Music Spotlight: Del Val artists thriving in California

By Denny Dyroff , Entertainment Editor, The Times

Sharon Little and Tim Sonnefeld

California has always held a magical attraction for musicians, actors and just about anyone associated with the arts.

“California Dreamin’” is more than just a song by The Mamas and the Papas, it is a mantra – and the “Holy Land” is Los Angeles.

Hundreds of musicians and songwriters from the Delaware Valley have emigrated to southern California.

Two of them met in Philadelphia two decades ago. Their paths crossed many times over the last 20 years Eventually, their paths came together and merged in the “City of Angels.”

Tim Sonnefeld is a record producer, songwriter, engineer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist from Phoenixville who now lives in Hollywood, California.

Sharon Little is a singer and songwriter from North Wales who now lives in Hollywood, California.

The two have formed a working partnership and have recently moved to an apartment in Hollywood that also serves as a recording studio.

“Tim and I met in Philly when he was in the band Townhall,” said Little, during a phone interview Tuesday evening from her home in L.A. “That was about 20 years ago.”

Sonnefeld was the first of the two to embark on a western migration.

“I’ve been living in Hollywood since 2015,” said Sonnefeld, during a recent phone interview from his adopted home in Southern California.

“Unfortunately, the Philly music industry wasn’t really paying the bills.

“I saw a decline in the industry here. At the time, I was mainly working at MilkBoy Studio at Seventh and Callowhill. Business was dropping off in different ways. I also used another studio, but finances called for a new studio situation.”

Sonnefeld stayed in Philly for five more years working at MilkBoy The Studio on dozens of records including Roots-member side projects and an EP with fellow Philadelphian Sharon Little. Then came the move to L.A.

“Tim and I have worked together for nine years,” said Little. “Now, we’re inseparable as writing partners and touring partners.”

Little has experienced several setbacks in life and has always come through them as a stronger person. She is tough. She is fighter. She finds herself in battles – some self-administered – and always finds a way to win.

One of those battles was with a major record label.

In 2006, Little released her first independent album “Drawing Circles” and then was signed by CBS Records in early 2008.  Little then toured with Robert Plant, Alison Krauss and T Bone Burnett on their North American Raising Sand tour.  Little continued touring through 2008 and 2009 with Chris Isaak, Al Green, Pat Benatar and Jonny Lang and others.

Her second album – “Perfect Time for a Breakdown” — was released in May 2008 on CBS Records. The LP charted on the Billboard Heatseekers chart for several weeks.

Several of her songs were featured on television programs such as “CSI:NY,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “The Good Wife,” “NUMB3RS” and “NCIS.” The song “Follow That Sound” from “Perfect Time for a Breakdown” was also chosen as the theme for the A&E series “The Cleaner” and “Ooh Wee” placed in “The Ghost Whisperer” “Implosion” episode in March 2010.

“I didn’t feel wanted at CBS,” said Little. “CBS told me I couldn’t have blonde hair because Christina Aguilera and Lady Gaga had blonde hair and they wanted something different.

“My album ‘Perfect Time’ did really well. I toured with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. My album sales hit 25,000 but CBS said that wasn’t enough.”

Little was not a compliant young artist that a major label could push around.

According to Little at the time, “It often seems that female artists have to look and act in a certain way in order to be successful – like they’re paper dolls and society or ‘the business’ just slaps these images on them.

“We have these young girls acting and dressing in a very overly-sexual way; like they’re grown women – is that their idea, or have they been told to look and act that way in order to sell themselves?

“Either way, it’s just sad. I thought we women were supposed to have made great strides in the past several decades. Spending ten minutes on a few popular websites makes me feel like we’ve only gone backward.”

Little went ahead and recorded her second album for CBS – an album fittingly titled “Paper Doll.”

Produced by Grammy winner Don Was – noted for his work on chart-topping albums by the Rolling Stones and Bonnie Raitt, among many others –“Paper Doll” was the artist’s response to a pop culture mindset that seems to require female entertainers to adopt a particular look or behave outrageously in order to gain attention.

“I made the entire album with Don Was,” said Little. “He truly takes a vision and materializes it. It was the first time I ever worked with somebody who said, ‘I want to take what you want and make it happen.’ Don was my professional voice. He’s an amazing guy, and he’s such a great musician.

“We finished the artwork and everything. Then, CBS kept pushing back the release date. They released two singles from the album and then it came to a halt. Eventually, they didn’t even return my phone calls.”

“Paper Doll” was never released and Little never was able to get her songs back. She was knocked down again – but not out.

In 2016, Little released a five-song EP.

“Tim and I did an EP called ‘Hole in My Heart’ – without a label,” said Little. “Tim and I are artists. I’m 100 per cent artist and he’s 100 per cent producer. We have a new album – ‘Another Galaxy’ – that we just recorded here in L.A. at Redstar.

Sonnefeld operates Redstar Recording with David Kalish. Redstar is a highly acclaimed recording studio in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles.

At Redstar, he has worked with artists such as Rancid, Ben Harper, Rocco Deluca, Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis, Pomplamoose, and Elvis Costello. Sonnefeld also worked on some tracks on Elvis Costello and the Imposters’ 2019 GRAMMY™ winning album “Look Now.”

“Redstar is a studio set up in an old craftsmen-style house,” said Sonnefeld. “The owner David Kalish lives on the third floor. He’s originally a Philly guy who worked with Gamble and Huff and with Phil Nicolo. He was also a session musician for Rickie Lee Jones.

“A bunch of us Philly friends knew him. I really got to know him when my good friend Sharon Little toured with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss and he was a guitarist in the band.”

In an interview back in June, Sonnefeld said, “Sharon is from Philly — from North Wales. We just finished an album that’s going to come out soon. It’s very eclectic – a lot of 80s rock influence…on the lighter side. There’s guitar on every track – some live drums, some programmed.

“It’s very hands-on producing. Sharon and I played almost every instrument on it and did a lot of co-writing. We’ve been making music together for the last 15 years.

“The record is just unbelievable. It’s great. We were planning on a late March or early April release but it’s hard to put it out during a pandemic.”

Little’s new record will be released on Winding Way Records – a label based in nearby Newtown Square.

Back in December, Winding Way Records president John Fisher announced, “Sharon Little, a CBS Records alumna joins Winding Way Records today to complete her next album “A Thousand Light Years Away” due out in 2020.  Sharon is working with Grammy nominated and award-winning producer Tim Sonnefeld.”

The album’s title has since been changed to “Another Galaxy.”

“Winding Way Records is extremely supportive,” said Little. “They bought us a camera to make videos. John Fisher is fantastic. Winding Way is so different from CBS Records.

“The new album is a record about the universe. I wrote one song on my own – ‘Pluto’ – and Tim and I co-wrote the rest. We’re going to release it as a double EP with ‘Hole in My Heart’ – 12 songs altogether.

“I’m really happy with the new album. We wanted to release it back in the spring but held back because of the pandemic. It’s extremely frustrating. But Tim and I keep going. We’re working in music and trying to survive.”

The smart bet says that Little will survive. She’s already had a lot of practice in the art of survival and she’s still standing – and still rocking.

Video link for Tim Sonnfeld and Sharon Little —

Video link for Tim Sonnefeld and Sharon Little (recorded on the Queen Mary) —

Live shows are few and far between because of COVID-19 but some are happening around the Delaware Valley.

J.D. Malone

On August 26, J.D. Malone will be performing an outdoor concert at Epicurean Garage (570 Simpson Drive, Chester Springs,

The open-air show will start at 5 p.m. and run until 8 p.m. Admission is free.

People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, is working in partnership with East Whiteland Township to offer a Drive-In Concert Series, following current PA regulations for outdoor events. These drive-in concerts, held in the theater’s back parking lot, are designed for small groups within the same “social bubble” to safely enjoy outdoor entertainment together. Tickets are limited and social distancing is enforced.

The concerts are being staged in conjunction with Point Entertainment which is known for its shows at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville and the Ardmore Music Hall as well as at other key venues around the Delaware Valley.

Greg Sover

The People’s Light Drive-In Concert Series will have its next show this weekend featuring Greg Sover on August 21.

Sover is one of the area’s most promising young musicians in a variety of genres including rock, blues and R&B. The guitar ace grew up in Philly and attended William Penn High. He has performed at many venues around Chester County – including a CD Release Party at Steel City in Phoenixville.Not surprisingly, he has built a legion of fans in the area.

Sover is joined onstage by a top-notch band of Philly musicians — bassist Garry Lee, guitarist Allen James and drummer Tom Walling. The band’s two albums — “Songs of a Renegade” and “Jubilee” – have received solid reviews and have successfully charted on Roots Top 50 Blues Rock stations. The group is currently in the studio tracking its next album, “Parade,” which is slated to be released this fall.

Great Time

The opening act for Friday’s concert is Great Time, an electronic pop trio from Philadelphia.

Here are the ground rules issued by People’s Light: 

These drive-in concerts are designed for small groups within the same “social bubble” to safely enjoy outdoor entertainment together. Tickets are limited and social distancing is enforced.  Each vehicle is limited to 5 people or less and assigned a parking spot and adjacent “Home Space” for setting up lawn chairs. We require concert attendees to remain in their designated area as much as possible and avoid mingling with other parties.

Face masks are required on our campus and may only be removed inside a vehicle or Home Space. People’s Light staff will be masked at all times and maintain a 6-foot distance from each other and our guests. We have protocols in place for disinfecting spaces, surfaces, and equipment used by musicians and staff.

We are working in partnership with East Whiteland Township and following current PA regulations for outdoor events. As we continue to monitor confirmed COVID-19 cases in the area, we are constantly evaluating the safety of our on-campus programming and will cancel events if necessary.

This socially distanced drive-in concert will take place in the rear parking lot of the People’s Light campus at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA. The concert will last 75 to 90 minutes in total, including both sets.

Tickets are $75 per car and limited to 5 passengers per car (not including children under 12). There are no physical tickets for these events. Attendees will receive a confirmation email receipt immediately following purchase, as well as a reminder email with more details a few days before a concert.

Please plan to arrive between 5:30 and 6 p.m. so we can get everyone parked in time for the 6:30 p.m. concert.

A masked attendant will greet you at a 6-foot distance when you arrive. Please be prepared to wear a mask and provide your name so we can check your ticket status. Your car will be assigned a number, which will be adhered to your back windshield by the attendant. This is to assist in food delivery for those who pre-ordered from our on-site restaurant and is also a helpful safety measure.

Parking attendants will guide you to a parking space. Cars will be parked based on the size of the vehicle. Lower cars in front, bigger vehicles in the back. You will not be allowed to move your vehicle once you’ve parked. Vehicles that don’t fit in a parking space (such as campers or oversized trucks) will not be allowed entry. Your view of the stage will be dependent on your location and the number of large vehicles in the lot, so we encourage you to bring your smallest vehicle!

Every vehicle will be assigned a “Home Space”, an adjacent parking spot where you can set up lawn chairs. This space will be on the DRIVER’S SIDE of your vehicle, assuming you parked facing the stage. This is not a space intended for mingling with those outside your party. Per current PA regulations, you need to either be in your vehicle or immediately adjacent to it. No walking around or visiting neighbors.

You can pre-order food and drinks from The Farmhouse at People’s Light (and yes, this includes alcoholic beverages!) Specific instructions will be emailed to concert ticket holders, along with a 10% discount code. Outside alcohol is prohibited.

Face masks are required on our campus and may only be removed in your car or Home Space. We ask that all concert attendees wear a mask and maintain a 6-foot distance when interacting with anyone outside your party. People’s Light staff will be masked at all times, and Farmhouse staff will be masked and gloved.

There will be one standard portable toilet, one ADA-compliant portable toilet, and one wash station located in the parking lot. We require face masks (and suggest gloves!) when walking to and using the facilities.

Please turn off your car when you park. We do not encourage people to sit in a car that is idling for more than ten minutes. (But don’t forget to turn your lights back on at the end of the night!)

Video link for Greg Sover Band —

The most ambitious drive-in concert series will take place in the parking lot of the Philadelphia Phillies stadium (Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, Philadelphia).

Live Nation Philadelphia, in partnership with the Philadelphia Phillies, is presenting a four-week local drive-in concert series in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park, home of the Phillies. The “Live-In / Drive-In Concert Series” got underway on August 16 with Bert Kreischer.

Live Nation Philadelphia is creating a unique live music experience by allowing fans to enjoy concerts from the comfort of their car in a drive-in setting with the audio simulcast on an FM frequency. All artists will be performing full live sets on stages set up in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park. The events will also feature large-scale video LED screens so fans can enjoy a true live concert experience.

Fans can expect contactless ticket scanning through their vehicle window and then will be shown to their designated parking space where they will enjoy the show from inside their own vehicle. Guests can leave their cars, wearing a mask, to use one of the portable bathroom locations which will be continuously sanitized throughout each event.

There will be dedicated buffer space around each vehicle to ensure social distancing.

Tickets will be sold in the form of a group car pass. Each car will purchase just one ticket, good for a maximum of four (4) people per car. Car pass tickets are on sale at

The schedule is: August 21- Pigeons Playing Ping Pong; August 23 – The Front Bottoms; August 25 – Mt. Joy; August 26 – Subtronics; September 3 – Smith & Meyers; September 4 – Lotus; September 5 and 6 – Dark Star Orchestra; and September 7 – Michael Blackson & Friends with special guest DJ Jazzy Jeff.

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