SONiA disappear fear honors Lesbian Visibility Day with a livestream performance
Indie-folk/pop artist performs from recent album "Love Out Loud."
By Doug Rule on April 23, 2021
Last June, the lesbian indie-folk/pop singer-songwriter Sonia Rutstein dropped her 20th full-length set, the compilation album Love Out Loud. In any other, non-pandemic year, the artist, known by her musical alias SONiA disappear fear, would have performed the album’s songs live before spirited crowds at LGBTQ pride events both regionally and far-flung.
“It’s a compilation that really traces the 30 years of my most favorite LGBTQ-related songs from all my CDs,” she told Metro Weekly at the time. “Songs like ‘Who I Am,’ ‘Love Out Loud,’ ‘Gangsters of Love’ — songs that talk about being gay and being in love and/or heartbroken, and the price and wonderfulness of being out, too.”
Ultimately, such messages are important to hear and be reminded of throughout the year, so SONiA disappear fear is currently readying the songs to be performed at a livestream next week on Lesbian Visibility Day: Monday, April 26.
SONiA — Photo: Lea Morales
“I came out in my music because I knew there were thousands if not millions of little Sonias out there who were choking off the beauty of their souls by not being true to themselves and their sexuality,” Rutstein says. “I know firsthand what it is like to hide your sexuality, and I don’t want that to happen to anyone else.”
The livestream announcement notes that SONiA disappear fear is looking forward to finally returning to touring, and also remains committed to the idea of a proper tour in support of Love Out Loud, possibly sooner than later: “She hopes to finally tour in front of live audiences later this year.”
For the time being, however, she’ll return to Facebook Live and a production overseen by her wife and manager Terry Irons and originating from the couple’s Baltimore home. There’s also the promise of a surprise: The announcement lists the lineup as “SONiA disappear fear + special guest.”
The Lesbian Visibility Day Livestream is Monday, April 26, at 8 p.m. Free, although donations are welcome. Visit www.facebook.com/disappear.fear.
Music Freedom Day Concert
with SONiA disappear fear
International folk-punk legend SONiA disappear fear will be playing a special concert on Tuesday, March 2, as part of Music Freedom Day, a global celebration of the human right to artistic expression.
Freemuse, an independent international organization that defends freedom of artistic expression, conceived Music Freedom Day in 2007 to highlight the role and impact of art in our societies, and to advocate for the universal rights to create, perform and take part in artistic expressions.
This year, by focusing on the theme ‘Imagine A Pandemic Without Art’, Music Freedom Day intends to raise awareness of the challenges faced by artists and performers during COVID-19, and to remind us not to take art, and the space for artists, for granted.
SONiA issued this powerful statement in support of the mission: “I join with artists from around the world in Kenya, Taiwan, South Korea and another 36 countries, and, although most of us have never met one another, we are fused together in a common bond: that with the founders of freemuse.org of Denmark – art is not a crime. We do not perform for monetary idolization, we perform with the intent of communicating from our hearts that love is love, and we live to proclaim no more gender apartheid, no more LGBTQ apartheid, no more racism, no more imperialism, and no more punishment in the name of God.”
“Simply said, I Love Out Loud and I encourage everyone to come out of their personal prison cells and be kind to one another. I am an artist and I am blessed giving and taking the opportunity to share my songs and paintings around the planet. Freemuse.org is an organization that makes my job and our collective quest easier, because the expression of the freedom in art is not always a given. Freemuse provides a network of artists to deliver their creations, knowing that we have medical and legal blueprint that will support artists when we are beaten and imprisoned – that our voices will not be forgotten even when we are temporarily silenced. Through out history we know it is the visionary who flies without fear that brings humanity forward to embrace each other because we are here, now.”
SONiA’s wife and manager, Terry Irons, will also be speaking during Tuesday’s concert. Together, they will bring listeners both the artist’s and the manager’s views on working through the pandemic.
SONiA disappear fear will be giving her live stream Facebook concert on March 2 at 5pm Central.
3/1/21 © by Country Queer
#artistathome: SONiAs “33. World Disappear Fear Day “02/18/2021
“What would you do if you weren't afraid?” asks LGBT singer / songwriter SONiA disappear fear and invites people to share their vision of a world without fear on the 33rd World Disappear Fear Day on February 18th, 2021. She encourages children, adults, school classes and other groups to create drawings, paintings, photos, stories, songs, poems etc. and send them to her (mail). Selected contributions will be published on February 18th on SONiA's Facebook page and website. With her specially proclaimed holiday and her songs, she wants to strengthen the connections between people - regardless of nationality, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, political background, age or other categories. The core of the band's philosophy is: "If you let the fear between people disappear, you get love."
In the run-up to the event, SONiA will play a special concert live on Facebook on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at 8 p.m. CET, which will contain songs from her entire career.
A SmithSONiAn Tribute
SONiA disappear fear celebrates Patti Smith
SONiA disappear fear, her sister and disappear fear co-founder Cindy Rutstein, and Tony Correlli recently got together (after being confirmed Covid negative) at Baltimore’s Deep End Studio for a birthday tribute to Patti Smith (*12/30/46).
Both sisters have been admirers of the punk poet’s work ever since SONiA brought home Patti’s debut album Horses.
SONiA went on to start her own career in music by forming progressive punk trio exibit A, a band that morphed into the more folk-pop leaning disappear fear, and continues today as SONiA disappear fear.
Says SONiA, “I was in high school when I first became aware of Patti Smith, and she was a great solo beacon of light to me, though I did not understand the harshness of her colors and her tattered American flag. I think I understand her better now.
My boyfriend at the time took me to her concert when I was around 17 years old. It was at the gym at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. It was so loud, and I had never seen anything like it. I loved it – not so much the sound, but that it encouraged me to find out who I was/am.
Her voice was so raw and real and she dressed so free. I think that is what I gravitated to the most: Her sense of independence, her sense of freedom from being boxed into a marginalized dot to a full on dancing poet living loud and under the lights even when and though she traveled very dark lonely wet streets. And that is how Patti is – she moves mountains that allow us to ski downhill flawlessly when we never even knew we could.
I totally wanted her sexuality to be gay, though I think she’s gender neutral actually. She seems very androgynous.
When she took herself out of the music scene, I was a little lost and a little disappointed that she didn’t live and die by the billboard bible, but truly the lesson she was teaching was living your life is the most important thing, and I respect her even more for that.
Through time Patti got super famous and I was so glad that she was admired by so many people. Her songs are as vital today as they were 40 years ago. I believe that makes her a classic writer – that her work can and does stand tall through the test of time.
I had the opportunity to see her in concert again in 2018, in Cologne, Germany, right outside the cathedral, during a break in my tour. She was full on! The roof would have blown off, but it was an outdoor concert… so she could only shoot off fireworks of energy, and that she did. Joan Baez joined her on stage and even she was pumped up.
Patti is a true performer, a massive author and artist transforming the mundane into sparks of possibilities and hope. She is mysterious, she is contagious, she is frightening and she is so wise. Her honesty has shocked the world. I love her – she lives the walk I dance on.”
Queer FM Episode December 8, 2020
Featured interviewed guests: SONiA disappear fear - LGBT singer-songwriter & Vancouver Men's Chorus Cameron Power (he/him) - Second Tenor, Producer of Making Spirits Bright: Together | Apart
Listen at Queer Fm
© by CITR/Queer FM, 12/8/2020
Hanukkah is coming and singer/songwriter SONiA disappear fear is inviting friends, family, and fans from around the world to join her for nightly candle lighting, live streamed on Facebook. She also has a Hanukkah song out, “Light In You.” SONiA disappear fear explains that “the light” is many things, including love and knowledge, and she makes the case that no group of people is really all that far removed from any other.
Listen at WJFF Radio
© by WJFF, 12/7/2020
Arts & Culture » Music
Out, loud and proud: an interview with SONiA
by Gregg Shapiro
Wednesday Jun 24, 2020
Baltimore native, out musician, activist, and even a bit of a mystic, Sonia Rutstein, better known to her fans and followers as SONiA of disappear fear, has a musical gift for everyone. The new 12-song CD compilation "Love Out Loud" collects some of her queerest and most uplifting songs resulting in the perfect soundtrack for your 2020 Pride observances.
Drawing on selections spanning almost 25 years, including solo work as well as those recorded with her sister Cindy (from disappear fear's early days), the album is as much a musical history lesson as it is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. SONiA was good enough to answer a few questions in advance of the release of "Love Out Loud."
Gregg Shapiro: Because "Love Out Loud" is a journey into the past for you and the listener, I'd like to begin by asking you to say something about the genesis of the name disappear fear.
SONiA: I worked at the Baltimore Center for Victims of Sexual Assault right after college. They were looking for a new name for their center. I came up with disappear fear. They rejected that, but I had written it down on a Post-It on my desk. My band Exibit (sic) A imploded after (my sister) Cindy joined it. There was just me and Cindy, and this name disappear fear. I thought it was cool and we went with it. They went with SARC: Sexual Assault Recovery Center. disappear fear is applicable to when you are sexually assaulted, and you're scared of everything, and how you want to regain your own sense of power. But then disappear fear was applicable to so many things in my life and that I wanted disappear fear to be.
GS: What can you tell the readers about the stylized spelling of your name as SONiA?
S: When I was five and learning how to write my name, that's how I wrote it [laughs]. I love words and I love names and playing with them. My signature is backwards because I won a contest in second or third grade, writing your name backwards on top of your head. It was a good moment in my life [laughs]. That's probably the seed of it and most people are more oblivious to that when they get older, but I'm not. I have PTSD on all kinds of levels [laughs], good and bad.
GS: By my calculations, "Love Out Loud" is your second compilation, with 2008's "Splash" being the first. Why was now the right time to release a new compilation?
S: The "Splash" CD was because I was touring in a completely different market. We had so many CDs at the time, and I wanted something that was of quality and represented the magnitude of the genres that I do. From songs in Hebrew to Spanish to live performances with the band to solo stuff, as well as a couple of newly recorded things. This is who I am. This "Love Out Loud" compilation has been in the works since the beginning of disappear fear because that's my mantra. That's what I want my music to do. To touch people and realize that we're connected. "Love Out Loud" celebrates the LGBT experience of my life. Those songs are the pinnacle song for disappear fear and for gay people moving through their lives.
GS: The 12 songs on "Love Out Loud" span the 24- year period of 1994-2018. How much of a challenge was it to go through so much material and whittle it down to 12 songs?
S: Very hard; that was definitely the hardest part [laughs]. I was saying to Terry (my wife), is the next one going to be "Love Out Louder" or "Love Out Loud Too?" The evolution of the LGBT movement is monumental, it's moved from "no, never" and "what is that?" to "cool!" and almost "so what" [laughs]. Which is awesome! I went through the torment of it and the celebration of it, and that's the purpose of the CD.
GS: "Love Out Loud" opens with "Fix My Life" from disappear fear's eponymous 1994 album. It includes a reference to HIV and "the boy next door/that Ron ignored and George abandoned". More than 25 years later, did you ever think we'd once again be witnessing a Republican POTUS bungling the handling of another killer virus?
S: No, never. No, certainly not. I did not see this coming. As I'm want to do, for lack of a better cliché, I try to find the silver lining [laughs]. The earth is healing, the air is 30-40% cleaner. We're seeing nature, which is nice, and also a building of community. There is some positive stuff, too. In Judaism, every seven years you don't plant anything on the ground. This is the seventh year for that.
GS: You're supposed to let the earth heal.
S: Exactly! Seven times seven is 49, and then you take the next year, which is 50, and all financial debts and burdens are forgiven. That will be in 2021. Isn't that interesting?
GS: That's fascinating.
S: I'm Jewish. I try to follow things like this. As I've aged, I've gotten even more into it. These parallels are so interesting to me, because it's right where we are.
GS: The song "Who's So Scared" features some lyrics by queer Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen. Why did you incorporate his words into your song?
S: My girlfriend at the time was studying African American female authors at Howard University in DC. She had all these great books. Obviously, Countee Cullen is a male writer, and his book was one of the ones that she had. I love poetry and I opened the book and this poem jumped out at me. I read it and it had the word "Baltimore," and I thought it was so profound. I had this idea of "Who's So Scared" for a long time. For me, it's about facing myself. I really thought when I first came out that I'd have to compromise my life and cut off people because they wouldn't like me or respect me or love me anymore, which was not true, but I was scared about that. The idea of "who's so scared" can be applied to when I have to make a big decision, I ask myself what I would do if I wasn't scared. I usually get my dream answer and sometimes I follow through with it [laughs]. That's a good day [big laugh].
GS: With Pride parades and festivals being canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, the "Love Out Loud" album functions as a kind of stay at home Pride observance.
S: That's awesome!
GS: When did you attend your first Pride parade and what do you remember most about it?
S: I think I was 20 years old. I was in a band called Invasion of Privacy. I was not out yet. We got booked to play DC Pride because my manager was gay. He wanted to put this band together to play songs that he was writing. In fact, he wrote one for Norah Jones, but I don't know if she ever recorded it. We did that festival and we were backstage with the drag queens who were easily twice my height (laughs) and gorgeous. It was so sensational in every way. It was amazing and colorful. I don't think I was ever in a place where there was so much life! It was fantastic.
GS: Finally, Terry, who is your manager and your wife (married 12 years/together 23 years), is featured prominently in the Love out Loud album artwork. Would you please say something about what Terry means to you?
S: Yes! Terry is my world. She has her own history, her own legacy of participation in the gay movement. Starting with the successful move from gay being this fringe of society to it being a successful lighthouse of philosophy and financial influence. So few people know this; Terry should write a book. She took Atlanta's Gay Pride (festival), which was $30k in debt, and only had a couple of drag queens performing for entertainment, and she felt like there was more to gay people than white boys on a dancefloor. The community's a lot bigger than that. They said to her, "You're so sure about this, why don't you do it?" She said, "I'll head this up, but you have to let me do whatever I want." They did and what she was able to do was take it from what I described to the entire community being involved. You had drag queens, but you also had lesbian singer/songwriters and storytellers and political figures. She really opened it up. What happened was the (public) face of a gay person changed and she was able to get corporate sponsorship. The beer and alcohol companies had a huge audience with the gay community.
GS: Right, because the bars were some of the earliest social gathering places.
S: Exactly! That transformed it. That was in the early 1990s. Then she became the gay ambassador under (President) Clinton, as the face of that, and ended up producing the entertainment for 27 Prides in 1997 and that was the year we got together. It was an insane year! I was doing 10 Prides at which she booked me, and then another four or five that my booking agent arranged. It was wonderful! Things were starting to shift, it was making the earth move.
© 2020 Bay Area Reporter
SONiA disappear fear: 'By My Silence' New Music Video
SONiA disappear fear is delighted to share a new version of By My Silence, the title track of her 2019 album, featuring the familiar harmonies of her sister CiNDY – the original sound of disappear fear.
The song, written by Ellen Bukstel and Nick Annis based on the famous words of Pastor Martin Niemöller and first recorded by SONiA for the 2009 compilation Splash, remains relevant today. It asks the listener to reflect their own choices and encourages them to raise their voice for equality and peace, against hate and fear.
© by Curve Magazine June 16, 2020
Veteran Artist Releases Career-spanning Compilation
SONiA disappear fear (born Sonia Rutstein) has been a masterful purveyor of her own brand of politically-conscious alt-folk for decades. The Baltimore native and longtime resident began her career in the late-80s folk-punk scene with her band disappear fear, touring relentlessly with their message of radical inclusion.
As SONiA grew to accept and embrace her sexual orientation, eventually coming out publicly, she documented her journey in her art, and became a fixture in the LGBTQ+ music scene. She has earned accolades from GLAAD, GLAMA, the Grammy’s, and more, and has performed onstage with many of her heroes, including Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger.
We wanted to chat with SONiA about her new album and her musical influences. We caught up with SONiA by phone as she was about to return to Baltimore from a brief stay in North Carolina. We found her to be energetic and positive, a delight to chat with.
CQ: How are you, how are you doing in these times?
SONiA: Oh man. I’m figuring it out, just one day at a time. Actually it’s not completely as weird, I think, for me and Terry because my schedule normally changes every day. So it has enough sameness and enough irregularity that it’s different. It’s sort of interesting. And I’m working on an autobiography. And so I’m up to chapter 18 now on the rewrite, and it’s 20 chapters, so I’m very positive about that.
CQ:Okay. So it’s giving you a little a little space to focus on writing.
SONiA: Exactly. Which is good because I tried to do it over the summer under my terms and it was just all over the place. I really didn’t get anywhere except a lot of scribbles in notebooks.
CQ: Yeah, I hear that. Okay, so you’ve got a compilation album coming out, right? What is it called and where can we find it?
SONiA: It is called “Love Out Loud.” And you can find it on all the streaming services and at soniadisappearfear.com.
CQ: So SONiA, what made you decide that now was the right time to put out a collection like this?
SONiA: It’s really been a long time coming. My perspective from when I came out, which was in the early eighties, to the past 30-something years has been very, very interesting. And my songs really document that whole arc of from “No, never,” or “What is that?” to “Yes, it’s okay!” And sure, go for it, you know, to the total embracing, and then also seeing some of the backlash of that now with with our current administration. So the songs talk about that. They talk about me personally, what I’m experiencing at the time. Coming out to myself, coming out to my circle, and then to the world.
CQ: Good. So let me ask you this. When you went to put this collection together, what were the biggest challenges that you ran into?
SONiA: The hardest part was what not to include. Because there are so many other songs that that could go on a CD. In fact, originally the first group of songs was bigger than that. And then I had to dial it back for what would actually sit on the vinyl without making it two vinyl records. So did a compromise there, nine songs on the final record with three download tracks. And then of course in the CD it’s all 12 songs. So these songs are some that have resonated, information that I’ve gotten back from my audience through time, after shows and emails, all these, you know, that sort of infinity, figurative communication back and forth. “You gotta do this, you gotta do that one.” There’s a lot of other songs that certainly could be there. So there may be a “Love Out Louder” in the future.
CQ: So obviously touring is not really an option right now. All the venues are closed. So what are your plans to promote “Love Out Loud”?
SONiA: So what we did do was this: I had a tour in Germany – 20 concerts – scheduled for the spring. My manager and my publicist, they said, well, why don’t you do a concert for every show that you missed? And we’ll just call it “19 Plus One Digital Acts of Kindness” concert. And I did. So every concert that was scheduled, which was for 8:00 PM in Germany, ended up being 2:00 PM on the East Coast. And that was actually really convenient because I had fans in Abu Dhabi and in Tel Aviv and all the way over into Honolulu as well – first thing in the morning or rather late, you know, club time, at night. Which was really cool.
And the hearts were just going off on my Facebook Live concert and I loved it. It was so amazing to be singing to people that I know in quite different circles, and all at the same time. I had a real good time with that. And yes, I was also able to promote that this album was coming out. We also worked with an animation artist named Jessica McLeod-Yu from Australia, and she put together a really cool little video using six of the songs from the compilation CD and an animation. I think it’s just called “The Love Out Loud Trailer”. And that’s on my YouTube channel.
And that’s gotten a little bit of buzz. I’m going to do a CD release concert on June 1st, which is the date that the record comes out. And I’m thinking about doing an every Tuesday “Tuesday at Two” concert thing to keep it going, because people were like, we’re really gonna miss this. You know, cause there were lots of people that tuned in every single time I got on – and that’s a lot of concerts! I mean, it’s probably more than they’ve ever seen of me ever. For someone to hang in there for 20 freaking shows, over like basically a six week period – that’s a lot! So we’ll just keep it going as much as we can. I can do all the songs solo. I love doing it with the band live as well. I’ve been at it a little over 30 years, so I’ll just keep on plugging.
CQ: Good. So I’ve got a a question about your influences. So obviously, you know, the name of our our website is country queer and we’re focused on country and Americana where there is a dearth of representation for LGBTQ artists. I hear definite rock and folk influences in your music and I’m wondering if there were any country artists that also influenced you
SONiA: Yeah, I would say more of the writers. I liked Glen Campbell a lot. And so that writer was Jimmy Webb. And Kris Kristofferson, too. I didn’t listen to the really cool stuff that much. My dad liked jazz and Charlie Parker, that kind of thing. And then some classical guitar – Segovia and that sort of thing. My mom liked total classical stuff and opera. So I didn’t hear as much country, but I did hear a whole lot of folk music and folk music is really right out of that anyway. The Limelighters, Odetta, those harmonies, that’s right out of country. And I loved it. I mean, I sort of got turned onto country later, but there was also a whole lot of feminism awakening in me too, so I would listen to it until I couldn’t, you know.
CQ: Yeah. To me, it’s very interesting, the relationship between folk and country. There was a time when country was first being put out on records where they labeled it Folk. That was before they called it Hillbilly and then they called it Country and Western. And the Carter family, not only was a massive influence on Hank Williams for instance, but also on Woody Guthrie. Half of his songs are Carter Family tunes and obviously he’s sort of ground zero for American folk music. So you know, it, it all comes from the same place.
SONiA: That’s so true. “This Land is Your Land” is basically “You Are my Sunshine.” I was saying that at the Woody festival a couple of years ago, and I got some weird looks. I didn’t say it on stage, I didn’t want to upset anybody. Unless you really research it, like go into that part of it in your brain, unless that’s what you’re really driven to do, then music is more like a blanket, I think, it’s comforting. Or gets you somewhere. But it’s really good to hear you say that.
But I love it. The greatest country performers certainly can just take a guitar and get in front of a microphone and do the same thing that a whole group with a great arrangement does, too, which is a great parallel between folk and country. In Europe they say country music a whole lot. If you’ve got an acoustic guitar, it’s kind of considered country.
CQ: I don’t want to keep you much longer, but I do have one last question for you. It is Bob Dylan’s birthday. So if he was reading this right now, this is a silly question, but I’ll give you a chance to give a silly answer if you want it to. What would you say to Bob?
SONiA: Happy birthday, Bob. You know that he’s a distant cousin, right? Yeah. His his mother’s sister married a man named Rutstein. And that is my last name. And he owned a radio station, and his aunt is the one who gave him piano lessons. Her last name was Rutstein too.
CQ: Super. Cool. I want to mention, I had heard of disappear fear but really hadn’t been familiar with your music. I’ve been checking it out in preparation for this interview and I’m a fan at this point. Definitely big on some influences that I love. You can hear some Patti Smith, some Springsteen. Good stuff. Thank you for making it.
SONiA: Well thank you. And likewise, I just, I was just looking at your website and love it. I’m definitely going to keep checking in. I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing.
CQ: We see a need, right? You know, there’s a culture that needs to get changed, and so we’re trying to try to move that conversation forward just like you’re doing.
SONiA: Absolutely. Every day a little bit more.
CQ: Keep going. Thank you so much, SONiA.
SONiA: Thank you. You too.
Find “Love Out Loud” on all streaming services and on http://soniadisappearfear.com
© by Country Queer, June 1, 2020