Interview: Sandra Mae Lux


Interview: Sandra Mae Lux

Musical Roots and Early Influences:

Can you share more about your musical upbringing in Steveston, Vancouver? Were there specific local influences that shaped your early musical experiences?

I was very lucky to have quite an idyllic upbringing.  Steveston is a pretty quaint fishing village close to Vancouver (Canada). Growing up my brother and I would ride our bikes and rollerblade, climb trees, explore, go on adventures…the things that being a kid is all about!  One of my neighbours was my piano teacher, so I used to walk to my piano lessons around the corner from the age of 6.  At the age of 11 I took up saxophone, and by the time I went to high school I was already in the city’s honour youth concert band and jazz band. I was also lucky to have a wonderful private saxophone teacher from the age of 11. She really inspired me, and definitely had to explain to my mom that I did indeed have a natural talent that most kids didn’t at that age.  I’m not sure I would still be playing sax were it not for her!

Musical Inspiration:

Les Miserables left a profound impact on you at a young age. Can you recall any specific moments or songs from the production that inspired you to pursue a career in music?

Yes!  When Cosette sang “Castle On A Cloud” I was completely mesmerised!  It was such a beautiful rendition, and she had such a sweet voice.  I also loved it when the whole cast broke into “Do You Hear The People Sing.”  There was so much energy, and the song was so catchy! I was totally hooked.  I knew from that moment that music would be a part of my life forever. 

Artistic Journey:

You mentioned that artists are born artists. Could you elaborate on your personal journey in answering the call to become an artist and the challenges you faced along the way?

The funny thing about being called to do something, is that people think it’s the easy path.  Actually, answering your call can be incredibly challenging; but it’s those challenges along the way that help you grow and evolve as an artist, and a human being. I knew that music would be my life from a very early age, but I still don’t know the whole of that musical journey and where it will lead.  

As a very bullied teenager in elementary and high school, music and the arts literally saved my life. Music for me, especially in high school, was an escape from all of that bullying. It was my safe place, my haven, a place where I could express my authentic self, knowing that I wouldn’t be judged or made fun of. 

I had a real crossroads moment in high school.  My mom was really pressuring me to become a nurse like she had, because it was “safe, secure, and you get a good pension.”  I had even applied to a few nursing schools, but it just didn’t feel right.  

I had the most extraordinary high school music teacher named Jeremy Hepner. He was so wonderfully encouraging and nurturing of my musical journey.  One day, he took me aside and said “Sandra-Mae, you don’t pursue music. Music pursues you. It’s a calling. You either answer that call now when you’re young, or it keeps bugging you for the rest of your life until you do.”  Were it not for Jeremy, I probably wouldn’t be here.

Music Style Evolution:

Your music is described as an upbeat fusion of soul, disco, MOR, pop, and jazz elements. How has your style evolved over the years, and what led you to incorporate these diverse influences into your sound?

I was very lucky that a lot of my parent’s friends and family members had fantastic taste in music, and big record collections! So all of that soul, jazz, funk, R&B and classical music that was playing in the house when I was growing up absolutely influenced and inspires me to this day.  Artists like Etta James, Otis Redding, US3, Amy Winehouse, Stevie Wonder, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Donny Hathaway, Diana Krall, D’Angelo, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra have all greatly influenced me.  And as a sax player, I was very inspired by the playing of Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Cannonball Adderly, and Paul Desmond.

Of course hearing all these incredible records from an early age makes that music just seeps into your soul! All artists I think, including me, are influenced and inspired by what they hear, and what music calls to them. All these phenomenal artists called to me, so that’s why my music sounds the way that it does. 

Songwriting Themes:

Your songs often explore themes related to traditional relationships. Can you delve deeper into the inspiration behind these “grown-up” themes and how they shape your songwriting process?

When we’re on social media, or watch TV, films, ads, etc. they’re mostly filled with “happy endings” only, when in reality real life really isn’t always like that.  Sometimes it’s the journey of being with someone for a limited amount of time that makes it all the more meaningful.  Does marriage really mean “‘till death do us part?” Should one always struggle through stoically in a relationship that isn’t working, or do some relationships have a natural “sell-by date” that should be observed to save both people a lot of pain?  There’s so much to be said for truly living in the moment.  It’s true of relationships, and true in all aspects of life. 

Stage Name Significance:

You mentioned that your stage name is essentially your own name. Is there a specific reason or significance behind using your real name as your stage persona?

Firstly, I think it’s a great name! It also has a great meaning: “helper of mankind.” 

I think a name is like a mask. I can “play” Sandra-Mae Lux the performer on stage, but then go home and play Sandra-Mae Lux the pyjama-ed bespectacled bookworm who goes to bed with herbal tea!

“Moment In The Sun”:

The track “Moment In The Sun” reflects a feeling of frustration and a desire for freedom. Could you share more about the creative process behind this particular song and the message you aimed to convey?

This song was actually a bit of a challenge to get out!  My writing partner and I really struggled to get the lyrics and the feel just right. I suppose some of the feelings of frustration made their way into the song itself haha.  People have a misconception that good songs just fall out of thin air and get written in like five minutes. While that may be true for a lot of great songs we know and love today, it’s definitely not true for all of them.  There are so many stories of famous songs that were a total struggle, and the band was ready to throw the song away, but that song ended up being the best selling single of the whole album (Minute by Minute by The Doobie Brothers is one example).

Favorite Artist Moments:

You mentioned the joy of hearing your songs performed by a full band. Can you share any specific moments in your career that stand out as particularly rewarding or memorable?

After writing, recording and releasing my first album “Happily Ever Now” I decided that I wanted to get it pressed to vinyl, especially because the songs and instrumentation really leant itself to that medium.   I spent weeks (months maybe) getting the artwork and text and layout and images just right.  At the time there was a huge delay in vinyl getting pressed because the Big Three record companies had pretty much taken over, and smaller pressings like mine were not prioritised.  

After 9 months of waiting, I finally got 500 copies of the album delivered to my door on an actual pallet!  It was an amazing feeling to open that first box and hold the album in my hand for the first time.  Something I had made was actually tangible – something you could touch, feel, see, smell and hear of course. That was definitely a stand out moment!

Upcoming Jazz Album:

Your upcoming jazz album sounds exciting! Can you give us a sneak peek into the inspiration behind the album and what listeners can expect in terms of style and musical elements?

Growing up, my mom had some really wonderful jazz music lying around; classics like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Diana Krall, Stan Getz, Paul Desmond, Dexter Gordon and lots more.  A couple of my favourites were Diana Krall’s “Love Scenes” and “When I Look In Your Eyes.”

I would say both of those albums are pretty much perfect in every way. Krall is such a phenomenal pianist with a wonderful sultry voice. And on piano, she has incredible swinging feel and tasteful, classy phrasing. With Christian McBride on bass, Russell Mallone on guitar, Tommy LiPuma producing and legendary engineer Al Schmitt recording, there was really no way those albums were going to be any less than exceptional.   So for my upcoming jazz project, you can definitely expect me to be very heavily influenced by those albums!

Favorite Tracks and Collaborations:

You highlighted the re-recorded Christmas song and the single “Perfect Weather” as standout tracks. Could you share why these songs are particularly meaningful to you, and any memorable experiences from collaborating with others on these projects?

My writing partner and I wrote “Where Is Christmas Now” during the Covid pandemic.  We weren’t able to visit family and friends during this period of course, so we were inspired to write a song about reminiscing about the Christmases of our childhood, and how magical they always seemed. It’s funny that when you grow up, Christmas can sometimes feel so overwhelming, with all the pressure on getting the “perfect” gifts and making the “perfect” meal. So to counter that feeling, we wanted this song to remind people of that childlike wonder, and hopefully remind others that it’s still there!  

We wrote “Perfect Weather” in about 10 minutes!  Sometimes a song just wants to fall out, and all you have to do is get out of its way.  

Life Outside of Music:

Besides music, you have interests in exercising, cooking, and voice-over work. How do these activities contribute to your overall well-being and creativity?

Exercise is totally essential! For me it’s not about getting super fit or losing weight, it’s more about the mental health benefits.  I sleep so much better too!  Cooking and eating well are also really important; the cooking is quite therapeutic for me. 

Voice-over is just another way of expressing myself through a medium other than music.  I feel so lucky to get the opportunity to challenge myself with different briefs, and explore different vocal gestures, pitch, musicality and tonal placement.  All of that feeds back into the music, and the music feeds into the voice-over work.

Hidden Introvert:

Many might be surprised to learn about your introverted side. How does being an introvert impact your approach to performances, collaborations, and interactions within the music industry?

I have anxiety, so performance is sometimes a challenge for me.  It’s funny how you can love doing something, but it can also be stressful!

I don’t make performing a priority, and I don’t hunt for gigs.  If I get asked to perform, I take it as a sign from the universe that I need to get out there and connect. And when I’m on stage and the band is swinging, I totally love it!  

I write with one writing partner, like the legendary Brill Building writing duos of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  My dream is to have other more established artists perform the songs we’ve written. But if someone reached out and was interested in collaborating on something, I wouldn’t be opposed. There’s a lot of trust, respect and patience involved in creative collaboration, so it would definitely have to be the right fit. 

Creative Process:

When facing creative or artist block, you mentioned the importance of continuous writing. Could you share any specific rituals or practices that help you overcome these blocks and keep the creative juices flowing?

Sometimes I feel like giving up on a song because it’s just not “working” or “flowing.”

That can be frustrating. Sometimes I try to power through and just do it “wrong” or intentionally make it bad (or my version of bad).  And through intentionally writing something that is “bad” or “cliche” you take some of the pressure off, and you work your way through to the other side – the song that wanted to come out. 

Other times it’s best to just pack up for the day and come back to it another time with fresh ears and a fresh perspective.  And of course, a deadline is also a great way to deal with writer’s block and get those creative juices flowing!

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