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Sonia Astacio at the 2023 Mitchell Creek Rock 'N' Blues Fest. Photo credit: ©Shane Zahner
Sonia Astacio at the 2023 Mitchell Creek Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest. Photo credit: ©Shane Zahner

“The lead singer of the Sonia Astacio Band from the US was a crowd favourite at the weekend for the sell-out Mitchell Creek Blues Festival in Kandanga.”

– Donna Jones, Gympie Today (Australia) – 09/20/2023

Artist Bio

Sonia Astacio is a regular on the Chicago Blues scene playing at long established-world renowned clubs such as Buddy Guy’s LegendsBlue ChicagoKingston MinesRosa’s Lounge, and Harlem Avenue Lounge. She has also played Muddy Waters MOJO MuseumGranville Blues FestRed White & Blues Fest and various years at The Chicago Blues Festival. She combines powerful vocals and a hard driving Chicago Electric Blues style with a burlesque delivery. 

Sonia Astacio Downs was born in Chicago and is the 7th child of a Dominican American family. Her parents moved to the United States in 1955. As a child, she found her love for music singing with her siblings in church. Initially, her first love was Jazz from the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, but after she heard Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones’ “Baby Please Don’t Go” (Live at the Checkerboard Recording), the Blues captivated her heart and soul, and she never looked back. 

Sonia joined the Nu Blu Band in 2005 and is now an honorary member of the group. Sonia infuses her Afro-Latina ancestry when she performs blues standards in Spanish. She leads The Sonia Astacio Downs band and is working on an album based on her experiences growing up in Chicago as a black Latina. Her boisterous voice, entertaining persona, and effortless talent have captivated audiences far and wide.  After 35 years in the corporate world, she says her retirement plan is “to sing the Blues to whoever will listen.” She truly is a messenger of the Chicago Electric Blues.

Website & Social Media Links

Videos

Interview with Buddy Guy Blues and Music News Magazine

  • By Aaron Porter

Sonia Astacio – Latino Alegre

I thought about what to write to introduce Sonia Astacio. I’ve seen her perform for years at Buddy Guy’s Legends but didn’t really have the words to describe her as a person or artist. Then, in her response to my interview questions she included this and I thought, “How better to introduce her than with her own words?”

Sonia writes, “Hello darling, thank you for having me! I have read many-a-Buddy Guy’s Legends magazine over the years and am grateful to speak with you today.“

Sonia, you’re one of a kind, never change.

BG: One would get the impression from seeing your live show that music has been a part of your life from the very beginning. Thank you for saying that. My father, Julio Astacio, was a prominent pastor for the Spanish Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Chicago. My siblings and I sang together during services and at home. My mother sang alto to every song, including commercials–for my entire life! Music was around me nearly 24/7, so much so that I started to find three-part harmonies to every jingle and melody I heard, using the family piano to test myself. As a result, I have enjoyed singing and harmonizing ever since. 

Do you remember the first album you a) listened to b) bought with your money c) that you yourself appeared on? And if you’re up for it, the stories behind those answers.

The Bible in Living Sound-The Flood was the first album I remember listening to repeatedly. It was more narrative than musical but it was a major influence on me as far as imagination and theatre production. I was really excited to find out it was on Spotify.

Sonia Astacio by Aaron Porter at Buddy Guys Legends

The first album I bought with my own money was Luther Vandross’s debut album: “Never Too Much” from 1981. I spent countless hours harmonizing with Luther Vandross! 

The Harrison Street Band released an album in 2022 which featured covers. However, I am especially proud to have added lyrics to the NuBlu original track “All Night Long,” which you can stream! We have an exciting project coming down the pipeline for originals that I am excited to share with the world! 

What was your first show as an adult? What was the first solo/headline show you did? My first show was actually with Second City Training Center Level A through E. I was recruited by “Salsation Theatre Group”- Comedy with a Latino flavor- during my training. I proceeded to perform with them for the next several years. We were featured on WGN News!  My first headliner show was at Buddy Guy’s Legends about 25 years ago as part of the Blues Ensemble through Old Town School of Folk Music. I just remember a wonderful sense of joy and artistic fulfillment.

For those who remember, you were once part of the NuBlu Band, what was it like to be a part of that band and why did you leave?  Being part of The Nu Blu Band was an extraordinary experience. Their hard work, dedication, and professionalism all while still having fun were an inspiration. Carlise Guy, Dan Henley, Dave Holloway and The Great Marcil Maddox hold an exceptional place in my heart to this day. It was a distinct pleasure performing and growing with them. Unfortunately, I had to leave the band to take a full-time job at night at FedEx to support my family. Now That’s The Blues! I have been with FedEx now for 34 years and will retire in 18 months–we gon’ let the good times roll! 

You seem especially joyful on stage; what is it about performing that speaks to you? Thank you for noticing. I was born with what people call Latino Alegre and I am Sunny Day. Performing on stage fills my soul; I love feeding off of the crowd’s vibrations and feeling their energy back at me. The energy of the blues touches and speaks to me. 

You had a trip to Australia last year. Where did you play and how was the reception? Our main gig was at Mitchell Creek Rock n Blues Fest in Sunshine Coast, Queensland, a wonderful 3-day outdoor festival in the beautiful countryside of northern Australia. The reception I received from Australians was warm and inviting and made me feel very welcome.

Sonia Astacio by Aaron Porter

Sonia Astacio by Aaron Porter

Were you able to visit the area at all or was it in and out? We were fortunate enough to spend 17 days in Australia. While there we played at multiple blues clubs in Melbourne (Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society, MBAS, The Blues Roulette, The Hume Blues Club and The Elwood Blues Club) and The Wallaby in Queensland. One of the coolest nights on our trip, and my life, was an inaugural jam in Lismore New South Wales; the jam was free-flowing and every single person got up on stage and played with me. We made countless musician connections I hold dear. 

Do you have a song(s) that are you favorite to sing? I like to sing “Hey Bartender” by Koko Taylor. It’s a favorite of mine because we get excellent crowd participation and we pump up the room! “The Girl from Ipanema” by Antonio Carlos Jobim has always spoken to me. I have always admired Brazilian culture. It’s a gorgeous serenade about a beautiful girl who is still beautiful in her 70s. Third, and not least, “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra. I have been in love with Frank my entire life, even named my daughter after him! 

Do you stick to blues or do you dip into other genres as well? Blues is my passion but I also love to sing jazz, Latin jazz, salsa, merengue, bachata, and classic rock. I plan to infuse some of these genres into my show–keep an eye out, darlings! 

Do you have any special talents outside of making music? I have excellent communication and speaking skills which I use for my job. I have the gift of gab. One of my tasks is announcing work-related information over the ORD facility transmission system. My positive outlook is another ability I hold dear- if I could bottle it up I would be a billionaire. I’m also very good at arts and crafts and holiday decorating. My sense of humor is calling me to expand my improv background to stand-up!  

You did a valentine’s day show at Rosa’s. Was there a special reason that you took a job that day or was it just another day, another job? When we were asked to perform at Rosa’s on Valentine’s Day I was very grateful. I consider myself a Queen of Hearts 365 days a year! So to spend time at Rosa’s with Tony Manguillo, Jennifer Achtstattr Boberg, Mariah, and Mark, was an extraordinary opportunity that any Blues Woman would not want to pass up.

You also opened for Buddy Guy during his residency, and most recently for Lil’ Ed.

Sonia Astacio by Aaron Porter

I did yes! In January 2023 I was a featured guest with The Zach Avery Band who opened for Buddy Guy. This year on February 1st, 2024, my team and I were fortunate enough to be selected as one of the opening bands for Buddy’s residency. It was truly an artistically fulfilling experience which I will treasure for the rest of my days.

You had a regular band that you would play with; being a band leader is no small task due to scheduling and financial juggling. Do you miss having a regular band to play with? Yes, I do miss having a regular band, but I am grateful for those days. I was the lead singer for The Harrison St. Blues Band. We were very close and working with the guys was fundamental to my growth as an artist today. 

There’s been a little bit of talk recently about the “requirement” to have social media accounts, that companies, festivals and the like look for artists who have their own substantial followings over artists who don’t. Have you experienced this? How have you found managing your own accounts? I would agree that a strong social media presence and “brand” really make you stand out in the crowd. The blues scene in Chicago, the music industry as a whole, can be competitive. However, I want to spread my love for the Chicago electric blues and I have gotten more hip to managing my social media presence! We recently invested the time and energy to create a more comprehensive website (Soniaastacio.com) and social media presence (Sonia Astacio- Chicago Blues Woman on Facebook and Instagram.) 

Do you have plans for an album anytime soon? Will it have mostly covers or are you doing originals? As I mentioned before, we are currently working on a bilingual project of mostly originals. Coming to all streaming platforms near you! 

Any other big events coming up for you?

For the next month,  I will be at Blue Chicago again this March 17th with the Nate Manos Band, celebrating St Patrick’s Day by the green Chicago River! 

However, we have big plans for this summer! Be on the lookout for exciting events from your Humble Chanteuse of the Chicago Blues. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram under Sonia Asatcio-Chicago Blues Woman–we look forward to seeing you there!

Keep an eye out for Sonia Astacio and all of her work at soniaastacio.com and her social media. 

Key Contacts

Bookings, Press, and Collaborations

Sonia Astacio
+1 ‪(630) 233-9981‬
sonia at soniaastacio.com
www.SoniaAstacio.com

Stage Plot