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Disappear Fear: Exclusive Interview with SONiA

Disappear Fear: Exclusive Interview with SONiA

The group Disappear Fearformed back in 1987 with sisters SONiA and CiNDY Rutstein at the steering wheel. In 1994, CiNDY decided to take some time off the road and focus on her family in Seattle, Washington while SONiA kept the candle burning performing on stages around the world and developing the non-profit organization Guitars for Peace.

The group Disappear Fearformed 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 calledBlood, Bones and Baltimoreand 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.Actually, I hope everyone loves my music and buys a painting too.

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Sarah Toce