"I do believe there is a potential for that audience. There are kids out there who are leaning toward some basic grooves of life and some truth and humor. Being in a big arena with superstars will always draw the masses but there are plenty of festivals, smaller venues and recordings … even if they hear it on a Netflix movie or a documentary… that will reach their people. The blues, Soul and R&B speaks to the world … a universal condition of humanity."
Sandy Carroll: Love, Hope, and Music
Like many others, the dynamic musical team of singer/songwriter and keyboardist Sandy Carroll along with her husband, GRAMMY-winning producer Jim Gaines, discovered plenty of time for creative expression during the pandemic. Emerging from the confines of Covid with exciting new material, she assembled an all-star backing band including guitarist Will McFarlane, bassist Dave Smith, and drummer Steve Potts, to bring her treasure trove of new songs to life. Carroll's new album and Blue Heart Records debut, “Love On It” (2023), is about joy, grief, betrayal, hope, social awareness, faith, humor and above all, love. Sandy Carroll exudes a been-there, done-that, 'n still-doing-it nature branding her as a comfortable pro undaunted by the damnably shifting music scene, someone who knows precisely what she's doing and isn't going anywhere but where she's already been, 'cause, brother, it's the right place to be.
(Photo: Sandy Carroll)
Carroll is a proud product of the musical melting pot of Memphis, where blues, soul, rock and country genres blend to produce hybrids as compelling as they are unique. She grew up in the little town of Stantonville, Tennessee, started playing piano at age five, and has been performing professionally since age 15. In the early 80's, she worked at Lafayette's Corner on Beale Street, singing and playing the grand piano in the window. The great Albert King included "If You Got It" (a co-write with Jim Dickinson and Bobby Keel) on his 1991 album, Red House. Her 1997 album, Memphis Rain, was produced by Jim Solberg (Luther Allison). Allison loved "Just As I Am," rewriting the bridge including the song on his Grammy-nominated 1997 CD, Reckless, produced by Jim Gaines. Gaines began producing for Carroll in 2006, and seven albums, including Love On It, have followed. Caroll is the proud recipient of a Beale Street Brass Note, in 2010.
Interview by Michael Limnios Archive: Sandy Carroll, 2018 interview
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from y our experience in the music paths?
Humility, never giving up, listening and learning, create your own style, practicing, taking risks, choosing the calling instead of comfort.
How has the Blues and Soul music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
I have always been drawn to soul music. Even as a kid, I would be listening to Nancy Wilson and Esther Satterfield then Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, Randy Crawford, Solomon Burke and of course Aretha and Gladys Knight. It spoke to me, it grooved, it was truth, it was smooth, it was sexy. The blues came later, as a musician playing Beale Street and as a human who was old enough to know. I wanted all the experiences I heard in the music. I took chances, had bad luck and good, was heartbroken and poor, lived “on the road” with no rules, paid a lot of dues and survived to tell about it through songs. All that is who I am … soul and blues were the blueprints.
Currently you’ve your debut release with Blue Heart Records. How did that relationship come about?
I had worked with Betsie Brown before and knew how great she is and my old label was scaling down and wanted touring artists. He suggested I talk with Betsie. Betsie introduced me to Sallie Bengtson of Blue Heart Records. I just loved her right away. It has been a great experience with this team, and they have seen me through not only the musical path but a personal one. I cannot say enough good things about Blue Heart, but I will say a very humble “thank you”!
Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album “Love On It”?
Oh yeah. First, most of the songs were written on zoom … sometimes 4 writers trying to communicate with instruments. One of us would make a “work tape” to pull it together and then a demo. That was interesting, because collaborating depends on energy … but we got pretty good at it. This album was supposed to be released in April with the single track coming out in December. Due to a family medical emergency, we missed both of those dates. Meanwhile, we kept writing — in the hospital, rehabs, etc. — and came up with two new songs that we thought should be recorded. We pieced together several small sessions and got them tracked. We overdubbed when we could, Jim mixed when he could, and we finally made our August release date. It’s sort of a little miracle, a lot of faith and a whole lot of love that makes this recording.
Why do you think that Memphis music scene continues to generate such a devoted following?
Memphis just has this energy. A mentor of mine used to say it was in the Mississippi mud. There is the deep musical history of blues, Stax, Willie Mitchell, jazz, rock and Elvis. Country, too. Cotton fields and poverty, a touch of magic with black and white musicians and music playing and creating and recording… raw and gritty live music in the jukes and on Beale. It’s still steeped in all that and it leaks through or soaks in todays music. There is a vibe. It’s unmistakable and unforgettable and important.
What moment changed your music life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?
Playing on Beale Street for years was a huge influence… getting to play with the masters who would drop by and sit in. They would teach and share and pay it forward. I remember the day I found out Albert King had recorded one of my songs, I remember hearing Luther Allison’s version of “Just As I Am”, and then the studio … working with Willie Mitchell, James Luther Dickinson and then Jim Gaines. I was hungry to be better … I still am.
Do you think there is an audience for Blues/Soul/R&B music in its current state? or at least a potential for young people to become future audiences and fans?
I do believe there is a potential for that audience. There are kids out there who are leaning toward some basic grooves of life and some truth and humor. Being in a big arena with superstars will always draw the masses but there are plenty of festivals, smaller venues and recordings … even if they hear it on a Netflix movie or a documentary… that will reach their people. The blues, Soul and R&B speaks to the world … a universal condition of humanity.
(Photo: Sandy Carroll & Jim Gaines)
Comments are closed for this blog post