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SANDRA ST. VICTOR 2013 SOULMUSIC.COM INTERVIEW
TRUE NORTH SOUL
Interview recorded September 12, 2013

Sandra St. Victor returns this month with her eagerly awaited new release OYA'S DAUGHTER on Shanachie Records. She is one the most versatile, honest and fearless artists recording today, and it with great pleasure that we feature her recent conversation with SoulMuisc.com's David Nathan where she talks openly about her creative process in the making of this tour-de-force production with renowned DJ/re-mixer/producer Mark de Clive -Lowe.

Sandra also shares freely about the remarkable events in her life and career from The Family Stand to the MACK DIVA SAVES THE WORLD - her incredibly underrated 1996 Warner Brother's recording - to her "Mommyhood" in The Netherlands. Sandra St. Victor reveals what it takes to create True North Soul...


David: Back sometime in the 90s, an executive at Atlantic Records sent me - a very important executive at Atlantic Records at that time – sent me a tape, because back then we still had tapes. No, it was the 80s, I’m sorry. That’s why we had tapes. She sent me a cassette and she said, I want you to listen to this and tell me what you think. She said, "I think it’s going to be good. I think I should put it out. I just want your opinion." I thought it was very nice of her to consider valuing my opinion. You sent me this tape and I listened and thought, wow. There was this one song on there, and I hope I don’t garble the title, I think it was “Sex Without Love” and I was like "oh yeah, I can relate." But I listened to the whole thing and there was this other song on there called “Witness Stand and Deliver” and I was like, whoever this is, you should do it. I told her – that was a female – I told her "I don’t know how commercial it is, it might be a little bit of a tough sell." She said, "Well I know that, but I really believe in this group." I said, Well, alright." Well, I’m not sure if she hired me to write the bio. She might have; I actually don’t remember. I think she might have.

Anyway, the bottom line was that was a group called The Family Stand and that was when I first became familiar with the lady I’m about to introduce. Subsequently, at some point, after a few twists and turns, she ended up at Warner Brothers and they bravely released another very - really one of the best albums, that album is still one of my favorites and I’m not ashamed to say that and it was called MACK DIVA SAVES THE WORLD and I was like, whoever this is… I kind of knew who it was at that point. I shouldn’t say whoever it is, I was like, this artist is ridiculous. She’s just ridiculous. I was a real champion for that album and I still am. It still has tracks on there that I listen to; I love. Then, we kind of followed each other a little bit and she found herself in Europe and in The Netherlands and I remember going to visit her there. This is a long introduction to someone I really consider to be one of the most forward looking innovative real artists that I know.

This is somebody who in many ways echoes, for me personally the kind of inspiration and the kind of approach to creativity that I experienced way, way back with my original, one of my personal mentors and inspirations, which was Nina Simone. She doesn’t sound like Nina Simone, although there might be a little shade here and there, but she really does approach music I think from the same place. Here we are in 2013, so obviously not doing the same music that Nina would have been doing, but the way she approaches her art and music is amazing, and all I can say is I’m thrilled that Sandra St. Victor is with us today at SoulMusic.com to discuss her brand new album, OYA’s DAUGHTER and talk to us about the journey that led to it. So, hello Sandra St. Victor! That was a very long introduction.

Sandra: Applause, applause!

David: For listeners and readers, you’ll have to forgive us because we do know each other and I’m going to try to keep this on the proper level for the interview, but it may devolve at times. So, that’s like a warning. I should put that as a sticker on the interview. So, Sandra, tell us how. I know that your journey in the music industry has been, has had its twists and turns and ups and downs and peaks and valleys, but can you just tell us a little bit about how this particular project came about and when it really began?

Sandra: Yes, OYA’S DAUGHTER really, the album itself just started out as... Okay, I need to put out an album, don’t I? It didn’t begin as the piece you see before you. It just began as, it’s almost a decade and I haven’t really done a complete record. The producer who is Mark de Clive Lowe presented me with an idea that we do an entire project together and we’d just finished doing AT MY SPHERES, which was an EP of soulful black dance music, which I think is dope and I really love working with him and what I really dig about him is that he’s another one of those forward thinking, not stuck in the box type kind of creators. So, when he presented me with this idea and also had tracks, I was like, oh wow. Yeah. That’s how music hits me. It hits me first in my core. It’s almost like it hits me at the core before I aurally experience it. It’s like something happens inside me that I know this is me right here. That’s how it was with the music that he presented me with. So, I started writing with him. This was I guess 2010.

David: Okay, a few years ago.

Sandra: Yeah, it was a few years ago, because I’m over here with two kids. Full mommy-hood in bloom. So, it really took a minute for me to complete it. What I actually had to do at the end of the day was – of course, I go away a lot to perform, away from home working, but I had to go away not to perform because it was the only way I could complete the writing of this project and I did that about a year ago. I just rented a cabin in the woods and I sat there for a month and I took my Logic Pro and my Apogee Duet and my CharterOak microphone and I sat there and I wrote and I recorded this record in a month. I just booked a month and it was great, except at night it got kind of scary because it was a cabin in the woods. I was like, wait a minute, this is the woods. Am I going to be like the black person – the first one to die in the movie? You know what I mean? That’s what it felt like. But it was dope. I got to listen to myself all day. I got to hear and put down and just create. It was just a brilliant experience and I will be doing it again when I have to write another album because it was the only way I could really get it done.

So that’s how I did it. As it started coming together, I started realizing that it was of course the song coming from where I’m coming from, which is this oneness, this unity of mind, spirit and soul and when I’m talking about emotional things, physical things or things of the spirit, in the song, that message comes through on one level or another. This particular time, because I’d taken so long to get these words and these melodies out, I realized that I had been like sort of, the last decade almost, here in my house and my world, doing some sort of creative observation and experiencing things, but even when I’m being mommy-mode, I’m still a writer. So, all of these things, they sort of go into the databank and then I resource them at that moment when I have that focus to do so. So, they all came from the same, my prism of thought and experience and I had to look at, because the motion felt all the same.

The motion was very much forward thinking and about rustling feathers and pushing things up and sort of tilling the soil as it were, breaking some eggs to make an omelet kind of thing. I realized that this energy, because I was calling it spirit talk because it felt like I was listening to the spirits talking. I wanted to more clearly define what spirit is this that I’m listening to? What energy is this? Let’s put it that way. What energy is this that I’m listening to? It became clear to me that it was, that all of the things that I’m touching on are things that are attributed to this Oya, this Orisha in the Ifa religion of Yoruba culture. The Oya is an orisha of change and upheaval and storms, and protection, a guider between transitions, even transitions of life and death. Transitions from pain to joy, whatever it is, she will hold that hand to make the necessary change be it frightening or not. I just saw that in all of the songs. That’s why I ended up calling it, of course I don’t deign to say that I am an orisha goddess or something like that, but I do believe that there are energies amongst us all and we are part of these energies. So, I called the album OYA’S DAUGHTER.

David: Wow.

Sandra: That’s a long way around the block.

David: No, it was a lot, but it’s good. It’s good because I think it gives a real sense of what the creative process and how you arrived at what you arrived at. Of course, it does open up a lot of other questions, which is great. I guess, just to kind of back track a little bit on one thing. You mentioned about Clive. So, how did you and he first meet? You mentioned about doing the SPHERES EP, which I’m unfamiliar with, but when did you first – was that your first collaboration? How did you first meet and hook up?

Sandra: The first thing was actually in the U.K., in London, at the Jazz Café. The first, my introduction to him, but we didn’t meet that day. Family Stand was playing at the Jazz Café and he was doing a DJ set afterwards. If you’ve ever seen Mark de Clive Lowe live, I’m thinking in my head, I just did a show, two sets I believe or something and it was a DJ set. I’m thinking, DJ set, okay, I can play records at home, you know what I mean? So, I went back to the hotel. The next day, my A-list, most critical musicians were like beaming, talking about this DJ. So, I was like, what? So, I’m much more educated about this now because it is a whole knew genre, but I was like, what’s the big deal? He can spin records in a good order? Right? That’s what I thought and they were like, no! No, you had to see this. My keyboard player, who is a classically trained aficionado was losing his mind about him.

He was like, no the guy is phenomenal and they explained to me that he wasn’t spinning records. He was on stage, with his keyboards, basically writing songs on stage and he’s a proficient, expert pianist. So, he can play classical. He can play straight up jazz. He can make beats, ridiculously on the fly and flip them and change them and write another song. So, this is what they experienced. So, I had never seen or heard of anything like that, frankly. So, we reached out. I reached out to him and we talked. We’ve got to do something. I was like, sure. He was in Brooklyn doing a set and I happened to be in New York at the time and he said why don’t you come down and jam with us. I was like, cool, what am I going to sing? He said, oh, we’ll think of something. Don’t worry about it. So, I’m like trying to think about what songs I can call that the band might know. I get down there, and it’s basically him on the stage. I’m like, oh he’s going to do that thing again. So, I’m looking at it and I’m like, obviously this guy’s a ridiculous keyboard player. He probably knows anything. So, I can just call out a number and he’ll start playing it. So, I get on stage, and gravely I must say because I like to be prepared. I got up there, so I’m just looking at him like, are we going to do some songs, or what? And he was just jammin’. I’m like, what? And he’s like, just sing. Oh, just sing.

David: So just sing whatever comes into your head?

Sandra: Yeah, so I’m making up stuff too, right on stage. So, I’m listening to what he’s doing and I realize this is an immediate creative thing so I have to listen to myself right now as opposed to go to my knowledge bank. I have to go to my feeling creative bank and that’s what I started doing with him. What was fun about it I think, which he dug, was listening to core progressions that was would do, I would throw a little piece of something else that was already written into what I was doing, what I was making up. I would do a little piece of “Summertime” or I threw a piece of classical arias in there, like some stuff from Carmen and jazz songs, Nina Simone stuff. We just had a great time and he was like, oh, we definitely got to do something. So, we hooked up creatively really admiring each other, respecting each other’s work first.

David: Now, you mentioned that, so when you were in the cabin in the woods, writing, were you writing to tracks? Or, in other words, were you just writing?

Sandra: No, I was writing to tracks. At this point, this was last year, I had almost all of the songs that ended up being on the album. I had the music from Mark and he was like, when are you going to get to it? So, this is why I went to write in this cabin. So, I was writing the track that I had in my pocket; this is going to go on my record.

David: Okay. As you shared, when you were talking about the formation of the album and how you approached it from a lyrical storytelling perspective, there’s a lot of interesting subject matter in here. You could end up doing a two-hour interview, which we’re not going to do. I am curious about some of them. I’m curious about all of them, but there are a few that I’d like to focus on. The first one is “Presence”. So, tell us a little bit about your – obviously, my interest is that people actually, after they’ve listened to this interview or read this interview, actually go buy or download the album, or buy it, or whatever which way they need to do it legally, do that. So, we’re going to make a presumption here that some of the people who are listening or reading will do that. So, let’s assume that so we don’t have to describe the kind of flavor or the production, but we can just kind of talk about the lyrics and the actual song itself. So, talk to us a little bit about “Presence”.

Sandra: “Presence”, what you have there is the final version. It went through like three versions and the final version is my truth because every version was the truth at the time. It was really talking about the evolution of a relationship.

David: Which of course, you know, it’s really clear from listening to it, but I’d like to hear your comments.

Sandra: Honestly, it started out by, I would say almost a bit celebratory. So, I was just talking about how much I love your presence. The whole song was just really celebratory in very effusive language. Then it changed into, Oh, I miss it when I go away. I miss it when you have to go away. I can’t wait to have your presence again. The version that we have now is, Now, where are you? What happened to you? No, this ain’t it. This is not it. You’ve got to be present. You can’t just be here. You’ve got to be present within the relationship, within our shared life because this is not how I do relationships. I need, the connection has to be there. It’s not just about, okay, that person is there. I need to be connected. I need to feel that connection and experience that connection, even when I’m asleep. There’s a problem, otherwise. The end of the song is like, show up or hey. That was the evolution of that song.

David: Wow. That’s really personal.

Sandra: Yeah.

David: Most people I know, most artists I know, never quite get that personal. They get personal, but they leave it where the listener is speculating or considering whether this is just someone observing something, which is how most people, by the way in my experience of talking to artists who write is that they will deflect by saying this is really just about what I observe in life rather than this is what I experience.

Sandra: I do that as well on some things of course.

David: In some cases that’s relevant. So, thank you for at least inviting us into your world directly by letting us know hey, this is what’s going on. It’s brave. It’s really brave. It’s very, very brave.

Sandra: Yes.

David: All right. Well, I’m going to move on to, well, it’s really a bit difficult for me because there’s several songs I want to talk to you about. I want to talk about some other things with you too. So, I’m going to just pick two or three. So, because you used the word diva in your famous Warner Brothers album, I have to ask you about “Another Kind of Diva” in parenthesis or brackets as you said, “Success Hooker”.

Sandra: I love that song. That song is deep. I should have known that you would be the one to pick up on this. Definitely, that song is personal as well. Definitely is personal as well, and it’s sort of like my own sort of warning to myself to keep it real. Don’t follow no BS. Don’t do nothing that ain’t true. Keep the focus true north because we all can deviate at moments and at times and think, maybe I’ll try this, I’ll go for that, and certainly as the years go by you think of what you could be doing differently or what you should have done differently or more what you could do differently because I don’t do regrets. So, what can I? What should I? I’ve got to like, recalibrate in those moments. That’s not, no man, I can’t be reactionary. I cannot be reactionary. When I catch that piece in my behavior at any level, I correct. Sometimes I’m slow on the uptake with that correction, but I do always correct. That song, it’s sort of my own slap in my own face.

David: In other words, don’t fall for the –

Sandra: Don’t fall for it. I’m not trying to go for something. I don’t want to go for anything. I just want it to be.

David: Okay. I’m going to pick three more. I have to try and keep this –

Sandra: I know, see…

David: It’s not easy. Well, we’ll go to what is probably my personal favorite at this point, which is “I Prefer”, which is, again in parenthesis/bracket Oya. Did I say that correctly, Oya?

Sandra: Yeah, Oya. “I Prefer” - I’m looking at that as almost like a laundry list of preferences, social preferences, universal preferences, these are all things that Oya, as an energy, represents. Certainly the reference to protecting our children, growing up knowing the relevance and injustices, pointing out rampant injustices, such as in America, in our criminal justice system, justice. Like Richard Pryor said more "just us." Then, you’ve got the right hand and the left hand pointing out because when you point out things that are not right, things that sound bleak, there’s also the reality that everything is as it should be.

So, when I say I prefer, I want to shine in hues of crystal blue persuasion, because I believe that that is there. That is the reality of the moment. We may not see it, but I just want it to shine. On the other hand, there’s that darkness of malevolence that is also relevant. Without the darkness, there is no light and vice versa. So, those are all things that are there and this song is really calling for us to get more back to the proper balance of these things and to head in that direction. That’s really what “I Prefer” is about.

David: It is, to use a much-used word especially when I’m talking to you, deep.

Sandra: Right. Yeah, I think a lot of times, what’s cool about it for me is that I like the fact that the beat and the tone of the track is upbeat. It sound like, it is a very happy, uplifting, forward thinking, forward motion song, but I am saying some very real things there. The channel was very clear about what needed to be said over that music and I think it helps make it more palatable to use the word malevolence.

David: I gotcha. “Sugarfoot is Dead”. Now, there may be people who don’t know who Sugarfoot is, I do.

Sandra: Word. Sugarfoot. Yeah, Sugarfoot was the innovator, the leader of the Ohio Players and there’ve been a lot of, for me when I look back over the past several years, and maybe everybody says this when they’re at a certain age, but it seems like more people dying younger than it was when I was a kid. Certainly artists, but people that have these heavy lives in the arts. There just seem to be a lot of people passing, but in any event, wen you get to certain age, you do see a lot of your peers falling off so to speak in your age range or people you grew up with and so on. But for some reason, at the end of the song, I went through the list of people that have gone in the past few years, but for some reason when Sugarfoot died, it almost, even more so than like Michael or something, it represented like, for me personally, it represented a passing of a thing, a thing that was a part of my time, my childhood in the 70s. We’ve still got George Clinton. We’ve still got Bootsy and that sort of thing. We’ve still got a lot of us. There’s something about Sugarfoot, just who he was, not just about the music, but who he was and how he dealt with things. It hit me as, it made me reminisce about other stuff, not just people but other stuff. It’s like, what’s going on with that? And what’s happening with this? How do I feel about all that and how do we keep moving forward? I mentioned the president. It just really kicked into gear a lot of thoughts about that.

David: All right. Well, the last song I want to ask you about now – as I said, we could go over every single track, but we’re not going to – but, the last one that I want to ask you about is “Fate’s Laugh”.

Sandra: Yes. That’s like one of my favorites. You know the voice in the background are my two daughters singing?

David: No, I didn’t know that. Wow.

Sandra: Yeah because that’s another one, talking to myself again, but when I say I don’t do regrets and that sort of thing because I have learned, a long time ago, that we made our plans and we go around what things should be and how they should be. The universe sometimes has other plans, and they’re usually better, frankly. So, we have to be organic within our daily motion to recognize that we’re here in this moment at this particular second because we’re supposed to be. We cannot dance in the tears of regret about what we didn’t do yesterday and what we’re supposed to be doing and we’re not. We cannot wallow in that mire.

David: Before you go any further, I just have to ask you, did you, you said dance in the tears of regret. Is that a line from this song or did you just say that?

Sandra: No, I just said that.

David: Well, you should write it down. Because if you don’t, I will.

Sandra: I wish I had put it in the song. It’s perfect.

David: It’s a great song title and a great theme for another song.

Sandra: Maybe we should write it together, David.

David: Okay. So, everyone knows that if I ever write a song called “I Won't Dance in the Tears of Regret”, that I got it directly from Sandra St. Victor. She’ll probably ask me for publishing now.

Sandra: We’ll write that song together.

David: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt the flow, but that was too good to just pass over. Keep going.

Sandra: I think that song really, I’m trying to say clearly without sounding deep really. We’ve just got to keep rolling and understand that you’re where you are because you’re supposed to be and even when it doesn’t necessarily feel brilliant, because that impossible for it to always feel brilliant. This is where we are. And accept it, and take whatever lessons that are in it to move forward, to help each step.

David: It’s a perfect segue to what I wanted to talk to you about beyond this album. Obviously, this is the purpose of our interview, but really thought about your journey as much as I know of it. Now, obviously there are parts of your journey that I know nothing about, probably more personal aspects of it. I know some of it, not all of it. No one knows all of anyone’s. Just to keep it in perspective, because when I listened to "Fate's Laugh," I think what she’s saying is.. things have not always turned out the way I thought they would or the way, the plan that I had. I’m talking about you. I could apply it to me and I’m sure other people could turn it to apply to themselves.

So, I want to talk to you about, a little bit about your career journey and the twists and turns it’s taken. I think you probably already answered it by talking about that song, but at different times, has it been challenging for you to not have maybe gained a kind of response that you would have liked from people? Because there’s no question that the music stands up. It isn’t about the music to me. It’s really about accessibility and being able to break through the kind of construct and constraint of working in an industry that doesn’t for the most part honor artistic integrity or doesn’t operate from dealing with that, even though there may be people out there who want this kind of music, they don’t even know it exists. How have you, Sandra, dealt with that?

Sandra: You’re right. It has been challenging, several times, in several moments. The thing that I do in those moments is I remind myself to first experience what I’m experiencing. I don’t try to push it aside and slap a smile on. I experience what I’m experiencing. If that takes a few days, hopefully it don’t take several months, sometimes it has a couple times. There are a lot of emotions in there. There’s disappointment. There’s anger sometimes.

David: Yeah, I imagine there is.

Sandra: Yeah, in certain situations. But, at the end of that process, and I have to say a few times I basically was like, I’m done. I quit.

David: I guess that’s not a surprise.

Sandra: You shouldn’t be because I’ve been doing this for a minute. I’ve gotten to that point. There’s always been someone nearby to help me reel it back in. There’s always been somebody. I usually share with someone close, I’m done now. Literally, I’m not one of those people that I’m asking for you to compliment me back from the ledge, from off the ledge. When I’m there, I’m really there, but then they help me to refocus and it’s not an instant comeback, but eventually I come back. Anyway, in those times, I have to get back to the realization that there’s stuff I’ve got to learn, you know what I mean? Clearly, there’s growth that I have to experience and these lessons are here for a reason and I take them like that and I try to see when I’m out of the moment of despair. I try to see what it is that I need to learn from that experience and use that to go forward. That can be difficult, you know what I mean?

David: Yeah. I think that, this is probably a conversation we could have with quite a few people, but I think it’s very specifically if I listen to, if I took your solo work and I listen to it. Excluding The Family Stand for a moment, I’m just talking about you. I’m talking about MACK DIVA, I’m talking about GEMINI: BOTH SIDES. I’m talking about SPHERES and I’m talking about OYA’S DAUGHTER. We take those four, and I listen to them as a body of work, there is a statement there. It’s a statement of who you are as an artist. As a collective, if you take just those four projects, it’s a statement of who you are as an artist in a sense. And what would become immediately apparent is that this is music that has not – how can I say this? I could go all the ways around it, but it hasn’t sold as many copies as it should given its quality.

It hasn’t been exposed the way that it maybe – I don’t want to say could or should because I don’t like those words – but, there’s a sense of like, and I’m going to exclude the latest one because we don’t know what’s going to happen with that in terms of sales, but we can say with some justification or some certainty, not justification but certainty, that those other three projects, there were a lot of ears that didn’t hear them and I just don’t know how, and this is what I’m curious about, how someone and you gave me the answer to some degree, but how do you keep going. And obviously there are times you say forget it. I’m not doing this anymore, but even when you had those conversations with whoever those people are that are close to you, that pull you back, how do you keep going in the face of that, you know, I did this album and I really thought this was the one that was going to blow up. I thought this was going to be the one that really people paid attention to me. I thought this one was going to be the one. How do you, where do you find the whatever that is within you to keep going. I mean, yes, you have those conversations with people, but it still requires something within you to not actually say, you know what, I don’t care what anyone else says, I’m stopping.

Sandra: Yeah, for real. The thing is, I think the reality is, I don’t really have a choice because I can’t not sing what I want to. Of course, I could just sing in the shower. So, when I’m talked back from the ledge, I might do a baby step thing. Like, you know after GEMINI, I came to Europe and decided I was just going to gypsy around and sing here and there and hang out. And I did Daughters of Soul.

David: Yeah, Daughters of Soul with all those great other ladies. Yeah, absolutely.

Sandra: Yeah, I did that. I just said, I’m not going to work on no record right now. So, I do other things. Then you meet somebody like Mark de Clive Lowe and I said, okay, I’ll do a little EP. You get into that mode and realize, this is really where I am. You get on stage and you’re singing a song, the seed was created through you. It was nurtured through you and you get that reaction from someone or you put out an EP. I put that EP out and someone comes to me and quotes a lyric off of “Cosmos” or one of the songs, and it’s like when you throw that little pebble into the ocean and it’s gone, and you say, okay, never see that pebble again. Never hear from that pebble again. Well, then ripples happen. 25 knots out, somebody comes back to you and says, you know that song you threw into the ocean two years ago or ten years ago? That really touched me. That’s food right there because that sort of, that validates everything that I believe in. How prevalent and how ubiquitous spirit is and the melodies and the texts when you’re true north and real with what you feel and want to creatively express, that’s forever. That’s out there and it is doing something. It is doing something. MACK DIVA sold nowhere near a million copies, but you know what I mean? I think you got one.

David: I think a few people got one.

Sandra: I’ve got a couple. So, a few thousand people may have that record, but when one of them few thousand hits me from Slovinkia, like somebody did yesterday.

David: Before you go any further, where’s Slovinkia?

Sandra: I’m saying the name wrong. But, somebody hit me from somewhere and it was like, wow. It was a long email about a song of mine that helped them through something. It was just, then you know, okay, when it feels futile, it ain’t. The nourishment that I get personally from being on stage and having people experience my music with me is also not futile. So, I think that’s what really brings me back every time because people ask me what else would you do if you weren’t a singer? I always say, sincerely, I would be a truck driver because I would be driving a big 18 wheeler, just rolling around with my thoughts in my head and observing people. I like to people watch. I like to place watch and take stuff in, but I still need to sing. I still need to create. That is who I am. Music is just who I am.

David: It’s funny because as you were talking, I was thinking about, is there a song from that MACK DIVA album that is still, it always will be, “Since You’ve Been Gone”. It’s because of a lyric line about a thousand years, or a few thousand years, something about thousands of years. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Sandra: Yeah, I know which line. I can’t remember it.

David: I can’t remember it either, but it is in that song isn’t it?

Sandra: Yes, it is.

David: Right, at least I got my songs right. Yeah, and I think that what you’re talking about it really important and I actually think that if there are any aspiring musicians, recording artists, song writers, performers that are actually listening to this or reading this, it’s very worthwhile to know that even if your music touches one person, if only one person ever hears something, although it’s never likely to be just one person, and they are moved or it makes a difference in how they deal with their day, or how they deal with their relationship or how they deal with their life, then you could say that the work you did fulfilled its purpose even if it wasn’t 10 million people or 1 million people or 1,000 people. It’s hard to keep, I think that’s a very tricky perspective and you have to be really clear as you just shared that this is not about doing this for the money, although I’m sure you’d like more of it.

Sandra: I wouldn’t mind.

David: I think that kind of brings me to my primary question for you, this is a real primary question. Because, I listened to this album, obviously I’ve listened to OYA’S DAUGHTER. I didn’t just get on the phone with you without listening. That wouldn’t be me doing my job, and really bathed in some of the songs and kind of reflected the kind of themes, where the themes were you were kind of touching upon and what I kept thinking was how courageous it is to do music like this at a time when, I won’t mention any names, when people are on award shows doing stuff that’s not nice and other people are supposedly plagiarizing other people’s music and suing people and all types of stuff is going on which is not exactly what you’re doing. It’s like, it’s so brave to just do this, and I just wondered -actually I don’t wonder anymore, I think after this conversation I don’t have to wonder anymore.

You do this because this is what you do. It’s not even like, you know, you’re not doing it for the fame and you’re not doing it for the money. Although, again, I’m sure you’d like more of it. In a sense, you’re doing art for art’s sake, which is very, very, very, I can’t say anymore very’s, unusual in the world of music, especially – I want to say something; I might get in trouble for this, but – especially as an artist whose foundation is in R&B, Soul, Funk, whatever you want to put in there. That is what your foundation is, regardless of wherever you go or deviate from or however pathway you take. That’s your roots clearly, and unfortunately, Sandra, I don’t think you have many of your contemporaries, colleagues or peers who are doing the same thing.

Sandra: You know, what’s funny is I do believe that as an artist when you are sincerely true north that you’re going to create what you’re supposed to create at that moment. I do believe that. And I do also recognize and totally am cool with artists that look at it as a business and say look, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. I’ve got kids. I’ve got the mortgage. I’ve got kids and mortgage too, but my kids is hungry. If they were dependent on me totally, but that’s just not my position. That’s not my calling. So, but I believe for whatever reason, I was supposed to do it right now and it was supposed to come out at the time it’s coming out. I look at things that are out now, things that are coming out, and actually the things that are surrounding it, the artists that are coming out are more to in this general vicinity than if it were 6 months ago.

David: Really?

Sandra: Well, I think so. Janelle Monae is coming out, she’s definitely different, okay. D’Angelo is supposed to be coming out soon. John Legend is out now. There were a couple more that I was surprised that were coming out around the same area. So, I think I’m in decent company. Gregory Porter’s coming out. Not that they’re the same Soul/Funk thing, but these are true north artists. So, I’m happy to be surrounded by true north artists in this time frame. You know what I mean? I was looking at, I was realizing, I read something or heard something – I forget what it was – a few days ago, J.D. Salinger has been writing after Catcher in the Rye, he'd been writing for the past 50 years, up until he died. In his will, what he said was that he was not releasing anything until 5 years after his death, which will be in 2014 and that was because his religion was that he cannot do anything in his life that feeds his ego.

I know, I saw it on Stephen Colbert because Colbert, when the director of the Salinger movie told him that, Stephen Colbert said, that sucks. Don’t you know how great it is to do stuff to feed your ego? I think as artists, yeah, that’s part of – even I said, when I get on stage and I sing these songs and I get this immediate experience from the audience, I get this reaction that they get it. It’s like they get me and when I was a kid, when I was 8 years old and I decided I want to sing message music because I want to heal the world. This is what I said when I was 8, you know what I mean? When I’m on stage now and somebody is singing with me and getting and understanding, you see in their eyes that they understand what I wrote and what I meant and that validates that 8 year old girl in Dallas, Texas. That’s like I’ve done what I wanted to do. I am doing what I want to do. So, those things are the things that keep me going.

David: All right. We didn’t talk about, and I think it’s worth talking about, the journey from having completed the album to having it released on Shanachie. Shanachie‘s a label that I’m familiar with and some of our listeners/readers will be too. It’s a label that has released product by artists from a particular time period and has made a name for itself as an independent label that’s willing to at least consider putting out records by artists from certain time periods, that there’s still an audience for them. Now, I am curious how you and Shanachie, how this came to be a project that Shanachie took on because it isn’t typical of some of the things they do. I’ve heard loads of the albums they do, not loads, but they’re more conventionally going to do albums that appeal to what we have called a quiet storm audience or an R&B jazz audience.

Sandra: Right. This is the idea I had as well. This is another Mark de Clive Lowe connection actually. I wanted to put it out independently. I was like, let’s just put it out. Let’s sell it out of the back of the truck and he was like, this album is too good. I think we really need to get some help. I was almost against that, really, because I’ve had these experiences – I just didn’t want to give it up and then be sitting at home twiddling my thumbs. I’d rather do it myself so I can know what I’m doing every day. So, he mentioned, his manager mentioned someone at Shanachie was digging it a lot. My understanding, my knowledge of Shanachie at that moment was only world music. That’s what I knew Shanachie as. I knew they did Ladysmith Black Mambazo and I knew they had a lot of, some Reggae, and that’s what I knew them as.

So, I was like, okay, well let’s see. I got to reading what he was saying, and I was like, oh I like this guy. This was Randall Grass, and understanding that he’s not anywhere near your typical label dude. He’s not this guy, this bean counter motivated record company kind of guy. Then I decided to check out Shanachie‘s website and I said, wait a minute. This is a little different. They have Mint Condition. They have Maysa. But they also have Leela James. So, they’re a diverse label. What I dig about him, Randall, is that he pushes stuff. He signs stuff that he likes. It’s not just about will this help me meet my quota this quarter? He signs stuff that he likes, which means that he will commit to it over a period of time. Usually if you sign to a label, you’d better put it out and have some traction within a couple of months or next! That’s not the deal there. They understand that it’s a long haul and certainly with the artists that he signs, he knows that we can’t get to all the people that are going to dig what we do in the first month, two or three. It’s going to take a minute to get to folks. People my age got kids and jobs and mortgages and a second job. You know what I mean? We’re grown folk. We’re not sitting around all day reading what Perez Hilton says. So, it takes a minute to corral people that are going to dig what I do. They put that time commitment in from the front. So, I felt very comfortable and confident with someone like that because he’s passionate about the music and he’s committed to the long haul. Those are the two things that you really need to really at least get it to the people that would be digging it, if they ever knew about it.

David: Right. So, once you concluded that, you just said, all right, let’s just do this.

Sandra: Yeah. I said, let’s do it and having the sort of relationship that I have there at Shanachie, it’s like I never feel like I’m just sitting around twiddling my thumbs, what are they doing? What’s going on? I don’t have that feeling, which I always had with every other record deal. I’m with them every day and I can suggest things. I know my audience very well. I can suggest how to reach out to my perspective new audience and we’re back and forth every day about, okay, what are we going to do? Let’s try this. Let’s try that. We’ll do this. Let’s go for that. I have communication with the label every day. Wow! What a concept! I’ve never had it before.

David: That is totally different.

Sandra: Yes!

David: That’s almost like unheard of.

Sandra: Seriously.

David: Unless you’re…

Sandra: Beyoncé.

David: Somebody. Even she wouldn’t be having the direct conversation with them anyway.

Sandra: Exactly.

David: Unless something wasn’t working. Then she might pick up the phone. I don’t know Beyoncé, so. Okay, well last thing. Very last question. So, here we are. OYA’S DAUGHTER’s about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting and some suspecting public. So, what are your thoughts about what’s going to happen? You can only have thoughts about it; you don’t know what’s going to happen. How are you feeling right now about this? It’s a couple of weeks away from coming out at the time that we’re doing this interview. So, how are you feeling?

Sandra: Well - tell the truth and shame the devil - of course I’m a little nervous, but I think it’s good butterflies. But I do feel positive about it. I’m looking forward to getting it out because I do believe very much in what we’ve put together and because Mark and I are both very sincere creators and I’ve always, I know that the thing that connects with people is sincerity. So, I’m confident about that piece of it, that when people get it, they’ll get it. What I’m seeing coming up is that what this record will do for me is put me in a better place to do what I do best and that is to get on stage and perform more in more places. This record I think, because this will be the first record I’m putting out in this new paradigm of the music business. So, this is, well, okay, she’s not dead.

David: Also, true to say, in a sense, that this is the first record you’ve had out on a U.S.-based label since –

Sandra: MACK DIVA, 1996.

David: So, that has some validity to it too, just the fact that this is, and not to invalidate the projects in between.

Sandra: Of course not. That’s the truth. This is the first. This is what I mean, this is the first record in a new paradigm that I’m releasing that is going to be put out to, it will be everywhere. Available, you know what I mean?

David: I gotcha.

Sandra: I’ve seen links to it at K-Mart, which is like, wow, that’s weird. That’s so weird.

David: Here’s the thing, Sandra. If you’ve made it to K-Mart, in some sense, you’ve made it.

Sandra: You’ve made it. That’s why it’s weird, right? K-Mart, wow.

David: Sandra St. Victor conquers K-Mart. I could see the headline. I’m not sure where the headline is appearing. I guess it would be appearing in an alternate universe.

Sandra: Seriously. My middle name is Kay, so.

David: All right. Well, listen, as I said in the beginning, we could talk for hours and we probably would, but we do want to make sure we keep our listeners’ and readers’ attention span. So, I just want to say thank you. Mostly what I want to say thank you for, actually there are two things I want to say thank you for. Firstly, I want to say thank you for making music. I want to thank you for making music that isn’t cookie cutter. That isn’t just I’ve got to go get a hit kind of music, and that is thoughtful and thought provoking, and for keeping the spirit of some of the people that we’ve talked about or that I’ve referenced – Nina Simone is one of the ones that always occurs to me because I just know from my own personal experience of her that where she stood about making music was, I can’t say she never deviated from it, but for the most part it wasn’t about having a hit. It was about let me just tell my truth, whatever that truth is, and deal with the consequences.

Sandra: Amen.

David: And, then others like her who definitely follow that tradition. I think probably Donnie Hathaway, I never had that conversation with Donnie Hathaway like that. I imagine Donnie Hathaway was like that and other people. So, thank you for keeping the tradition of the story telling and truth telling alive in 2013. So thank you for making the music you make and thank you for being what I termed in an email to you, I’m going to take my quote and say it publicly, thank you for being a peaceful musical warrior.

Sandra: Oh, I love that. I so love that.

David: And that’s all I’ve got to say. And thank you, I shouldn’t say this because now people will be like, oh no wonder he did the interview. Thank you for our friendship.

Sandra: Oh, David, please. Thank you for our friendship. SoulMusic.com has done what you just said artists like me do. Keeping it real, and keeping it alive, and keeping it in the minds and hearts, the true north artistry that so many people try to stick to over the years of challenges and disappointments. As long as we know that people are able to get where we’re coming from, have asked us to be at SoulMusic.com and sites and journalists like yourself. Honestly, that’s really a huge, I’m sure you know, a huge plus, a huge help. Otherwise, it would not be possible. So, thank you, D.

David: Okay. We’re going to stop in the name of love.

Sandra: Yeah.

David: All right, Sandra. Take care and we’ll all be championing at SoulMusic.com this record so that you can keep making more and more and more.

Sandra: No doubt, thank you, sweetheart.

David: All right. Take care now.

Sandra: All right, bye.

About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.
  
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