Annie Sumi has spread her musical wings and is ready to soar. The 24-year-old Whitby resident has released two albums and is about to launch an international tour.
Sumi self-funded her debut album Reflections in 2015 while juggling being a full-time student with a part-time job.
Her sophomore album, In the Unknown, was released in 2017. She says this was a very different experience because she had support from an incredible roster of people and worked with a larger budget. She added specific sounds to her second album, such as string arrangements.
Sumi has loved music for as long as she can remember. She began singing as a young child and learned to play the piano and the guitar. However, she felt the musical direction people were trying to push her into as a younger person turned her off of music for quite a while.
This changed when she attended, and later graduated from, Nipissing University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts.
“It wasn’t until my first year of university I knew [music] is what I want to do but I want to do it my way,” Sumi says.
She is categorized as a folk singer-songwriter but she describes herself as an “ethereal folk musician.”
Gisèle Kashul brings musical acts to Whitby, including Sumi. She says her vocals are phenomenal.
“She is ethereal, she has this sort of wispy, fairly-like voice,” Kashul says. “[Yet] she has a jazzy, bluesy sound when she hits the low notes.”
Kashul first heard of Sumi during her time with the Hidden Roots Collective, an award-winning quartet. All the singer-songwriters met and Sumi says they became a band organically. The group has taken a break for now, to enjoy what Sumi describes as “exciting life moments,” but she hopes they will perform together once again.
“I really hope we get to make more music, I really loved singing with those women,” Sumi says.
But she is much more than just a local artist from Durham Region.
She is a woman who craves deep connection. Sumi says her favourite moments on the road are meeting audience members and connecting with her fans. She says she likes to create a space for people to feel things, on and off stage.
“It begins with making people feel heard and feel safe and allowing them to express emotions. I think music is a real way of giving people that love,” says Sumi.
Many of her songs are based on stories she hears from people about intimate moments in their lives, coupled with her imaginative narrative.
“Get By” is about a man she met who left his family behind to look for work, so he could afford to feed them.
Human and environmental rights are important to Sumi. Her song “In Everything” is based on the idea of “pantheism,” that there is divine life in everything around us. Sumi says she’s in the “sprouting stage” of how to best use her voice for the causes she cares about.
“Because music takes so much of my life, I’ve been trying to reimagine how this career path can intersect with that passion,” she says.
Sumi is mindful about reusing items. The merchandise she sells at her shows is created from second hand shirts her family has scoured from across thrift stores in the area. Each T-shirt is a one of a kind handmade creation with her artwork added with care.
At the end of each performance, she offers the audience free hugs. This practice started after she made a “free hugs” sign on the back of a pizza box. She says she has met so many interesting people by doing this.
Sumi once left her sign at a club in Oshawa. After someone made the sign read “free chugs, she said it lost its meaning. She says she can’t wait for the next 3 a.m. pizza run while on tour, so she can make a new sign with the same intention.
Sumi kicked off her Brave Wingstour with an intimate performance at Rawlicious in Whitby on March 25, a show put on by Kashul. She shared the stage with her partner, Jordan Leech. She will be traveling along with The Lifers, an alternative folk sister duo from Guelph, across Canada, the United States and Europe this year.
“Seize the opportunity to do something you really love,” she says. “I wish that for everyone.”