Jayne Sachs Interview
by Rick Brown
note: Janie Sachs (now known by Jayne) was a young woman who auditioned
to be in a band I fronted way back in 1980 called Small Shoes.
She played and sang with us for about 9 months when we parted
ways most amicably. She was a pleasure to play music with and
I hold some of the memories most dearly. We lost touch a long,
long time ago until the drummer from that band…Tom Grice…called
and informed me that Jayne had won the semifinals of this year’s
John Lennon Songwriting Awards. It has been a joy to reconnect
with her and I am astounded by her development as a singer/songwriter
with a strong regional following in the Dayton, Ohio area.
Naked Sunfish – How did you
get started playing music?
– When I was a freshman at OSU, I started writing original
music and learning covers. I had never performed, but decided
to try a slot at an open mic night on campus. I did the open mic
and really sucked... badly. But I kept writing and playing for
anyone who would listen. Then my sophomore year I auditioned for
a band already established called "Small Shoes"... ever
hear of em? You let me join YOUR group "Small Shoes"
and this is where I learned more about playing live and how to
play with other musicians. I learned about harmonies and such.
I still have the piece of paper you wrote out for me to teach
me the notes of a guitar... I never learned those notes and am
still playing by ear by the way. But I remember learning how to
tune a guitar from you, and realizing that one can change the
sound of a guitar by sending it through an effects box... and
other things that have been helpful in my career. From the gigs
I did with Small shoes, I was able to buy a beautiful blond Guild
acoustic and that became THE guitar I would write with for some
20 years to come. Still have it and still marvel at how beautiful
Tom Grice (drums),
Jayne Sachs (guitar and vocals),
Rick Brown (lead guitar, harmonica, vocals) and Yvonne Brown (bass)
– Of course I remember! Tell us about your early influences.
– Neil Young, Carol King, James Taylor... all the melodic
singer/songwriters of the time. The Carpenters.
– You had a career in television for a while as well right?
– I started out as a reporter and then went into producing
prime time specials with a news/documentary feel. From there I
ended up as a writer/producer for a station's creative services
department. I still love the idea of researching, writing, producing
and reporting, but don't have any plans on going back to the daily
deadlines of TV. Instead, I hope to take these skills and produce
documentaries in the near future.
– You do gigs both as a solo artist and fronting a band.
Do you have a preference?
– I very much enjoy both types of performances. The great
thing about playing with the band is "feeling" the muscle
that gets added to the bare bones of my songs. Having that power
surrounding the songs allows me to perform more "physically"
because of the added intensity and textures provided by my mates.
On the other hand, playing solo (the way I write the songs) allows
me a total connection and intimacy with the audience... given
that they are hooking into it. Sometimes the best way to reach
into a crowd is to strip down to the bare skeleton of the art
because there's not much between you and them and that rawness
doesn't allow the artist to hide.
– Recently you were a finalist in the annual John Lennon
Songwriting Contest. Can you tell us about your experiences?
– My song "Twisted
Ballerina" won their Pop Category. At first
I was shocked they choose this song because it is very intense
with a strong message via a story. I think it was brave of the
Lennon judges to gives this song the opportunity to be heard.
Because of the contest, "Twisted Ballerina" made it's
way around the globe uniting survivors of child sexual abuse and
advocates of all types. I heard from people as far away as Singapore,
Ireland, Australia, The UK just to name a few. It was a very special
connection that happened and I'm still amazed and grateful...
and a big validation to win an international songwriting contest
in that category.
– Many of your songs are about childhood. But they are dark.
And “Twisted Ballerina” is a beautiful yet disturbing
song concerning child sexual abuse. What inspires you to write
about children in a serious manner? Did you have an unhappy childhood?
– I would say that I have a handful of songs about childhood...
three in particular that deal with the issue of abuse or neglect
and a few more which deal with my own childhood situation. I never
"set out" or assign myself to write about any particular
issue or emotion. I just write. Did I have an unhappy childhood?
Yes, in many ways. My mother was dying from the time I was five
until her death when I was 12. All of our surrounding neighbors'
parents died as well and I saw all the children become orphans.
My Dad was the only adult survivor. Possibly a weird environmental
thing that happened or just a horrible state of circumstances.
But this deeply affected and traumatized me. And then I was motherless
and further affected and changed for the rest of my life. As my
Mom was in her final year, I sat by her bed and soaked it all
in... every breath of it... No one could convince me to go outside
and play or to even leave this white couch I was sitting on. I
believe I froze my brain to that time of my life and burned into
it what I was witnessing... and I think it was in these moments
that I became an artist... and would forever see the world differently
out of those same 12 year old eyes. The music came later.
– What other subjects pique your writing creativity?
– I write a lot about relationships... certainly not all
about "love" relationships. But we move through this
life being a part of relationships of all types... we're even
in a relationship with ourselves. There's always interesting points
of view to write about... but again I don't ever intend on writing
about any one particular subject... it just happens.N.S.
– You are balancing a career and motherhood now with small
children at home. That must be extremely difficult. How do you
– One day I'm rubbing my tummy and patting my head... the
next day I'm doing this while hopping across the floor on my right
foot. It's very difficult juggling a music career and family.
I had to make an initial decision to sacrifice big parts of my
career to start and maintain a family. I would love to tour. I
don't tour. I would love to spend days on end in a studio. I'm
not able to. I would love to fly to New York and take advantage
of a special showcase, but if it happens to be at a time when
something important is happening with my children, I won't fly
to New York or anywhere else. I'm with my children. And I don't
regret it one bit. But it has been a big adjustment. I'm an unsigned,
independent artist trying to get to "some" next level...
but I have self-imposed limitations that my career must fit into.
– I've read that the only time you've experienced writer’s
block was when your kids were quite young. And contrary to most
writers it was because you were actually very happy. What brought
the ideas surfacing again?
– Yeah, my writing comes from the depths... not from the
surface at all. And having kids made me one happy Mom sliding
around on the surface. And this wasn't good for my writing. I
was still writing, but everything I was writing I thought was
horrible. This is the definition of writer's block. Even though
I was happy at being a Mom, I started to grieve. I was grieving
at the loss of my art. I was so incredibly sad and started writing
a song called "When It's Dark"... a song about the demise
of my music career. This particular song ironically cut through
the writer's block and opened up the floodgates again. I wrote
an entire CD called "Sutures" and am still writing.
– I hear you work on new tunes…practice your guitar…essentially
do all your creative work in a closet. Can you tell us about this
special closet? It must be large and comfortable!
– My closet is my own little haven. It is a walk in closet,
but it's jammed full with clothes and guitars and a few boom boxes,
etc.. This is where I go to practice, to write, etc.. It is out
of necessity actually because after everyone goes to sleep I need
a place where I can go and not wake anyone up. So I go into my
closet and close the door.
– What are your plans for the future…your music…and
- I'm 45 years old now and it's highly doubtful a record company
will sign someone my age (silly fucks)... but I would love to
get a publishing deal and see some of my songs licensed out for
TV or film... and I would certainly consider a writer's deal with
a publisher because I could do this while still engaging and maintaining
for family, I plan on being the best Mom I've always wanted to
be. My husband George and I are very devoted parents and will
do all we can to raise stable, well-adjusted, happy kids. I'll
just try to do this with a guitar strapped on to my body, that's
learn more about the Jayne Sachs Band…purchase CDs…and
listen to her music go to: http://www.jaynesachs.com.