Talking to Sandi Thom is refreshing; despite having lived in America for the last 5 years she has retained the Scottish twang to her accent and all her British humour. Having lived all over the UK and as close to the sea as possible, she moved to Hollywood and then a few years ago back to her country roots. “Malibu really is in the middle of nowhere which is something people just don’t realise, I’ve gone back to being a country bumpkin, walking on the beach and playing in the rock pools, my bathrooms are full of shells I have collected from the beach. Growing up my Dad was a fisherman so I consider myself a waterbaby, I quite often go for a swim and I can see the locals in their wetsuits and I just jump in, in my bikini, but I am used to swimming in the North Sea!” Malibu might be worlds away from Scotland, but for Sandi, being by the sea has been a theme that has run right through her life, and even as an adult she continued to live in cities with close proximity to water, “the only time I wasn’t near the sea was when I lived in London” she tells me.
Sandi is speaking to us from the home she shares in Malibu with guitar legend Joe Bonamassa. “I am sure our home was built just for us, Joe’s a big geek really and has a room filled with all his amps and guitars and he can be playing away and all I can hear is a low rumbling of sound as I sit plonking away at my piano, we have our own space in the house and I have a great set up here with a writing room. I just brought a 110 year old piano which I am writing my next song on and I have a collection of my guitars, plus you can crank the volume to 11 and no-one complains.” So have they thought about meeting at a room in the middle and coming up with something together? “The time we spend at home together is often at holidays, Christmas etc and because we are both touring musicians we both just want to make dinner, see friends and live a normal life, so we’ve never collaborated, but if the chance ever arose it would be very unplanned and organic.”
Sandi has just released her 5th album, which unlike her others, is a collection of cover songs. “This album was really chosen by my fans. I posted a video a while back of a cover of Guns N’ Roses’ November Rain and it got over 130k views on YouTube, as a child of the 80s there are many songs from my childhood such as those by Heart, Eva Cassidy and Prince that I really wanted the opportunity to cover, but not in a big production type way. I never wanted to recreate the original, but to cover them acoustically and show that these are good songs and you really only need a guitar to do it. They also bring back great memories for me, as I am sure they will for a lot of people, it was a great experience creating this album.”
Having started her career posting videos on her website, Sandi rose to fame with her single; I Wish I was a Punk Rocker, before releasing her album, Smile, It Confuses People, which went to number one in the UK. “Getting a number one album was on my dream list of things that I never thought would happen, that and playing the Royal Albert Hall, and I’ve done that twice, so I am hopeful for other things on the list.” Such as? “A duet with Stevie Nicks!” Sandi was actually lucky enough to duet with one of her idols, Buffy Sainte-Marie back in 2012. “My mum introduced me to Buffy’s music and I was so star struck when I met her, she’s in her 70s and has been juggling this crazy musician’s life and she’s still so humble and looks amazing, the only other person I have ever been so struck to meet was Annie Lennox, she has such a presence, I literally had no idea what to say to her, but it’s things like that, which make this so worthwhile.”
At only 32 Sandi has been a part of the music industry for more than 10 years, has aging in it made her wiser? “I think it’s harder for people now who are starting out, when I was streaming performances live on my website it was a relatively new thing, now everyone is doing it or has done it, pretty much anyone can make a record now and the market has become saturated making it so much harder for the genuinely talented people to get noticed. On the other hand the advances in technology have made it easier than ever to engage with those fans who are loyal to you. Say you release a single each month that is available to download for $5 dollars and 1000 people a month download it, you’re never going to be famous in the traditional sense of the word, but suddenly you’re making a living. I would always tell myself to keep doing what you’re doing, oh and watch the money! You get to a point where you feel like every step is a baby step and every time you try to take a big step you get knocked back, but if you stay true to yourself, keep the quality in what you are doing and listen to your fans, they are your biggest critics after all, you will get there, eventually.”
So is 2014 going to be a big year for Sandi? “I’m shooting a DVD, it will feature two very special Scottish artists, their identities are top secret until later in the year, but I am really excited about it. I am also working on my sixth album and in April I will be back in the UK with my one-woman show, whilst it’s just me the shows are in no way laidback, but very energetic and upbeat and it’s going to be a really fun tour. I’m really hoping for a successful year, especially as me and Joe decided that if all goes well we are finally going to get ourselves a pet, so getting a golden doodle literally hangs on my success.”
Tickets to see Sandi Thom across the UK are on sale now.