Artist: Shonna Lyn

Featured song: “First Light”

Pianist and songwriter Shonna Lyn Cunningham, who performs as Shonna Lyn, is originally from Salinas, California. She grew up singing in church and started playing piano and writing songs as a teenager. After a stint as a photojournalist in the U.S. Navy from 2008 to 2013, during which time her ship was deployed three times to the Middle East, Lyn moved to Bend and started playing at local open mic nights (she regularly plays the Wednesday open mic at The Bite). She is working on new recordings to be released next year. This song, “First Light,” is one of her originals.

Q: What’s the story behind this song — how was it written, recorded, etc.?

A: My songwriting process is definitely emotion and experience-driven. I tend to write whatever I’m feeling very deeply about or processing at the moment, so it does skew toward the sad, sappy songs because those come with very deep, strong emotions. But I do have some happy ones. And I think for me, my goal in songwriting is to not just express what I’m feeling and get that out in a song, but also to hopefully when someone hears it, not only can they imprint their own experience onto it, but also be able to say, I never really thought about it that way. Like, that’s really interesting or cool, or maybe it helps them even understand their experience better. I mean, that would be like the ultimate thing.

Q: What’s the story inside this song — what’s it about?

A: I tried to express grief and the process of grief. … Basically, when you do go through a loss, whether it’s death or a breakup or the end of any kind of relationship, it’s like the rug gets pulled out from under you. And I was trying to convey that off-kilter, panicky feeling that comes with grief, like you’re trying to pick up sand and it just keeps pouring out of your fingers. So I started writing, and I talked about how someone, it almost sounds like they maybe were — the boat capsized, was the analogy I used. And they woke up a few months later, a few years later, and they’re trying to come to grips with their new reality and figure out where their friends are and where they are and what they’re doing.

— Brian McElhiney, The Bulletin