Q&A with Southern California-based vocalist Sandy Haley, high-energy, soulful, blues entertainment experience with powerful vocals

"I love traditional blues of the past. I wish we had some better recordings of some of the early artists. They were filled with authenticity and great storytelling. I think blues is in the heart and soul so I don’t fear the evolution of the genre as long as everyone keeps it real."

Sandy Haley: Feels Like Freedom

Southern California-based blues vocalist Sandy Haley released her new album “Feels Like Freedom” (2022), produced by Grammy-winning artist Tony Braunagel. Sandy Haley and the band exude a high-energy, soulful, blues entertainment experience with powerful vocals that gets the crowd up on their feet dancing. They present their original music with a deep connection to Chicago blues and Rhythm and Soul Blues. The vivacious Haley won the Santa Clarita Valley Blues Society’s 2021 “Best Blues Band” at their recent yearly IBC (International Blues Competition) and was getting ready to travel with her band to Memphis to compete nationally, when it was announced on New Year’s Eve the Memphis IBC was being postponed due to the latest Omicron outbreak. Haley grew up playing piano and singing Gospel in the soulful city of Detroit. She attended Eastern Michigan University where she honed her craft in the music department. She connected with the now-legendary producer Eric Morgensen where her songwriting skills developed in the famed “Studio A”.                          (Sandy Haley / Photo By Moses Sparks)

Upon her coming of age, she and the band moved to LA where they played the local blues/rock festivals. Unfortunately, before realizing any commercial success, the rigors of the music business saw the band break up, with most of the members going home to Michigan. Sandy however, persevered, staying in Los Angeles and assembling another band – one with the right musical chemistry that showcases Sandy’s unique fusion of Gospel and Contemporary Blues. Along the way, she has shared the stage with Contemporary Blues stars like Teresa James, Coco Montoya, Tommy Castro, John Nemeth, and many others. As a member of Detroit’s popular rock band, The Rockets, Haley performed with musical giants Joe Walsh, The Beach Boys, and Sammy Hagar.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Gospel music Influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?  

I don’t remember a time that I didn’t sing because I grew up in the Church with gospel music surrounding me. Gospel music is comforting and uplifting to me no matter what is going on in my life or in the world, gospel brings optimism and hope. Blues is an ointment for my soul too, it lets me express my deepest disappointments, fears and failures. Both of these genres are similar because they bring healing to your journey in life.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

My creative drive comes from a deeply rooted desire to help others, I like to write about finding hope and healing and empowerment. I feel like songs are a gift and if you don’t write them when they are given to you, they are lost forever. My sound is influenced by blues and soul that I grew up listening to in Detroit.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What´s been the highlights in your career so far?

The first big memorable highlight of my career was working opening up for the amazing Sammy Haggar. I joined the band 4 days before the first show and learned all the songs. We arrived at the venue no soundcheck straight on stage and as we walked on stage 30,000 people started screaming. I froze like a deer in the headlights! Frozen! Guess I never considered the sound of the crowd but I quickly recovered and on with the show!

"I don’t remember a time that I didn’t sing because I grew up in the Church with gospel music surrounding me. Gospel music is comforting and uplifting to me no matter what is going on in my life or in the world, gospel brings optimism and hope. Blues is an ointment for my soul too, it lets me express my deepest disappointments, fears and failures. Both of these genres are similar because they bring healing to your journey in life." (Sandy Haley / Photo By Moses Sparks)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

A very special moment for my band was when we opened for John Mayall recently. Our bassist Ricky “RC” Cortes was one of the original Bluesbreakers. Ricky and John had not seen each other for many years. John came to our soundcheck and when he realized it was Ricky playing he was so flabbergasted and excited to see each other, a very special memory.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I love traditional blues of the past. I wish we had some better recordings of some of the early artists. They were filled with authenticity and great storytelling. I think blues is in the heart and soul so I don’t fear the evolution of the genre as long as everyone keeps it real.

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Oh boy, I do have some stories for you but maybe they are better shared over dinner. One disappointing thing is one of the major blues labels had a first option to evaluate my music for their label. They told my producer, “Don’t bother sending her music, we already have a female artist on the label.” That is very discouraging for women to hear that there is still this type of mindset in the twenty-first century. It did not stop me from moving forward but common guys 50% of the population is women and we need to be able to share our voice too!

"My creative drive comes from a deeply rooted desire to help others, I like to write about finding hope and healing and empowerment. I feel like songs are a gift and if you don’t write them when they are given to you, they are lost forever. My sound is influenced by blues and soul that I grew up listening to in Detroit." (Sandy Haley / Photo By Moses Sparks)

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Blues music can impact culture, raise awareness of social issue. I wrote a song called “Run for Shelter” about a woman that was laying on the sidewalk outside of Target store with only a blanket and no clothes or shoes. I went inside the store and bought her some yoga pants, shirt and flipflops. When I asked her what happened, she said man I just had to run for shelter. My song touches people to remember one person can make a difference in someone’s bad day or tough life. The chorus at the end was written with a gospel choir in mind chanting “love will find...a way!”

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Be friendly we have a small but lovely community. Say yes if you can. Be bold in your message if it will help others.

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