Throughout the history of pop music, warm weather and good summery vibrations have served as inspiration for countless songs, records, and careers. (Yes, Beach Boys, we’re looking at you.) But of the recent crop of sunshine-conjuring artists, Zee Avi certainly stands out. The Malaysian-born singer/songwriter and ukulele player pens airy songs and delivers sweet, personal lyrics that simply sound like summertime. (Think of her as the warmer, cheerier version of Norah Jones.) On her most recent effort, last year’s ghostbird, the honey-voiced 26-year-old dished up tracks with titles like “Swell Window,” “Anchor,” and “Roll Your Head in the Sun,” and pulled a fair share of her inspiration from the simple act of staying positive.
It’s no wonder, then, that young Avi found her big break through some of summer’s biggest champions. In 2007, she started anonymously posting her songs to YouTube for a friend to see. Before long, she was receiving feedback from people all over the globe.
“It was kind of a nice secret to have,” she recalled of the experience. “YouTube is such a public community and people can say whatever they want, and people were so kind. The comments really motivated me to put more stuff up. I realized that there were people out there going through the same things, and there’s nothing more rewarding than to know that you’re not alone.”
Eventually, Avi’s videos caught the eyes and ears of YouTube’s editors, who selected her as a featured artist. Not long after, the link was passed along to iconic surfer and filmmaker Emmett Malloy, who eventually helped Avi score a deal with Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records. Since then, she’s released two full-lengths and one EP for the label and toured with some of music’s feel-good elite — Mr. Johnson included.
“The themes vary, but they all revolve around this idea of falling and rising back up,” Avi says of her music. “A lot of it is about that light always comes after the biggest darkness. There’s a sense of hopefulness to my songs, a nonchalant hopefulness.”
This Saturday, Avi returns to the sunny South Coast for an extra-special summer solstice show with bassist JP Maramba at Sunstone Winery in Santa Ynez. In addition to a set’s worth of twinkling orchestrations, attendees will be treated to live performances from openers Rico DeLargo and DJ Sparx, Howlin’ Woods, and S.B. Farmers Market staples the Rainbow Girls. Upgrade to VIP status, and you’ll also get complimentary wine, hors d’oeuvres, and access to Sunstone’s exclusive La Cav Lounge. We’re calling it the ideal summertime concert, especially because Avi’s sweet, bubbly demeanor is guaranteed to lift some serious spirits.
“I try to see the silver lining in things all the time,” she confessed. “If you want magic in your life, you have to be open to it.”
The magic starts Saturday, June 23, at 4 p.m. at Sunstone Winery (125 N. Refugio Rd.). For tickets and info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit sunstonesummersolstice.eventbrite.com. Transport via School Bus is also available (call Darin at 331-2301).