News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters singer signs Nashville deal

Sisters singer and songwriter Rhonda Funk has been signed to the Pure Music record label for a two-year deal effective January 1. Funk, who moved from Sisters to Nashville in 2018, has been awaiting a deal for many years during her musical journey.

Pure Music’s managing partner, John L. Heithaus, met Funk at a singing-in-the-round event in Nashville. Earlier in the year, Funk had been touring around the South. During her travels she was involved in a car accident, putting all of her music industry work on hold. She returned to Nashville to work and pay off her bills. She began playing gigs around Nashville, which is where she met Heithaus.

“Initially, I thought I was going in for a job interview to get back into the industry. I was completely surprised when they told me they wanted to offer me a record deal,” said Funk.

They worked on the details of the deal for five weeks before she officially signed the two-year deal.

“It isn’t a huge label that will guarantee me radio play around the nation. It’s all very much a grassroots effort for all of us,” said Funk.

The album she will be working on with the record company will be her next EP with 5 original songs and one cover. Funk is currently working with a group of more than 40 writers.

“I am really excited to be working and learning from these people. I am limited in what I know,” she said. “I came to Nashville with 200 original songs, and this is what I came here to do is record them and make music,” she said.

Funk has been playing and loving music since she was a young girl. She played piano by ear from three years of age.

“I felt like it was the place where I could get away and get lost in the music,” she said.

In her teens, she found out that her grandma was in the music world as well; in the Big Band era of the 1940s and ’50s, her grandma sang in a band.

“Learning that told me that the talent runs deep and it is in the genetics,” she said.

Both of her kids, Ryan and Rylee Funk, were involved in the Americana Project at Sisters High School, and were shining stars.

Funk’s passion for music took her on a journey that she is still on, just starting down a new path. In September of 2016, she announced she was going to make a country album in Oregon. Shortly after that, Funk suffered a brain aneurism, forcing her to have brain surgery. Everything was put on hold for six months during her recovery time.

“Six months after surgery I still wanted to do an album, I just had to figure out how to get there,” she said.

Central Oregon local AJ Kross, who had connections in Nashville, knew of Funk’s story and set her up with a few writers in Nashville. So, throughout 2017, she was going back and forth between Sisters and Nashville, writing and recording as much of her content as she could. In 2018, on her birthday, she made the move to Nashville.

Funk works in restaurants and grocery stores to pay the bills and make her way there.

“There is a saying in Nashville when you say you’re a singer-songwriter, they ask you what restaurant you work in,” she said. “Everyone in Nashville is trying to make it and all striving after the goal of getting a deal, so this is a dream come true for me.”

Funk begins recording her new EP in mid-January. She describes her music as Americana/country/rock. She says that her music and sound has gone through stages — she started out more Christian, then into more storytelling songs and now she writes songs that are based on life experiences.

“I have honed my sound more and more, and I can feel it changing and I have learned from other people,” she said.

Funk plans to write more and tour more dates in 2020. Just in 2019, she’s written or co-written 100 songs, performed 90 dates in six states, and she’s just getting started. Her most recent successes include a newly co-written Christmas song, “Holiday With You,” cut by country music great T. Graham Brown and Claudette King, the daughter of blues legend B.B. King.

Funk plans to tour in the next couple of months around the western U.S., including a date in Sisters. She will be playing Chops Bistro on February 29, and Crux Brewery in Bend on February 28. She will be touring around Oregon and Washington for a month and a half and plans to bring some of her newly recorded music with her. Her EP will be made available for purchase in advance before it is released on music streaming platforms.


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