SONiA disappear fear
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SONiA disappear fear

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1987 | INDIE | AFM

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 1987
Solo Folk Rock




"SONiA's music finds global inspiration"

For more than 25 years, singer-songwriter Sonia Rutstein — better known by the stylized moniker SONiA — has been exploring pretty much any genre that captures her attention, either as a solo artist or with her band, Disappear Fear. Folk, rock, pop, blues, world music, reggae — nothing is really off-limits.
The 11 new tracks on the latest Disappear Fear album, “Broken Film” (released last year), showcase her eclectic abilities and reflect Rutstein’s strong social conscience. Also inspiring her songwriting are her travels around the world, from America, Europe and Australia to the Middle East. (She and her band will stop at 6 On The Square in Oxford on Saturday night to help celebrate the listening room’s seventh anniversary.)
Asked last week if there’s such a thing as having too many tools in the toolbox from which to choose, Rutstein said it’s a good problem to have — that the different moods that stories present require different methods of telling them.
“I follow where the song wants to go,” she said in an interview. “Leonard Cohen said that anybody can write a song, but not everybody has the patience to write a great song — and it really does take a lot of patience.”
The seeds for her wide-ranging tastes were sewn early on: When she was very young, her parents would need to tend to her even-younger sister, and the only thing that caught Sonia’s attention was sitting her down in front of the family’s stereo and playing records.
Rutstein recalls hearing Louis Armstrong’s version of “Hello Dolly” and being captivated by it— and she had the chance to see Satchmo in the flesh at her native Baltimore’s Flower Mart festival, held near the city’s Washington Monument.
“He was performing right there on the stage — not too high. Looking up as a 5-year-old, it was blocking the sun,” she said. “But there it was, the sound I had heard on the radio, and there was a human being actually making that music live. I was just wowed out! Something about his voice and his demeanor — I love him.”

Another early influence was folk legend Odetta, who Rutstein saw perform with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Rutstein rose to prominence in folk circles in the late 1980s and early 1990s as half of Disappear Fear with her sister, Cindy Frank (CiNDY) — but after Frank dropped out of the music scene to raise a family, Rutstein continued as a solo act for almost 10 years. In 2005, after getting Frank’s blessing, she reformed Disappear Fear, with several different lineups evolving over the past decade.
The current core band includes Rutstein (guitar, piano and lead vocals), Don Conoscenti (guitar), Colleen Clark (drums and percussion) and Isaac Tabor (bass), but sometimes others are recruited for a “Disappear Fear orchestra.”
Conoscenti is himself a singer-songwriter, record producer and multi-instrumentalist who has performed with Kristian Bush of Sugarland, Ellis Paul, John Mayer, Nils Lofgren and The Indigo Girls. He helped to shape the recording of “Broken Film,” and Rutstein lured him back on the road after he had semi-retired from touring.
“He said, ‘If you’re going to be touring this CD, I’d love to be a part of it.’ I thought, ‘Wow, that’s awesome!’” she said. “So a lot of people who hadn’t got to see him play live in a long time have been able to come out and do that.”
Although Rutstein could be considered a prolific songwriter, she admits that she has no particular discipline or routine that says she must write a certain number of songs per week or per month.
“I’ll write maybe 20, 30, 40 songs every couple of years and take what I think will be the 10 to 12 strongest songs, then build a CD around that,” she said. “There are usually one or two or three driving songs that make me say, ‘You need to kick it in and wrote some more so you can put out a full CD!’”
Good ideas for her songs can come from any number of sources. The 2007 album “Tango” offered original songs in four languages — English, Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish based on her experiences as a globetrotting musician.
“When English is not the first language, it makes words that are precious even more precious,” Rutstein said. “I really like the movement of languages into other languages because you get a sense of how that culture experiences it.”
Shifting gears, 2010’s release “Blood, Bones & Baltimore” had a blues vibe, and she reunited with her sister in 2011 for “Get Your Phil,” a tribute to late folk singer Phil Ochs.
A Rolling Stone article about the Wall Street wizards behind the recession inspired one tune on “Broken Film,” called “The Banker.”
“I was so angry that I had to let off some steam,” she said. “We drive down through our lives and we see billboards for huge corporations — you probably drink Coca-Cola, but have you ever met the person who makes it or been to a Coca-Cola factory? We’re so removed from the things that affect us, including banks , our gasoline, our clothes, practically everything. We’re so far away from everything that it minimizes the human experience.
“I was so frustrated — I just couldn’t believe the degree of greed that created this world financial crisis because of a few really selfish people. Not that they intended the whole world to crash around them, but it didn’t seem to matter if they didn’t.”
After 6 On The Square on Saturday, Rutstein heads back to Europe in July, then will tour the United States again through November. She’ll take December off, escape the Baltimore winter to play around Australia in January, and expects to start thinking about a new CD in February.
Many things have changed since the early days of her music career — for one, beds are guaranteed at every stop and are better than sleeping on floors — and she’s grateful for the thousands of friends she’s made along the way.
“I’m very lucky,” she said. “I’m in a very positive place and I get a lot of love from a lot of different people in different places who think it’s important enough to keep my music happening, so I’m able to keep doing it.” - Press Connects

"Lesbian-led band Disappear Fear brings new album to Decatur"

When sisters Sonia Rutstein and Cindy Frank formed the band disappear fear back in the mid-1980s, Ronald Reagan

was president, “trickle down economics” was the buzzword, gay couples were not allowed to marry anywhere in

the United States, and there were no out pop music stars.

“On one side there was ‘Women’s Music’ (which we felt was sweet but boring) and there was rock and dance,”

recalls SONiA, a Jewish lesbian who prefers to go by just her first name, complete with creative capitalization.

“Today countless singer songwriters and fans approach me and say, thank you — your strength and courage gave

me the courage to be true to myself and my life,” she says, while adding, “I am glad to be the medium for such

light and healing. It is not me — it just comes through me.”

Quirky and smart, a poet with a guitar, SONiA is a master of crafting songs

that make you want to simultaneously dance, sing and change the world.

“Many people term my songs ‘protest’ songs, where actually what I write

about is love and moments of inspiration and stories,” she says.

Founded in 1987, disappear fear featured SONiA and Cindy singing powerful, socially conscious songs backed by

SONiA’s guitar and harmonica. Cindy left the band in 1996 to focus on her family and kids, though she occasionally

contributed backing vocals on some recordings. Now, the sisters are back together and on tour for disappear fear’s

new tribute album to folk legend Phil Ochs — a tour that brings them to Decatur’s Eddie’s Attic on Nov. 20.

Asked what it is like to tour with Cindy again after so many years, SONiA answers like a typical sister.

“Cindy stays up late watching TV and doesn’t turn the TV off —that drives me crazy. And she reads magazines all

the time when she is not texting her friends. So, we are really different,” she says.

“And yet, still after raising two boys she loves my songs and singing with me, so it works out. Politically we agree

and that is a strong connection. We have not really done the tour yet, so there may be a meltdown,” SONiA says.

“We were in our late 20s when we started disappear fear.”

More than two decades since the band formed, their songs continue to resonate, from the ongoing struggle for

LGBT equality to the current Occupy Wall Street movement.

SONiA married her partner, former Atlantan Terry Irons, in California before Proposition 8 repealed marriage

equality there, and praises the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in New York as “as big and great as

walking on the moon.”

“One vote for New York equals one gigantic message to the country. ... The more we as gays are just honest about

ourselves, sharing ourselves and not segregating ourselves, the more we will lose the archaic stereotypes and with

it the shrouds of misconception fade and fall and then the fear is disappeared,” SONiA says.

She also expresses solidarity with the “Occupy” movements that are highlighting the disproportionate wealth and

resources of the country’s richest one percent.

“We are calling this mini disappear fear tour the ‘we are the 99 percent tour,’” SONiA says. “I am thrilled to see

folks around this country and abroad speaking out for fairness ... we really ARE the world.”

Tribute to a folk legend

The timing of disappear fear’s Phil Ochs cover album, titled “Get Your Phil,” may be particularly apt. Ochs died in


“Most of the songs on the ‘Get Your Phil’ CD were written by Phil Ochs between 1963 and 1967, at that time he

was speaking to the effect of the Vietnam War and war in general as the choice for our government’s survival,”

she says. “While most of what Phil Ochs wrote is perfectly and sadly still true, there have happily been some great


These days, SONiA describes herself as “against war” but “pro soldier,” citing the Ochs song “Is There Anybody

Here,” which she covers on the new album and on the 1994 self-titled album, “disappear fear.”

“To give your life to what you believe in, there is nothing I respect more than that. However, it is good to look

inside and see what drives us too,” she says. “We all reach out to survive ... some by gun, some by guitar ... and

that defines us and that is the road we walk.”

SONiA says she has always been drawn to Ochs’ music, which inspired her own career.

“His songs make you think and touch your heart, make you realize you have a heart and that makes this planet a

better place to be,” she says. “My religion says I am supposed to leave where I have been better than how I found

it so, that’s what and why we are doing the 99% Tour.”

‘Moments of magic’ in Atlanta

As for what Atlanta fans can expect from the rare SONiA and Cindy show, SONiA promises “a beautiful night” and

quotes from the Ochs song “Changes,” included on the new album: “Moments of magic will glow in the dark all

fears of the forest are gone.”

The show will include songs from “Get Your Phil,” as well as other disappear fear songs including “Who I Am,”

which won an Out Media award for Best Out Single. SONiA also promises beloved older songs like “Box of Tissues,”

“Washington Work Song,” “Me, Too,” “Postcard from Texas,” “Who’s So Scared,” and “Sink the Censorship.”

SONiA’s ties to Atlanta go beyond simply performing here through the years. Irons, who is also her manager, lived

in Atlanta and served as entertainment coordinator for Atlanta Pride back in the 1990s. The two have now been

together for almost 15 years.

She fondly recalls previous Atlanta shows — “My gigs in Atlanta at Eddie’s, at the Variety Playhouse, at

Pride...there have been so many really awesome moments!” — and also other places she loves to visit.

“I used to also like Stone Mountain for nice walks and shopping around Little 5 Points— got some cool stuff there, a

sequin cardigan and a wild belt,” she says. “Makes me smile.” - Georgia Voice

"SONiA disappear fear – Broken Film SONiA’s music is a social conscience that cannot be ignored and should be applauded."

SONiA, aka disappear fear is an enigmatic singer/songwriter making music to

challenge hypocrisies and a champion for the message of acceptance and peace.

Her latest offering is the album Broken Film, which blends a cool sense of folk

with a strong underlying country feel. This time backed with a full band the album

presents the listener with 11 classy tracks.

“Start” is where it begins and it has an undeniable folk flavour. As quickly

as we ease into the folk journey, “American Artist” thrusts us into the country.

With a great melody line infused with brilliant harmonica playing, SONiA

interweaves an intriguing story, which draws you in. “Love Out Loud” continues

the love affair with the harmonica and it’s just as well - the country sounds on this

album are the standout moments.

An intricate and clever integration of Hebrew and English, “L Koll L

Vavcha (With All My Heart)” is a heartfelt and upbeat tune. What comes next

is undeniably Nashville in its up-tempo sounds, whilst “Be Like You” has you

wanting to be more like SONiA.

“The Banker” was the first pre-album single release and addresses the story

of an all too familiar world. The story of a man burdened by his and the actions of

a corporate world, he and his family are inextricably linked forever.

At times it’s hard to pin this album to a genre. One could almost be

forgiven for asking whether there is a cohesive link through the album and tracks;

perhaps this listener missed the point entirely – which is fine. What cannot

be mistaken is that these tracks on their own are great listening and thought

provoking. Broken Film, like all of the work of SONiA is unmistakably and

unapologetically political. It’s a social conscience that cannot be ignored and

should be applauded. - Curve Magazine

"Extended interview: Singer-songwriter SONiA Disappear Fear ready for next week's WoodyFest"

Singer-songwriter SONiA Disappear Fear ready for WoodyFest

The 17th Annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival is set for Wednesday through

July 13 at various venues around Okemah, the late, great folk icon’s


Singer-songwriter SONiA Disappear Fear feels she’s walking in the footsteps of Woody

Guthrie — and she’s hardly alone.

“Anyone who’s pursuing an independent path in music after Woody, like from the

Beatles to any band that’s performing its own thing – or singer-songwriter – is walking

in his footsteps because he really lived it,” she said in a phone interview this week from

her hometown of Baltimore. where she was readying to shoot a music video for her song

“Farmland and the Sky.”

“So, we’re all walking in his footsteps.”

The award-winning songstress also known as Sonia Rutstein, 55, is preparing to make

her third pilgrimage to perform at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, the

hometown of the late, great folk icon. WoodyFest begins Wednesday with a Pete Seeger

Sing-A-Long benefit show and continues through July 13 with concerts, an open mike,

and special events like a poetry reading and more historical presentations and children’s


SONiA, who is touring in support of her new album “Broken Film,” will play WoodyFest

Thursday at the Pastures of Plenty outdoor stage.

Q: What keeps you coming back to play the festival?

A: Connections. The people that put it together really have the right idea, and I think it

helps us remember the real purpose of Woody’s music and to fully carry that torch on to

what we’re doing. in our lives – both in music and in our lives.

Q: Do you have a favorite Woody Guthrie song and what does that song

mean to you?

A: Of course, I like ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ the popular one, and I love it that people

put in their own original lyrics with it, too, to address issues of the day and that it’s open

that way. I like also some of like what Billy Bragg and what Ellis Paul have done with

some of his (Guthrie) poetry that he didn’t actually put music to but they did later. I

think they’re really strong.

I recorded a song of his “Worried Man Blues,” it’s a very bluesy song, it’s standard blues

style, and that’s on my “Blood, Bones & Baltimore” CD. ... “It’s kind of a good song to get

you through a bad day (laughs). Because singing something sad about someone is like

watching a soap opera, I suppose. You know, it just makes you feel a little better.”

Q: I like talking to musicians about Woody Guthrie because he wrote so

many songs, you can’t possibly know every Woody Guthrie song. So, it

seems like I’m always learning new ones. I don’t remember that one, so I’ll

be looking it up. Do you have that experience too?

A: Of obscure Woody songs? Yes, they always pump me up. It’s like, “Oh, wait, what’s

that one?” It definitely seems like a never-ending hill, but it will be for a long time

because he had so many pieces of poetry. When he was like in a creative crush, he just

went for it ... so there’s still many, many songs to be written with his words that haven’t

been written yet. I would love to do it. I’d love to get some lyrics and work with ‘em. It’d

be fun.

Q: This is your 17th album. Have you always done music?

A: I’ve been writing songs since I was about 13. ... I went on study film, how to

make films, in college, with a minor in musicology. And that was good. Eventually,

I worked for the rape crisis center in Baltimore, and that’s where I came up with the

name ‘Disappear Fear.’ Because I thought if you could disappear fear between people

you could get your life back, the choices in your life. And also when you disappear fear

between people, what you have is love. For me, I’ve really always done this.

Q: Is there something about this one that maybe builds on what you’ve

learned in the past or is specific to this time in your life?

A: The songs really reflect what has happened to me in the past couple of years, certainly

the death of my father and just changes around me with friends and family, big changes.


That was the essence of ‘Broken Film’ was sort of like looking back. I saw this reel that

my dad done, like these 8-millimeter films from like birthday parties when we were

kids, me and my brother and my sister. And there was his handwriting in pencil, it said

“broken film.” And I was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s it. That’s exactly it.” ... It’s kind of like

walking down and finding like a four-leaf clover, seeing it and picking it up.”


17th Annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival

When: Wednesday through July 13.

Where: Various venues in Okemah.

What: Musical performances, children’s activities, open mike, poetry reading and

fundraisers for the state chapter of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.

Benefit show: General admission tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door for

the Pete Seeger Sing-A-Long at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Crystal Theater, 401 W

Broadway Street. For tickets, go to

Festival admission: Free.

Parking: Free for daytime events; $20 per car (including campers) evenings at the

Pastures of Plenty Stage.

Information: - NewsOK BAM's Blog


She performed in a bomb shelter in Israel this summer during the Israel/Lebanon War. She's

donating a guitar to a Palestinian womens' group called Flowers Against the Occupation,

aiming to replace guns with guitars. And she plans to send a copy of her upcoming CD to

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to "open a positive dialogue with him." It seems like

generous-spirited Jewish lesbian singer-songwriter-guitarist Sonia Rutstein has the potential to

have a greater impact for good on the Middle East than the entire Bush administration.

Many of her fans made the acquaintance of the dynamic, dreadlocked Rutstein when she

performed with her sister, Cindy Frank, in a folk-rock duo called Disappear Fear. Formed in the

late '80s, the group attained its highest profile when it signed with Philo/Rounder Records in the

mid-'90s, shortly before Frank decided to retire and start a family. Rutstein continued on her

own, releasing albums as SONiA and travelling all over the world solo, with Frank contributing to

recordings and making occasional on-stage appearances as her own life allowed. But a couple

of years ago, Rutstein felt she was ready to revive the Disappear Fear banner.

"About three years ago I said I really wanted to do harmonies and explore a bigger arrangement

of my music," she says. "I moved through doing the singer-songwriter thing with just my guitar

and guest musicians so I wanted to expand that. I asked Cindy if she wanted to do it again and

she said, 'I really can't, but go ahead.' So I did it, with her blessing and realizing that this is the

dream and life I'm living and she's doing her own thing."

Since Rutstein has written all of Disappear Fear's songs, it wasn't a big leap. She hooked up

with percussionist/vocalist Laura Cerulli through a friend about a year and a half ago, and the

two now form the backbone of the group.

"She's really the first vocalist I've worked with who can do the harmonies that Cindy did," says

Rutstein. "She's got tremendous range, and she plays really cool percussion. My music is

challenging for musicians because usually musicians excel in one area, and I move through a

lot of different styles as a songwriter, from blues to reggae to Latin to country to rock. It requires

versatile musicians."

Rutstein says that versatility will show up on the new album she's currently mixing for an early

2007 release. She promises that she and Cerulli will play some of the new tunes when they

hit Cleveland. "The working title is La Tormenta Santa," she reveals. "It means 'holy storm.'

There's seven songs in Spanish, two in Hebrew, two in Arabic and English. It's what would

be classified as world music. When the CD launches, the front page of my Web site will be in

Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic and English."

"Language is the way we frame our world," she explains. "I guess in some ways I got bored with

American rock music. I wanted to kind of figure out the ways people think differently. I wanted

to get more of an insider view of what it would be like to be not American and look at America.

I wanted to feel the connection of our souls. Because we think through our language, in order

to stand in someone else's shoes I kind of had to go there to do that. Also on my list is to send

this CD to the president of Iran because he's very anti-Jewish and I really don't understand and

I really need to talk to him. One of the lines in my CD that's in English and Arabic is 'I think your

God likes me and my God likes you, too.'"

Rutstein made her third performing trip to Israel this past summer at the height of the conflict

there. "One of the songs on my new CD, the first time I performed it was in a bomb shelter. I

really had to confront the depths of what I felt 'disappear fear' was about. That's not something I

usually have to do. The name 'disappear fear' means when you 'disappear fear' between people

what you have is love. I couldn't not go because I had to be true to my name. I thought if I

make it through with 200 bombs falling a day I'm right with myself; and if I don't make it through, I'm right with myself. It

was scary but it was an experience I'll remember always." - Cleveland Free Times


disappear fear

  • Echo My Call (1988)
  • Deep Soul Diver (1990)
  • Disappear Fear (1994)
  • Live at the Bottom Line (1994)
  • Seed in the Sahara (1996)
  • Get Your Phil (2011)
  • Broken Film (2013)


  • Almost Chocolate (1998)
  • Me, Too (1999)
  • Live at the Down Home (2001)
  • No Bomb Is Smart (2004)

SONiA & disappear fear

  • DF '05 Live (2005)
  • Tango (2007)
  • Splash (2009)
  • Blood, Bones, Baltimore (2010)



SONiA disappear fear

From the Opera House in Sydney to the bomb shelters in Israel to the Woody Guthrie Festival multiple first round Grammy singer songwriter SONiA disappear fear continues to excite and ignite audiences in the USA and around the world. Performing with her SONiA Santa Cruz guitar, piano, harmonica or a full band she is frequently described as the a "Female Dylan".  Though that comparison is flattering there is more to this gal from Baltimore who sings and writes in Hebrew, Spanish, English and Arabic. What makes SONiA SONiA is her powerful lyrics delivered in her inimitable style filled with passion and hope. She has recently shared the stage with some of her heroes including Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger,and Chris Thiele.  SONiA's proudest moments were singing with Peter, Paul and Mary at the Lincoln Memorial in 2002 and in 2012 receiving the Coin of Honor from the United States Army for her humanitarian songs while on tour in Mackenbach, Germany.

SONiA disappear fear has gained a devoted fan base in more than 20 countries performing her songs that range in the styles of Rock, Folk, Country, Latin, Blues and Reggae. Selling over half a million units - the honesty of her songs touches the hearts and minds of people from a wide spectrum of social and ethnic backgrounds based on the premise that "when you disappear fear between people what you have is love".

Band Members