Avery*Sunshine set for Essence Festival debut

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By CHEVEL JOHNSON, Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Avery(asterisk)Sunshine may be a new voice to some, but the 38-year-old Atlanta artist hopes more fans will be saying her name after her debut performance at the Essence Festival.

Her self-titled first project was released in 2010. Three years later, its singles "Ugly Side of Me," ''All in My Head" and "Blessin Me" have gained a strong following and heavy radio play.

"We're completely independent," said Avery(asterisk)Sunshine, whose real name is Denise White. "It's been one fan, one show, one tweet at a time. And now it's snowballing.

"This is a big deal for us to play Essence," she said. "Most of the country still has no idea who we are. There are so many who haven't heard the material and for me, this kind of invitation to perform means someone is paying attention to what I'm doing. I'm honored to have this opportunity."

She said she's bringing her whole family, including her 75-year-old mother, 13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son, to New Orleans to see the performance scheduled for 7 p.m. CDT Saturday inside one of the festival's Superlounges — music venues set up in the Superdome's huge corridors.

On the festival's main stage Saturday are Solange, Keyshia Cole, Trey Songz, Charlie Wilson and New Edition.

Avery(asterisk)Sunshine said she's never attended Essence during its 19 years.

"I'm nervous and excited at the same time," she said. "But honestly, I'm even more nervous about what I'm going to wear."

The accomplished pianist plays the instrument at all of her shows and she said finding an outfit that's eye-catching and comfortable is often an issue.

"I've got to find a way to get up from that keyboard and move around the stage more," she said, laughing. "It'll give fans another visual."

Avery(asterisk)Sunshine has played keyboard with Tyler Perry's productions and has worked on a couple of soundtracks, including "The Fighting Temptations."

"I play OK," she said, modestly. "I'm not Herbie Hancock," she added, laughing.

White said she and her writing partner, Dana Johnson, who's also a guitarist in the band, are "very close" to finishing their second project. It includes a duet with Musiq Soulchild and a song the pair wrote that Musiq produced.

"I'm super excited," she said, though she didn't have an actual release date. "We may do an extended play release. We just haven't decided at this point."

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