says she listens to everything from Coldplay to Gypsy Kings, Springsteen to Odetta. She's inspired by Lila Downs and Joni Mitchell. She's penning theme music forGeorgian Way, a TV show set to air June 2013. She's also creating a soundtrack for a short film, Freshwater Baptism, and says she's "just starting to do more in that direction." This isn't her first soundtrack, though, just her most recent. Based out of Baltimore, she performs there only about three times a year or does benefits like those for Haiti. Besides that, she's touring. She produces albums for bands there, though, including a recent one, Love Over Fear, for New Jersey band Virago. Of her busy life on the road, she says, "I love it."  Her greatest challenge as a musician has been "to not be enabled into a particular category. I love music, I sing and write, so I'm not really in a place of classification and labels. I just do what I do." Her music is timeless. "Songs I wrote 20 years ago, I can do onstage and people can come up to me and say, I definitely want to download that."  Check out some sounds from her album Blood, Bones & Baltimore. Her independent record label, Disappear Records, donates 18 percent of every download to the United Nations World Food Programme, so get to downloading.  SONiA of Disappear Fear will be at the Shack in the Back, 14740 Mustang Trail, Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, April 21.

The Baltimore SUN

Pride festival lures disappear fear and SONiA back home
New version of the band performs Sunday

Scene Clubs / Bars / Nightlife June 16, 2005 | By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa, SUN STAFF

One Wednesday night in the late '70s, Sonia Rutstein and her sister Cindy were playing Joni Mitchell's "Real Good for Free" on guitar at the old Peabody Bookstore and Beer Stube on Charles Street. She was only 16 or so, too young to be in a bar, but it was her first paying gig ($50 per week) and she loved the place. The crowd - mostly writers, musicians and intellectuals - was chattering about whatever that kind of crowd chatters about. Then one long-haired fellow started playing the song's trademark clarinet riff on his flute, which cut through the air and quieted the crowd. The flute player's name was Michael Hedges, a student at the Peabody Conservatory who would become a renown guitarist and flutist. Sonia and Cindy would form disappear fear, an acoustic outfit that toured the world until it split in the mid-'90s so Cindy could devote more time to her family. SONiA kept touring after the Peabody Bookstore closed, though she sought the same kind of audience that frequented the place: writers, musicians, people who had something authentic to say. "That's really indicative of what my music's about and what I make my time about - that it's real and that it's true for me," she said. "I love what I'm doing, and Baltimore's a funky, quirky place, and I love it. I'm not home that much, but it will always be a big part of where I'm from and what influenced my upbringing." SONiA will be home Sunday to headline the Baltimore Pride Festival with a new incarnation of disappear fear, a power trio featuring drummer Laura Cerulli and bassist Angela Edge. They're touring in support of the new album No Bomb is Smart. While recording No Bomb is Smart in Nashville, Sonia flew in Cindy to sing on 10 of the 12 tracks. The sisters reveled in the reunion before Cindy flew home to be with her family and SONiA set off on her tour. During the summer, SONiA hits the festival circuit hard, including pride festivals in plenty of cities across the country. She loves the crowd's vibe at pride festivals. "I think acceptance of ourselves and celebrations of ourselves on pride days are just fabulous to be around," she said. "It's a big party, and it's good, and we all deserve it." Sonia said she's looking forward to disappear fear's gig Sunday at the Baltimore Pride Festival because it's a combination of two things she loves: a pride festival and her hometown. "It'll be great," she said. "It'll be a real coming home in many ways, so it'll be special and I love my Baltimore friends. I've had friends there for decades and supporters for decades and it will be wonderful. It will be wonderful, wonderful, wonderful." The free Baltimore Pride celebrations kick off with the Pride Parade at 4 p.m. Saturday. The parade starts at Charles and Franklin streets and continues north to Biddle Street. The Baltimore Pride Block Party featuring Ru Paul starts at 6 p.m. Saturday on Eager Street between Cathedral and Charles streets. The Baltimore Pride Festival starts at 11 a.m. Sunday at Druid Hill Park. SONiA and disappear fear perform at 4 p.m. Sunday. Call 410-837-5445 or visit


SONiA and 'disappear fear' return to Baltimore for one-night show at 8 x 10

SONiA will play with "disappear fear" for one night only at the 8 x 10

(video interview) • ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT • SEPTEMBER 22, 2009 • BY: CHERYL TARAGIN
Updated 09-23-09

She likes to joke about spending too much time in airports, so what better place to meet than Baltimore-Washington International, a halfway point between here and there. Here being Baltimore, her hometown and current place of residence, and there being wherever the wings of fame may ride. Sonia Rutstein's star is on the rise. Better known as SONiA, nationally acclaimedsinger-songwriter and co-founder of contemporary folk-rock group "disappear fear," she graciously agreed to meet for this interview despite a busy schedule that includes launching a new tour, recording live for SIRIUS XM satellite radio, completing 14 new songs for a musical theater production, producing a contemporary blues CD, and dropping off sister CiNDY at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter. Cindy Rutstein Frank Visvikis, harmonizing other “disappear fear” co-founder, is returning to Seattle, Washington after a recent visit and coyly holding out on the possibility of a reunion tour with her sister. “You never know,” is how the two phrase their answers almost simultaneously, an impish grin spreading across both faces. Watch the live interview with SONiA and CiNDY of disappear fear 
   SONiA and CiNDY, original co-founders of "disappear fear," share a laugh at the airport Ah, motherhood. Cindy doesn’t regret for a moment her decision to leave the band, although she occasionally  joins them on festival stages and will likely return permanently when her children leave the nest. Now reconstituted withLaura Cerulli on percussion and background vocals,Freebo, aka Daniel Friedberg, on bass guitar, Helen Hausmann on violin and percussion, and Howard Markman on rhythm guitar, the band returns for a kick-off performance of SONiA’s tour at the 8 x 10 tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. Sonia is quick to mention other musicians who will join the tour, most notably Eric Kantor, a 15-year old cellist from The Baltimore School for the Arts.  Sonia also will share the stage with 15-year old Samuel Weiser when FODFest, a month-long touring festival, pays tribute to the memory of slain terror victim Daniel Pearl. The festival lands in Baltimore on October 6th at Congregation Beit Tikvah. Proceeds benefit the Daniel Pearl Foundation. Sonia helped produce Weiser’s new CD. "I love playing with children and helping them learn to perform," she said earnestly. "It’s what got me into doing music, that free form of expression and love, and possibility … that connection with people before it gets tainted and jaded and there’s business and political things that you can say and can’t say. And it’s precious." Sonia and Cindy got their first big break in October, 1989 when a concert promoter invited them to play in England. "There was some interest there from publishing companies which we were very excited about," explained Sonia. "A promoter heard one of the songs from my first album called ‘Walk on Glass’ and loved it. A friend of his invited us over to London to do a tour and we thought we were going to be the opening act for some big rock band from New York, but the guy’s assets were frozen so we ended up being the only band he was working with. We went to this publishing company and I took out my guitar, and Cindy and I sung a song called ‘Box of Tissues.’ David Japp who was president of Carlin Music at the time liked it and said ‘Sign ‘em up.’”   A slight, attractive hippie-chick with caramel-colored dreadlocks and warm, engaging smile, Sonia put down roots in Baltimore to be close to her family. She enjoy Baltimore's "weird, quirky" ambiance, but would like to see less tension in the city. "I will say there is that about Baltimore," she replied about stereotypes and pockets of prejudice. "There are problems with that. My first experience with having [dreadlocks], I remember getting out of my van when I was going to a gig one night and someone yelled out the window, ‘Jungle Bunny’ and I felt very odd. I feel sometimes that there are tensions, but we’re working on it." Hard to believe this straightforward, inspirational dynamo was once a shy, subdued teenager relegated to the choir of musical productions. Rejected by her fourth grade orchestra group, it took belief in a higher objective, namely, eradication of fear and baseless hatred through the proliferation of social consciousness, as well as encouragement from sister Cindy to move Sonia down the path of a full-time music career. People from all different faiths and backgrounds now relate to a message she happily spreads across the U.S, and as far away as New Zealand, The Netherlands, Israel, and Australia. That message was the genesis for "disappear fear," an outgrowth of her work with survivors of sexual abuse and a response to homophobia. Part of her unique appeal comes from a steadfast determination to remain true to herself. If the eyes are a window into the soul, Sonia’s baby blues reveal a unifier, truth seeker, and independent spirit. Critics who refuse to see past her sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or liberal bent are the ones who miss out because Sonia isn’t about to change her music to suit those unwilling to see beyond labels. "There are certain gigs that don’t happen because people don’t disappear fear. I don’t pay attention to the stats and to the numbers, and to all of that. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing," she said. "I feel like my calling is to be who I am and to speak what I need to speak – to speak my truth – and that’s what’s important to me. My premise has always been that love is love and when you disappear fear between people what you have left is love." Then she thoughtfully adds, "That is the greatest thing." And I think to myself what a wonderful world.


Simple, Honest and Authentic

Sonia Rutstein has never met her famous cousin Bob Dylan. It would certainly be exciting. But the folk musician doesn't need to get songwriting advice, as she proved during her third visit to Friedrichsort's Kulturladen Leuchtturm.

By Thorben Bull
Article published: Saturday, 05.05.2018 08:13
Article updated: Saturday, 05.05.2018 08:30
Source: Michael Kaniecki

Photo: Sonia Rutstein would have - against the background that in the guest performances previously the culture shop lighthouse almost bursting at the seams - had a few more listeners deserved.

Sonia Rutstein would have - against the background that in the guest performances previously the culture shop lighthouse almost bursting at the seams - had deserved a few more listeners.

The first impression
After all, Rutstein looks back on a discography of 17 records, and already proves by the opening song “On The Beach” that she is a more than experienced songwriter. Folk in a minor key torn from a band's musical embrace, strangely timeless and compositionally extremely tight.

The music
In conversation during a break, Sonia Rutstein revealed her influences: As a child, Odetta, The Limeliters and Peter, Paul and Mary, later as a young adult, Simon and Garfunkel and Stevie Wonder amongst others. And so it seems as if she wanted to show the whole of the American songwriting tradition in her songs. Though rooted in folk, she adds traces of country, blues and soul. It's very subtle, but still noticeable.

The audience...
...quietly took in the great songs.

What stays in mind
Mainly her authenticity. Also the songs that told stories and carried messages. Not least of them was “Abraham,” a reaction to the presidential election of 2016 in the United States.

Knowing that during her last concerts the Kulturladen Leuchtturm almost burst at the seams with guests, Sonia Rutstein would have deserved a few more listeners. On the other hand, it is definitely special to experience such a great musician close up and personal in such an intimate setting – great and complex songs included!

(translated from

Here is the English translation of the article about SONiA at the Darmstadt Concert Series in Germany
Donnerstag, 02.04.2015
A special guest were the makers of the Darmstadt concert series Americana Educators (presented by on Thursday night (April 9th) welcomed an extra concert on stage at the rustic vaulted cellar of the TIP. The singer-songwriter SONiA  Baltimore, Maryland, opened this year's Tour of Germany for the first time in Darmstadt. And immediately won the hearts of audiences.

More than two hours she captivated the audience with her voice, her guitar and her harmonica - and her personality and performance. The petite singer is a real bundle of energy. With Verve beats the guitar, the harmonica blowing at full strength and lives of their songs. In addition, a natural radiance with Struwwelfrisur and sympathetic-wide smile. The expressive bursts of energy at the same time be accompanied by an engaging modesty. SONiA does not make much fuss about themselves. The focus is on their songs and their music.

Songs that are not only fast and exciting as "The Other Man" or "The Banker", but also slowly and thoughtfully as "Sugarcane" or "Princess And The Honey Bee". SONiA covers the entire range of human emotional worlds: love and sadness, anger and shame, battle and retreat. And all this on a clear folk rock foundation. And that is beneficial far from lightweight Coffee House-folk-pop or the eternal minor tones of bearded Neo-Folker. No Sonia manages their stories about the relegation fears of people of the middle class against war and violence, or against the sexual repression to tell never bitter or just angry, but always optimistic. You can tell the artist in every minute of her performance: She fights against injustice, because she loves life and people. It is certainly one of the greatest singer-songwriter at all, who do not get the attention of the public at large, that they deserve.

This fate she shares with her great idol Phil Ochs the day he died (April 9, 1976) was held at the concert and the songs ("Changes", "Power And Glory"), of course, that night with her were in the program. A surprise was then but even for SONIA connoisseur of interspersed this evening Dylan song "Like A Rolling Stone". A song of songwriter About father, with whom she is related to a set list of Sonia - that was a real premiere! Here they struggled sympathetic and full of passion through the Dylan-typical on full text thicket and but got the famous refrain "How Does It Feel" then much vocal support from the crowd, which no longer came out now from the singing and also the addition "Leavin ' On A Jetplane "- written by John Denver, made famous by Peter, Paul & Mary - made for large Sing-A-Long. And so the basement of the venerable Pädagogs to Darmstadt changed for more than two hours in a fascinating folk club in the middle of Greenwich Village.

At the end of the series SONiA had brought a real magic moment "Americana pedagogue". The unanimous opinion: You must come back!


(English translation from Saarbrücker Zeitung, March 21, 2018)
The selection of solo artists and groups performing on Friday and Saturday at the folk festival in Blieskastel was a happy one. "Sonia disappear fear," for example, the physically little singer-songwriter from Baltimore, fascinated the audience on the first day of the second festival with a powerful voice. "She got everything out of herself and her instruments", Jutta Hahn from the organizing cultural office sums up in a nutshell. Everyone who had come was impressed by this power woman, who covered songs, but also accompanied many of her own written and composed with acoustic and electric guitar as well as a harmonica. For this "great woman with a gigantic voice and great guitar", as she called a listener in the Bliesgau-Festhalle, one would have wished for even more listeners. On Fiday evening it was a manageable little group, whose enthusiasm would have been enough for 600 fans. Without further ado, the organizer decided to relocate the concert to the foyer and thus spontaneously created a lounge and club atmosphere, which probably added to the fact that it was a very intense evening with the artist.