Sonia’s big adventure

Intense singer/songwriter Sonia Tetlow’s most recent solo performance took place in July at Sweet Java Brown in Kirkwood. “There were probably 15 people there,” she says.

The next time Atlanta audiences see the dynamic guitarist will be on New Year’s Eve at the Marriott Marquis downtown. The audience will be considerably larger because that show is her Atlanta debut as bassist for Cowboy Mouth. Attendance is expected to reach 3,000 by midnight.

“I’m really used to the schizophrenic nature of the music business,” she says. “You play a big show in front of a couple thousand people and the next day you’re washing windows. That’s just what it means to be a musician.”

Louisiana native Tetlow, an Atlanta scene fixture for the past decade, first met New Orleans-based Cowboy Mouth a couple of years ago when both acts played the Hurricane Festival in the Big Easy. “That was the first time I’d met them all,” she says. “I’d done several shows with [the band’s most recent bassist] Mary LaSang when she was in a band called Dingo 8. So every time they’d come through town, they’d call and ask me to come and hang out.”

When the Mouth came to Atlanta last month for a show at the Roxy, “Mary called and asked me to come by, and she said, ‘Let me throw this out to you: I’m planning to leave the band [due to family matters]. Would you consider auditioning?’”

The day after the Roxy show, Mouth vocalist and drummer Fred LeBlanc came to Tetlow’s house for an informal jam session. LeBlanc seemed pleased and said they were talking to some other people for the job, but planned to audition her again in New Orleans in a month.

“He called me, not even a week later, on a Tuesday, and said that Mary’s mom had taken a turn for the worse and could I play with them on Friday in Biloxi,” she remembers. “So I said, ‘Sure.’” Tetlow learned 13 songs in three days and dutifully went to New Orleans. “We rehearsed once and then drove to Biloxi and played the show,” she recalls. “I had that moment just before we went on, where I was about to panic. But as soon as the music started, everything was OK.”

Tetlow didn’t know it at the time, but that show became her formal audition. “They called me the next Monday and said, ‘How’d you like to play bass in a rock and roll band,’” she says. “I wish it didn’t involve such a hard time for Mary, but I am grateful they wanted me.”-- Lee Valentine Smith

Downtown Countdown at the Marriott Marquis. Tickets are $75-$200. Call 678-772-2918 or visit for more info.