Sonyae Elise: Platinum Hitmaker

Sonyae Elise nabbed the win for Platinum Hit. What's the songwriter up to now?

Bravotv.com: How did you feel when they told you won Platinum Hit?
I felt one step closer to my ultimate goal in life. I felt like I was making good progress. I was happy and grateful and surprised but kind of. . .surprised/not surprised because I was confident in myself all along. But definitely. . .I can't even describe it. It was pretty awesome.

Bravotv.com: The last challenge seemed like it was pretty tricky. You were given this open-ended idea: write the song of your life. What was it like going through that actual process?
I was actually excited because we were given everything I had hoped for in the finale -- because I don't play an instrument, a producer, time (more than four hours), so that was dope, and I was prepared to do or die. Go hard or go home. So I was just focused.

Bravotv.com: Throughout the competition, you were a little different from everyone because you didn't play an instrument. Did you feel like you had to work harder? Did you feel like people maybe underestimated you?
I definitely felt people underestimated me initially, but I worked hard, period, to gain their respect. I wasn't too worried about that. I knew there would come a time if I was given the opportunity to stay, week by week, that my competitors would see my worth, and I was glad, (finally, I don't know what happened) but they started respecting what I do. Everybody plays an instrument, but I can work Pro Tools really well, so aside from having my voice as an instrument, that was also an asset in many of the challenges.

And also, I think that everybody has strengths and weakness, and I think that because I don't play an instrument, I build a strong foundation of lyric and concepts -- and melody as well, because I sing. My lyric and concepts are what I'm known for from this show. I think that were people like Scotty and Brian who were really good at melody because they play instruments, but they kind of lacked what I was strong at, and vice-versa. So, we made a really good team. I think that after a while, people saw that. So, it's cool, you know, you could doubt me in the beginning. See what happens. [Laughter] Bravotv.com: Over the course of the show, what were some of the challenges that surprised you, or that you thought were maybe the most difficult?
Well, everything was a surprise because we didn't know anything. It was all one big surprise for me. The amount of time we had, the fact that we had to work -- I didn't know what the hell I was getting myself into. Having to cowrite with people you don't know from a can of paint and then having to maintain a level of personal respect for each other just because you have to write with each other. When some people want to be rude, and some people get under your skin, and might be annoying, and you kind have to keep it cool because you have to work with these individuals. What surprised me the most was every challenge that they gave was one big f--king surprise. [Laughter] To tell you the truth.

Bravotv.com: What was your favorite challenge?
The love challenge and the rap challenge were probably my favorites. The love challenge is second nature to me. Being a woman and being emotional, just to be able to express myself is so easy. Music is my therapy, so that was a piece of cake. The rap challenge [I liked] because I was just excited to be able to show the contestants and the judges my other gift -- that I can rap. And I like that song, "Miss Make The Boys Cry." 

Bravotv.com: What you would you say was your favorite song that you got a chance to work on during the show?
"Stranger to Love."

Bravotv.com: So, on the other side of the coin, what was your least favorite challenge?
Well, my least favorite week would have to be the first week. I don't know if that would be my least favorite challenge, because I won the first hook challenge, but, it didn't turn out well. It was my least favorite week because I didn't know anybody, and I didn't know how to strategically pick my group so that I could come up with a better end result. That would have to be my least favorite week just because I was like a deer caught in headlights. I didn't have time to adjust first week, but after that I was a little bit more able to gauge what the hell I need to do to get to the next level of the competition. So, the first week was my least favorite week, by far. Hated it.

Bravotv.com: What did you think of the judges over the course of the season? Do you feel like you learned a lot from Kara and Jewel?
Yes. Kara and Jewel are amazing. They helped all of us grow and learn -- I don't think one person would disagree. I love Kara. She's probably my favorite. Because I think we share that kind of. . . you know, she gives the tough love thing, and I think that works best for me. She's the kind of person I am. We definitely identified with each other, someway, somehow. Jewel is a sweetheart. She's a hottie. What did I learn [from her]? I learned a few fashion tips, and some really good stuff in songwriting, I guess.

Bravotv.com: You said that Kara gave you some tough love. Was it ever too tough?
No. I'm not easily offended, and I have really tough skin. I knew that if I took in what they were giving us, took in the lessons without being super-sensitive and offended by them, I knew that I would go far.

You know, in any competition, in life, you have to take the lesson, and make sure you keep a sense of who you are and don't let everything be altered. But also, put stuff in your archive, and as you're building your building of life, take out the tools that you need as you go along. But you have to keep your sense of self. Keep whatever design you wanted for your building, but attack it accordingly with the tools you gained on the way. . .I know I'm being super-metaphorical, it's because I'm a songwriter. [Laughter] I can't help it! Basically, I just love Kara. She was my fave. She would come over when the cameras weren't rolling and say little smart s--t, I just love her. She's sarcastic and fun.

Bravotv.com: It seems like you guys managed to get in a bit of fun amongst everything. Did you have fun with the other contestants?
I had fun with everybody, yes, because I really don't pay people any mind. The one person everyone didn't get along with was Nick, of course. But you know, I really don't give a f--k, because, at the end of the day, you have to be cordial and be able to make a good song. And I think Nick and I proved that no matter what the status of our friendship, or lack thereof, we were able to make a song, and a damn good one.

I do think chemistry is important if you want to continuously make hits though. With Scotty and Brian, our chemistry is we're good friends outside of the competition. Me and Nick went through a lot of stuff. He was really, really disrespectful so. . .I could be around him, and he's apologized and stuff, but it doesn't really matter to me. It is what it is. Nobody got along with him, and I don't not like him, but I don't particularly love him. We're good though. He definitely apologized and whatever. But he definitely apologized when he thought it was helpful to him. So, you know, that's another story. Not to dwell on it.

Who would be my least favorite though? I think my least favorite person -- even though me and Nick didn't get along -- I think Amber is my least favorite person, and my favorite person is Scotty. [Laughter] If you wanted some juice.

Bravotv.com: We always want juice. What song that somebody else wrote was your favorite?
"Betting My Life," with Johnny and Brian is definitely my favorite that I didn't have anything to do with.

Bravotv.com: So what have you been up to since the show ended? Well, I just released my second mixtape, "Lady Rebel Vol. 2." It's on my website, Sonyaeelise.com. It's super-dope, and I'm getting a lot of great feedback from already established artists, huge DJs. It's getting played in clubs. I've been getting tweets about it, that my song's playing in clubs, and I think it got some radio spins. A lot of stuff is starting to trickle down. I think with a lot of help from the show. People started to pay attention to what I was doing and started to listen accordingly.

It taught me a lot, the show. If you go listen to my first mixtape, and you listen to this one, it's tremendous growth, so that's a good thing. What else have I been doing? Shows, recordings, definitely trying to get myself prepared for, you know, what happened, and, just recording, trying to come up with one of those classic, timeless albums and establish myself in the music industry, then go into movies. You know the story. I wanna do it all. Be filthy rich and happy and married and. . .happy, when it's all done.

Bravotv.com: Awesome. Well, can I ask what you're listening to right now?
Hmm, what am I banging'? Linda Jones, always. I listen to that girl all the time. She never gets old. Kendrick Lamar, this new guy -- he's super-dope. Stacy Barthe, this girl who's been my friend for two years, and she's an amazing singer/songwriter. She has written for everybody from like, Rihanna to Beyonce, but now she's doing her own stuff, and she's hustling. A lot of jazz. Oh! Oh, and one more person! Rahman Apollo! I definitely listen to him all the time. How could I forget him? That's like my favorite!

Bravotv.com: So what advice do you have for other songwriters coming up?
I advise them to be aware of their weaknesses, as well as their strength. It's really important to know your strengths -- not only your weaknesses, but your strengths. If you don't know what you're strong at, you don't know what you need to work on, it just all goes hand in hand.

And be real with yourself: from knowing whether or not a song is hot, or whether your hot, and you need to keep your day job. Definitely that. That would be my advice.

Bravotv.com: Anything else you want to share? Any other big news?
Make sure you let everyone know how bad I want them to check out my new mixtape.

Bravotv.com: Well Congratulations! This is going to be good for you!
No, I think it's going be excellent! Excellent.

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Sticking With You

Jewel explains why Sonyae's tracks stick with you and what she thinks the songstress should do next.

Parting is such sweet sorrow!

I hope you enjoyed our finale episode. It was so fun for me to watch this one. Back when we were taping, I was so nervous for all the contestants it was hard to enjoy it. But sitting in the comfort of my living room, it was nice to see everyone perform. I was really struck with how far everyone had come. It took a while for them to stop thinking like artists or singer-songwriters and to begin sounding commercial.

I loved everyone's songs. Jes really pulled it out. She improved so much over the show -- her structure and lyrics came a long way! And Scotty had his best night I thought, making a song that was the most sound conceptually to date. It was a beautiful sentiment and so touching to see his dad and his boyfriend sitting together! What a great thing to be able to sing that song, and his truth, to them both.

I really thought Sonyae deserved the win. There are a lot of writers who can write catchy melodies or chords, but it is rarer to find a strong concept writer. Concept makes a song stand out on the radio. It makes songs like "Firework" by Katy Perry or "The House That Built Me" written for Miranda Lambert stand out amongst all the heavy traffic of disposable songs on the radio. They are the ones that tend to climb the charts and stay there, and in the memory of a generation, when it really is done well. Think of "You're So Vain," or "Yesterday," or "Viva Las Vegas" or "Free Fallin'" --- all of them are so different, but so complete in a concept that they stick with you for generations.

I hope Sonyae takes the time to learn an instrument. It must be so frustrating to hear the music in your head but rely on others to make it come out. She will always be very valuable in a co-write, but would be a monster if she played for herself and could get the music just the way she likes.

It was fun for me to film this show. It was a lot more work than I realized, and being pregnant while filming was exhilarating and exhausting! I loved the contestants dearly, and want to thank them all for the opportunity to be in their creative lives. They were all good sports and able to sort through so much information, take from it what worked for them, and hopefully leave the rest behind. No one has all the answers -- certainly not us judges. All we can do is try to help each other along the way.

If we do another season, I look forward to better and better writers -- and I look forward to getting better at hosting! It's funny watching this season; I am so reserved. I guess I have been on stage my whole life. . .and unless there is an audience, it's hard for me to really turn on. I'm naturally laid back and shy off stage, but when I'm on stage I'm much more animated. It never dawned on me that filming on a closed set for a camera would make me feel less energetic or emotive. . .so that was interesting for me! The best part of the show was being able to be authentic and tell my real opinions. I was never asked to sugarcoat or pull a punch. I got to share with you all a craft I am so passionate about, and hopefully you learned to judge songs for yourself in a new way as well. I feel blessed to get to talk about music for a living, and for that I am really grateful.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed it, and hope to see you next year or down the road! As always, follow me on Twitter (@Jeweljk), and don't be a stranger!

xo jewel

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