I need to preface this interview with some important information: Sanders Bohlke happens to be a good friend of mine. Luckily for me, it was very easy to talk to him for this piece. He’s an extremely talented singer and song constructor, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my friend. It’s the God’s truth. Sanders’ brand of heartfelt music originates from a small town in North Mississippi where there isn’t much to do outside of riding around in your jacked-up truck with the windows down while blasting music. Sanders and I grew up in the same hometown and when you live in a small town in the South you pretty much know everyone without actually knowing them, so I’ve known about Sanders’ many talents for a long time, even when we weren’t that familiar. He’s got an outstanding voice, eerily reminiscent of Sam Cooke or any number of other soul singers from the 1960’s, and an ability to grab the audience’s attention with the tone of his voice. Couple that with haunting lyrics and well placed instrumentation and you have Sanders’ latest album “Ghost Boy”, recorded here in Birmingham.
I spoke with my friend Sanders briefly on the phone about everything from touring to the current state of record buying and streaming music. Here’s what he had to say:
BHAMFM: Hey Sanders. How’s ya mama an’em?
SANDERS: They good!
B: Awesome! You recently came back from a tour with Rachel Yamagata. How did the tour go and how were the crowd reactions?
S: Extremely well. Better then I thought, not that I thought it would go badly. I just haven’t done a lot of touring. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed going with Rachel and going to a lot of cities I’ve never been to and may have never had the chance to get to. She has a loyal following and her crowd respects who she brings on tour. I got a good reaction and definitely got some “new ears”. People were paying attention and were more respectful then other places I’ve played. It was very encouraging to me.
B: Do you like touring?
S: I do when it’s like this tour. Rachel was easy to tour with and it seemed easy and seamless to go from city to city. Hats off to our agents for mapping out a great tour. We played some great venues, and I felt kind of spoiled because I got to play by myself. Playing solo lets me have more control of pace of the songs and how the night goes. Doing it solo was fun. Normally I don’t really like touring because I feel like don’t really get much out of it. It varies from crowd to crowd. All the pressure is on you to bring a crowd and it can be nerve-racking to go out on tour on your own. This tour made me rethink touring. I’d rather be writing or recording but I know I have to tour. But I’d kind of rather not!
B: I understand that. I saw you released Ghost Boy on vinyl recently (available at the new Communicating Vessels record store in Woodlawn!). What is your take on the recent popularity in buying vinyl and do you think it’s good for bands and artists?
S: I love vinyl. I’m excited that it exists again. I hope it keeps going and I hope bands continue to put their music on vinyl, regardless of sales. There’s something about vinyl being bigger and heavier. It’s like a piece of art. The artist puts time and effort into it (the vinyl) and it sounds better. With mp3s coming with a new vinyl purchase, you have this record that’s like a piece of art and you get to keep the music in a digital format, too. Why would you not want to do that? You’re not paying that much more to have something way cooler than just this digital thing that isn’t even a tangible thing. I prefer buying vinyl. I don’t know if it’s really financially viable and I don’t know if there are people out there who want to buy vinyl and actually listen to it or just maybe collect it for fun. They are probably friends with others who buy vinyl and its like a popular thing. But I think the majority of people would rather just buy music online. I don’t think enough people do like vinyl, which is sad. I hope it stays around.
B: There’s been a lot of news surrounding streaming websites and downloading services and the way they treat artists. Do you think the way they treat artists is fair? How much do you rely on those sites?
S: For me, its weird. I’m not making a ton of money off Spotify and Pandora like other artists. The idea that they (the people protesting Spotify) are possibly taking away money from me is bad and I think it’s bad for other up and coming artists. Spotify opens a lot of doors for a lot of bands. I’m a fan of Spotify as a thing but I agree that it takes away from the artists selling actual music and making a lot of money. It’s kind of similar to movies. People don’t really go to movies anymore since you can get them at home, instantly. You miss the experience. That’s the way music needs to be, too. It’s a good thing to have access to, but its like taking away from going out and getting the music on your own. You can just sit in your chair all day and get access to anything you possibly want and that’s kind of sad. But, at the same time, it’s awesome. For me (as an artist), Spotify is good because people can say, “Hey, I found you on Spotify.” They may never buy my record, but they are listening. For people who don’t want to or can’t really afford to buy tons and tons of music or go to every show, Spotify is a good way to discover and pay a small fee.
It’s bad and good, so I guess I don’t really know how I feel. I’m not at a level where I can gain new fans even if I took my music down from Spotify or Pandora. I kind of need Spotify. But, I can’t really argue they don’t give you much money per play. I can completely understand a band like Radiohead protesting. I wouldn’t argue with that. I’m thankful for stuff like Pandora and Spotify and YouTube. As an artist, that’s what you want to do- put music in people’s ears. You don’t really care if they pay for it right away. You just want them to listen. Then later on when you have more success, you can control people buying your records and tickets to your shows and not having free music. It’s a love/hate thing for me, I guess.
B: What’s next for you?
S: I have a few shows coming up. I’m currently trying to write a record down here in Florida. I’m getting ready to hopefully record some music soon. I’m also working other side projects and I have a music video coming out soon too. (This interview took place a few days before Sanders’ brand new video for “Serious” came out. I’ve linked it below. Check it out.)
B: Last question: What are you listening to right now?
S: Oh man, well it’s weird. I’ve been into a lot of film soundtrack type stuff lately. I’ve been listening to Vincent Gallo (actor/director) a lot. His music is really strange, but I really like it. You probably wouldn’t listen to it in you car or anything but it’s kind of mood music. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Nico lately. A bunch of her solo stuff. Her voice is really cool. Another one I like is a record called Le Monde Fabuleux Des Yamasuki. It’s a Japanese record with a bunch of Japanese singers. I found out that it’s actually Daniel Bangalter, Thomas Bangalter’s (of Daft Punk) father, that made the record in the 70s. A lot of people have sampled it in newer music. A friend let me listen to a song or two and now I’ve kind of unraveled more of the record. Great bass and drum tones. It’s kind of an underground famous record. I had know idea until I Iooked it up it was the guy from Daft Punk’s dad!
B: You’ve been a good sport Sanders. Talk again soon.
Here’s the brand new video for “Serious” on Sander’s most recent effort “Ghost Boy”. Go get this one now. On vinyl, perhaps?