“I’m trying to convey the raw, honest truth dressed up in a psychedelic circus suit,” Joe Sumner tells American Songwriter.
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At 44 years old, Sumner has lived a fascinating life. The son of Sting—yes, that Sting—he was brought up around the music industry (The Police weren’t even formed until a year after his birth). When he was a teenager, he formed the rock band Fiction Plane, who went on to release four studio albums and open for The Police’s 2007 reunion tour. While it would’ve been easy for Sumner to lose touch with reality—and, for a bit of time, perhaps he did—his thirst for the raw, honest truth never diminished, and now, in 2021, he’s ready to embrace authenticity on a whole new level.
On May 27, he debuted “You You You,” the second single from his forthcoming debut solo album, Sunshine In The Night, which is due sometime around early 2022.
“Despite my best efforts, I caused people in my life pain that I couldn’t undo,” Sumner reflected. “I carried the pain myself for a good long while, which did nothing for anyone. I would have done anything to fix it. I was ready to jump into a volcano if I thought it would’ve helped. But, you know what? It wouldn’t have. I realized that, actually, I’m not that important in the grand scheme of things and people have power over their own lives. So, ‘You You You’ is about owning your shit, apologizing, trying to make amends and then realizing that it’s not enough for you to be sorry. People you have hurt ultimately need to heal themselves.”
That level of insight is pretty standard for Sumner, whose songs are usually illuminated by candid lyricism and his unique point-of-view. The arrangement on ‘You You You’ even walks the line between singer-songwriter-core and bustling indie—its groove keeps your toe-tapping, but the soul in Sumner’s vocal fills and the portraits he paints in the lyrics keep you heart stirred. Plus, it’s just plain fun to hear echoes of his father in his voice—he’s got all the playfulness and precision of his dad, but embraces a more modern delivery, making for an exciting synthesis.
Also like his father, Sumner’s love for music goes deep—far deeper than any particular project, band or release. In fact, for Sumner, his passion goes all the way back to his childhood when he discovered just how meaningful writing songs could be.
“I started a band because I wanted to be Kurt Cobain, but it somehow got into my head that doing cover songs was ‘selling out,’” he said. “So, I had to write a bunch of my own before the show we had already booked, before we’d even rehearsed! After that, I realized I just had to write songs if I was going to be able to stand existing in this universe.”
Call it serendipity—while it might not be best practices to book a show before writing any songs or rehearsing, in Sumner’s case, it not only worked out, but brought some incredible tunes into the world.
Joe Sumner’s new single “You You You” is out now and available everywhere. Listen to it below: