You mentioned that your music is an upbeat fusion of soul, disco, and pop with elements of jazz. How do you manage to seamlessly blend these different genres into a cohesive sound that resonates with your audience?
Sandra-Mae: Great question! I was really lucky to grow up surrounded by fabulous - and varied - music. Many of my family members and parent’s friends would visit bearing new music, which, as a child, was like a treasure trove of inspiration. Everything from Frank Sinatra, Diana Krall, and Astrud Gilberto to Otis Redding, Etta James, Bob Marley and Dusty Springfield. As for pop, I heard a lot of Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Backstreet Boys, and Nelly. All the phenomenal Max Martin writing and production, so it was just natural for me to subconsciously take inspiration from all these artists I grew up with and incorporate it into the music I write and perform. If you start with a well-crafted song, it will blossom in just about any genre.
Your musical moniker is your own name. While you mentioned there's no specific significance, do you feel that having your name as your brand helps to connect you more intimately with your audience?
Sandra-Mae: Yes, I do! However, a name is like a mask. I can still “play” Sandra-Mae Lux the performer on stage, but then go home and play Sandra-Mae Lux the pyjama-ed bookworm who goes to bed with herbal tea. Also, it’s a great name!
Your influences range from soul and jazz to funk and classical music. How do you find ways to incorporate these diverse influences into your music while maintaining a consistent style?
Sandra-Mae: I’m always going to write like me. Because I’m not trying to be any one style, it will always sound like me. So in that sense, I only ever have to worry about the truth of a song.
Every great artist has their own unique sound, spirit and gesture. Take Billy Joel for example. On some albums he sounds more country, the next he’s more 1950s doo-wop, and the next he’s very rocky. But through it all, he always unmistakably sounds like Billy Joel. Again, if the song is good and well crafted, it will speak in any genre, and with the authentic voice of the artist.
You mentioned a desire to collaborate with Young Gun Silver Fox. What aspects of their music and production style do you find particularly appealing and conducive to a potential collaboration?
Sandra-Mae: We both seem to have very similar artists that influence our music: The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Hall & Oats, Quincy Jones, Earth Wind & Fire, and more. The most appealing aspect is their incredibly beautiful production. It is everything I strive to accomplish in terms of arrangement and production; it’s warm, rounded, analogue, never too busy, and just effortlessly blends into a sublime feast for the ears.
Your new song focuses on a mature breakup, emphasizing parting as adults. How do you approach songwriting to capture complex emotions like this while maintaining a relatable and engaging narrative?
Sandra-Mae: I think my writing partner and I accomplish this by picking a specific moment in a relationship and making that moment visual. In this song, “The Last Time,” I imagined a couple just finished making love, and it was great and lovely, but at that moment they both feel that the relationship has finally come to an end. The song doesn’t go any further than that. A reflection of emotion in a moment. All good songwriting, to me, is about a crisis or turning point in life, which is then reflected upon, and that is where this song sits. I believe great songs are never truly diegetic, they always reflect the emotion in a moment. Even if you have a story-type song (a cowboy ballad or folk song for example), each verse reflects the emotion of that moment rather than an action.
"Little Town" seems to resonate with audiences due to its message of pursuing one's path. Could you elaborate on the personal experiences or motivations that led you to create this song?
Sandra-Mae: I grew up in a small suburban town. My parents were immigrants and travelled a lot, so travel and exploration was a natural mindset for me as well. In school I never felt like I truly belonged. I never felt like people “got” me. I suppose it doesn’t help that I was incredibly bullied throughout my entire schooling!
The other paradox about small towns is that the smaller the town, the more they seem to be threatened by ideas outside of them. In a small town, you can feel very sure about your ideas and values, nothing threatens them. And that’s great for some people, but it didn’t work for me. I guess I think a little differently, and that might make me a threat to those ideas and values that seem to inhabit small towns. So if you’re someone like me, your choices are: conform to Little Town values, or leave.
In college, I learned a lot but never felt like I could truly express myself in an authentic way. It was more about ticking the right boxes to get the right marks and graduate; talent and a personal musical identity was not really fostered. So when I graduated and had done pretty much all the gigs the small town and surrounding city had to offer, I felt like I needed to go somewhere to really spread my wings and find out who I really was, however cliché that might sound! Moving to London was the best thing for me and my artistic path. It gave me permission not only to express my authentic voice in music, but also to not apologize for who I am. I embraced London, and it feels like it has truly embraced me back.
Performing at the Royal Albert Hall is a dream for many artists. What aspects of the venue and its atmosphere do you believe would enhance your performance and connection with the audience?
Sandra-Mae: I believe that a building soaks up the emotion and the feelings of the people who inhabit it; both the performers and audiences. When you perform in one of these amazing spaces, all the people who have trodden on the stage before you, are lined up behind you, willing you on.
The Royal Albert Hall is incredibly beautiful and has all the grandeur and class a building from the 1870s could offer. There’s also something intensely romantic about Queen Victoria building a performance shrine to the love of her life Prince Albert. And the acoustics are phenomenal when half-full apparently! So of course that aspect would definitely enhance the music and connection with an audience.
Balancing a music career with voice-over work sounds demanding. How do these two creative outlets complement each other, and do you find any similarities in your approach to both?
Sandra-Mae: Yes, definitely! Anytime I’m behind a mic, I’m in my total happy place, and it seems like time ceases to exist. That could be either laying down a vocal track, sax track, or voicing an advertisement. To get a great performance in voice acting, singing, or playing an instrument, it all comes down to the same thing: getting out of your own way to let the magic happen. It’s impossible to “think” your way into an amazing performance. To truly transcend and step into the divine, you must let go.
As an independent artist, you mentioned the challenges you face in sustaining your music career. How do you navigate these difficulties while staying motivated and focused on your creative endeavors?
Sandra-Mae: Well, that’s the million-dollar question - literally! With record inflation, staggering financial inequality and a massive cost of living crisis (and the fact that streaming does not pay), it’s almost impossible to make a living as an artist right now. Even the costs of gigging and touring is economically prohibitive. I work a few day jobs to be able to pay for rent, food, etc and also to pay for things like production and mastering costs, and for other musicians to play on tracks. Working day jobs really makes it much more difficult to allow creativity and inspiration to happen. And even with those multiple jobs, it is quite a balancing act. It’s frustrating because I have so much music inside of me, so many more songs just dying to get out into the world, but the financial reality is that this can’t happen on a regular basis.
You emphasized the importance of supporting independent artists by purchasing their music or merchandise. Could you share some insights into how this support directly impacts artists' ability to create and share their work?
Sandra-Mae: The ability for an artist to create new work happens because the public gives the resources for them to do so. The music industry has gradually eroded the earning power of artists, to the point where they are being paid virtually nothing for their creations. When someone buys an album, song, mug or t-shirt directly from an artist, they circumvent the middleman and all the people who have nothing to do with the actual creation of the music. Why should a music fan pay multi-billion dollar record company executives, or CEOs of streaming services (who have virtually nothing to do with the creation of the music), for the songs they like, when they have the ability to pay an artist directly?
The current system of remuneration for an artist is unsustainable. Purchasing music directly or becoming a patron to an artist, cuts out the middleman. If I have to work three jobs just to survive (which I do), that leaves me very little time and mental capacity to create new work. Composers and artists like Mozart and Beethoven were financially resourced through direct patronage. Maybe it’s time to look at that system again.
Looking ahead, as you work on album number two, can you provide any hints about the direction your music might take? Are there any new themes or styles you're exploring?
Sandra-Mae: This album appears to be more introspective and more reflective. I guess that’s what happens when you get a little older and have a little more life experience! I’m definitely also exploring some different styles; adding a few more modern music production elements and instrumentation.
Beyond music and performing, is there a particular message or emotion you hope your audience takes away from your performances and interactions?
Sandra-Mae: A great performance has the power to evolve consciousness on a universal level. A great performance that integrates craft, honesty and integrity can help someone feel emotions that they’re afraid to feel, or want to celebrate in feeling.
I hope my audience takes with them the joy, openness, curiosity and honesty I convey through a performance or interaction. Catharsis through art is deeply powerful and deeply healing. I hope people who hear my music experience it in a similar way as I did when writing and recording it. And on that note -pun intended- feel free to listen to my music - including my new single “Perfect Weather” at https://linktr.ee/sandramaelux
Thank you again for your time, and it's been a pleasure learning more about your musical journey and creative process.