Not one to be restricted to categorization or industry labels, Sonnyboy is known as an urban misfit on the musical scene. A multi- layered artist whose talents have taken him all over the world, Sonnyboy (legal: Sheldon “Shel” Riser) is a musician, singer, composer, producer, and band leader. With five independently produced albums to his name, his latest work is The Barfly Theory – thirteen tracks of “Rock N’ Soul mixed with some good old funk.” Taken in total, Sonnyboy musical genius reveals a mastery of soul, funk, rock, and hip hop. The listener might recall just a few great artists whose talents Sonnyboy respects: Sly & The Family Stone, Prince, The Isley Brothers, Jamiroquai, Erykah Badu, Maroon 5, and Cee-Lo.
Early on, it was Sonnyboy’s well known Blues musician uncle, Sonny Green, who inspired him to explore the genre. Born in Monroe, Louisiana and raised in the Baptist churches of Milwaukee, Sonnyboy learned to play multiple instruments at an early age, and did so with a traditional gospel/R&B slant. From Milwaukee, Sonnyboy moved to Minneapolis. With only his guitar and the clothes on his back, Sonnyboy journeyed into what he had been told was forbidden devil music: funk, reggae, rock, and hip hop. And he did so in the middle of the Prince- led Paisley Park music scene.
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After a few months in downtown Minneapolis, Sonnyboy earned a reputation as an exceptional musician. He quickly became accepted into the Minneapolis music community and began working with artists on the Paisley Park label, the Parliament Funkadelic family, Mary Harris of Spearhead, and countless other artists. He has come to share the stage with Prince, The Black Crows, The Skatalights, and has performed at venues as prestigious as the world famous Paisley Park Studios.
Sonnyboy was on a fast and at times dangerous track. Also known as a hip hop hippie and an urban poet, he cheated death in a near fatal car crash and found himself back on the streets where he started. From there, he transformed his life. His rededication to music, his renewed energy, and his creative explosion resulted in him writing songs, composing, producing music, and even co-producing his music videos. With a lifestyle reserved for uncommon people (he is a vegetarian, an avid reader, and normally runs 25 miles a week), Sonnyboy established his own record label, Art Form Entertainment (now known as ArtSoul Entertainment). The well-rounded artist and newly made entrepreneur soon gained a reputation of being a workaholic. He got grounded, developed a unique sound, and formed the four member band, Sonnyboy. Soon after, Rolling Stone Magazine acclaimed the group as "...one of the best unsigned bands to come out of Minneapolis since Prince and The Time."
Next: Sonnyboy moved the band to New York and has continued to soar. The band has toured across the country and throughout Europe and has been featured on national television (BETJ, VH1, TVOne). His live performances have been dubbed as “high energy FishBone meets James Brown” shows. Beyond his talent, Sonnyboy’s success can be attributed to his uncommon focus and an artistic integrity that is often lacking in today’s corporate music arena. He shares that he just doesn’t do music, but that he “thinks about the music.” He continues, “All I want to do is make good music. If I can get your head nodding and coming back for more, then I’ve done my job. It all boils down to one question: Is it good music?”