Sonny Fodera is best known for delivering vocal-driven house music designed for pure dance floor euphoria. Today, Oct. 22, the Australian-born producer showcases his signature sound on Wide Awake.
The 14-track LP delivers anthemic records that range from groovy sounds to uplifting vocals, emotive lyrics, shimmery synths, house heaters, hip hop and bouncy bass lines. The album also features a star-studded lineup of collaborations—such as Diplo, MK and Vintage Culture—as well as notable vocalists, including Clementine Douglas, Matt Wilson, Ella Eyre and Sinead Harnett.
Here, Fodera shares with Forbes the inspiration behind Wide Awake, the biggest influence on the music he makes today, advice he would give his younger self and more.
Lisa Kocay: What was the inspiration behind Wide Awake?
Sonny Fodera: “I wanted to create something uplifting, empowering and relatable—something that touches on the situations we all find ourselves in from time to time through the vocals, as well as putting an empowering spin on it all through my sound. It was a really fun, well thought out project, and I think that is translated in the album. When I make my music, I want people to feel good, understood. I can really feel that when people sing the lyrics back to me and I thought about that a lot when making Wide Awake. To sing something back you really have to feel it. When I play my music live I want it to contribute towards people having some of the best days of their lives—me included.”
Kocay: Can you share any stories on how some of the tracks were created?
Fodera: “‘Last Thought’ with Vintage Culture was made on a private jet after a festival we both played in São Paulo in Brazil on the way to a show at Green Valley. He had this amazing topline from MKLA and we just started vibing with it. [The] first time we played it was back-to-back with KUNGS in central São Paulo a few weeks later. It went off.
“The track ‘You’ with Sam Thompkins was super random—I had a date in my calendar for a session with him, so I hit him up on Instagram to confirm, and he had no idea about it and said, ‘let’s do it’ anyway. We wrote ‘You’ the next day.
“‘Turn Back Time’ was done in Los Angeles when I was on tour in the U.S. I hit up Diplo and said we should make a track. We linked up in his studio that week and made ‘Turn Back Time.’”
Kocay: How did you pick the name of the album? What does Wide Awake mean to you?
Fodera: “The album has been in the making for a few years, however, the name Wide Awake came to me during lock down. I couldn’t deejay during this time and everything was different. For the first time in a long time, I was fully at home. No traveling, no working away. Because of this, I wanted to make the most of it all. I was really inspired to bury myself in the studio and play around with new sounds, experiment and so much more. I’d often lay literally wide awake at night time coming up with ideas, thinking about the things I was working on. And that’s pretty much where the name and concept was born. Not only that, [but] Wide Awake also touches on me literally being wide awake in more of a conscious sense, where I had a lot of cool realizations within my music and everyday life. I’ve used the last few years to really open myself up to everything and level up wherever I could. So I’m now more ‘wide awake’ in that sense too. I buried myself in the studio, and here we are now an album later.”
Kocay: Has the pandemic changed your production and creative process? If so, how?
Fodera: “I feel like I write a lot more tracks on Zoom now. I have been doing way less face-to-face sessions—it’s more just sending ideas back and forth. To be honest, I have always worked over the internet, via email, Instagram or Facebook. So this hasn’t been new to me at all.”
Kocay: What has been the biggest influence on how you make music today?
Fodera: “Other producers and deejays that I really respect such as Eric Prydz, Calvin Harris, Camelphat, MK, [as well as] my fans, playing shows and seeing reactions on tracks. [Plus,] my wife and family, for sure.”
Kocay: Do you remember the first electronic music song you heard that made you fall in love with the genre?
Fodera: “The first electronic track I heard on a proper sound system in a club was ‘Mirua’ by Metro Area. I knew then that’s what I wanted to create. I used to go to this club called Electric Circus in Adelaide, Australia and there was this deejay there called Rocky. He was amazing—his sets and mixes were always so on point. I was already deejaying but more playing hip hop and scratching and juggling. The thought of mixing two dance records together on vinyl really fascinated me, and I started buying records from that point on.”
Kocay: If you could go back in time to when you first started making music and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Fodera: “Learn the piano and get singing lessons. I can do both, but [I] would love to be better and finding the time now is hard. Piano is such an important part of dance music.”
Kocay: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned throughout your career?
Fodera: “There’s always people who won’t like what you’re doing or will tell you that you can’t. Don’t worry about any of that. As long as you are into it, that’s what matters. Stay focussed and stay true to yourself. With lots of hard work, drive and passion for what you are doing, you will get to where you need to go. Each success, big or small, leads onto the next. Go with it, stay focussed and make things you genuinely love.”
Kocay: If you didn’t go into music, where do you think you’d be today?
Fodera: “Probably a psychologist. I was studying that at university. I hated it, though.”
Kocay: What are your plans for the future?
Fodera: “Drop lots of new music and sign new upcoming artists to my label SOLOTOKO. Release another album again and do some summer label parties in London.”