Rawlings' band Sunshine Faces, named for the lyrics of an alternative-rock song, is gaining recognition beyond Chapel Hill. In addition to a growing global audience, the group also has a strong regional college following and will perform tonight at the North Carolina Museum of Art’s College Night in Raleigh at 7 p.m.
Rawlings is a comparative literature major, so the work he pours into Sunshine Faces never receives the reward of a good grade. Still, the satisfaction of writing and performing his music has been remarkable in its own right.
“There’s an immediate realization of having done something worthwhile when you can put out music,” he said.
Rawlings hears positive feedback on his music from listeners all over the world. Over the past two years, he’s received emails from fans in Brazil and connected with radio stations and music labels in France and Spain. That kind of feedback, he said, would never come from writing a 10-page paper that only his professor would read.
The ability of art to transcend boundaries — geographic, cultural and otherwise — is what draws Rawlings to it.
“Art communicates without words often, or with a different set of words — a different vocabulary that is more effective,” Rawlings said.
Michael Purello, a friend and fan of Rawlings, agreed and said the music of Sunshine Faces connects with young adult audiences.
“He’s maintaining the lyrics he’s using in his produced recordings, and those are definitely something any teenager or college student could relate to,” he said.
While Rawlings produces his recorded music in his bedroom by himself, he makes the dream pop sound come alive in his shows. Purello said Rawlings’ live performances are exciting.
Connecting with college audiences secured him a spot at the NCMA College Night. Harriet Hoover, coordinator of teen and college programs, first heard about Sunshine Faces through a UNC student on the museum’s College Advisory Council.
She liked what she heard and invited Sunshine Faces to perform live at the event.
“I thought that it would bring new audiences in, and that’s certainly a goal of this event — to make this museum a really fun and relevant place for people to gather and build community and have fun,” Hoover said.
The night centers around the M.C. Escher exhibit.
College Night includes dance performances by East Carolina University and William Peace University and fashion creations by N.C. State University’s College of Textiles. Sunshine Faces is one of two music sets for the night.
“It sounds sort of trite, maybe,” Rawlings said. “But I just feel compelled to write songs and record them.”