For a while most people still recalled her as the precocious next-generation talent that produced one of the defining hits of the internet age, ‘I Wish I Was A Punk Rock (With Flowers In My Hair)’, this talented singer-songwriter has come a long way in the years since then.
As Sandi now says, “The strange thing about having the kind of success I had, people think they know you. In fact, people don’t know me at all.”
That is all about to change, however, with the release of Sandi’s superb new album, Flesh and Blood. Recorded at Nashville’s legendary 16 Tons studio, with celebrated Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson in the production hot seat, the fourth Sandi Thom album is, she says, “the first album I’ve made that is really all about me.”
Describing it as “a new chapter” in her story, personally and professionally, she adds: “I never liked to pigeonhole myself. I feel like my sound and voice have been naturally developing since I was 14-years-old, and that it’s only now I’ve finally hit upon what I really sound like.”
It’s a sound that combines the blues-rock raunch of belting opening track ‘Help Me’ with the balladic, country-flavoured charm of ‘In The Pines’; that shows how to funk it up, as on the strutting, clavinet-led ‘Stormy Weather’; and that knows how to break your heart, as with the movingly climactic finale track, ‘Lay Your Burden Down’.
Featuring a core studio band led by producer Rich Robinson on guitar and including fellow former Black Crowe and widely travelled session star Audley Freed (guitar), respected Nashville stars Mike Webb (Keys) and James Haggerty (bass), and Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman, there are also guest appearances from acclaimed singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte Marie, famous Rolling Stones collaborator, saxophonist Bobby Keys, and Sandi’s life-long drummer Craig Connet.
Sandi: “The best part about it was being able to breakout and work with all these different musicians, putting it all in the melting pot and seeing what comes out.”
Adds Rich Robinson: “I’m really proud of Sandi’s record. With the help of a great band of musicians, Sandi really stretched herself and made a bold new album. Her songs are honest and very strong. Her vocal abilities are showcased really well on this record, as well as her guitar work, and harp playing. Sandi’s a well-rounded musician and she made a great record. It was great working with her.”
Long recognised as one of the most exciting vocal talents to come out of Britain, Sandi says working with Robinson helped bring her singing to new levels.
“Rich knew I had a confidence issue, as do many singers, so on certain songs he really pushed to get the best out of me. ‘In The Pines’, ‘Help Me’ and ‘You’re Not My Man’, those were the most challenging tracks for me on the new album, as a singer. They were really, really high – and deliberately so. Rich pushed most of my songs up by at least a key, or a key-and-a-half. He wanted to hear the struggle in my voice, to get me to really work for it as a singer. He forced me out of my comfort zone and into places I’d never been before, but that he knew I could do.”
She says she has “always flown between the lines of blues and rock and folk and pop, Americana and country, it’s a real blend of different genres.”
Legendary producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, John Hiatt, Journey) was moved enough to offer to mix the final track for Sandi. “I was lucky enough to get to mix it,” says Shirley. “I think it’s super strong – her writing is fantastic and her singing is great on a great song. ‘When The Sun Comes Crashing Down’ has everything it needs to be a hit!”
A self-described “obsessive Fleetwood Mac fan”, they are also a strand in Sandi’s new sound: the strong-minded female with the oh-so vulnerable heart.
She goes on, “I feel like I deserve this now. I’ve worked my arse off to get where I am. I’ve taken some serious leaps of faith in my life and done some crazy shit. To be here now and think that it actually paid off, that it all finally came good, it’s like I’ve been playing a video game and I’ve progressed to the next level at last. I feel like I really have weathered a storm.”
A statement that is itself a metaphor for the journey Sandi Thom has been on since going to No.1 in seven countries with her very first single, ‘I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker’ and multi-million selling album, Smile… It Confuses People.
“‘Punk Rocker’ painted a very firm picture,” she explains. “Everybody expected that everything that came after would sound like that too. Hopefully this new album will change people’s perception of me as a musical artist, and become more open to me again. This really shows what else there is to me.”
Like David Bowie and Elton John, who both enjoyed early one-off hits before finding their true niche as musical artists, Sandi feels that Flesh and Blood is her coming of age album.
“All I ever want to do is write songs that connect with people. And with this album I’ve finally found a place where I can make the very best music I can achieve. The people that only know me from ‘Punk Rocker’ won’t recognise me on this album.”
Now the media spotlight has moved on to blind other unsuspecting victims, the truth can finally be given a good, proper airing. Behind the hype there is simply that voice. Heartfelt, soulful, sincere… Sandi Thom is not who you think she is.
She’s something else.
Written by the world renowned rock journalist and author Mick Wall.
Edited by ms15000 on 15 Oct 2012, 11:06
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