Sandy Haley brings her mix of Motown and blues to scenic Ojai on Saturday, June 4. Her performance, part of the Ojai Blues Fest, brings a return of the Blues Fest to the stage which was on hiatus since 2019. In conjunction with Sandy’s newest album, Feels Like Freedom, the show will showcase her husky, smoky blues voice. The Ojai Blues Fest will also feature Crooked Eye Tommy, a long-standing blues powerhouse fronted by guitarist/vocalist Tommy Marsh. Tommy Marsh is also a veteran of producing many Southern California blues festivals; and bringing back the Ojai Blues Fest has long been a wish he’s had.
The Ojai Blues Fest will be held at the California Arts Center. Over the years, Ojai has been the home to many musicians, including Joni Mitchell and Johnny Cash; and actors such as Larry Hagman. Ojai has also been known for its many Art Festivals and galleries, herbal shops and top-flight restaurants. Just about an hour northwest of Los Angeles, the Ojai Blues Festival can easily serve as the centerpiece of a weekend in the mountains.
Q: Ojai has a rich history in music and art. Many major musicians call Ojai home; and the Ojai Blues Fest has had a long history. What do you think about playing at the return of the Ojai Blues Fest?
A: This will be the 1st time my band has played at the Ojai Blues Fest. Ojai has a rich history of supporting artists and musicians. We are looking forward to meeting the people and showing them a good time!
Q: Who were your major inspirations for your blues style?
A: I listen to a lot of blues, gospel, soul and motown growing up in Detroit. I am always moved by emotional singers and players like Koko Taylor, Albert Collins, Aretha Franklin.
Q: Never Sleep Yourself to the Middle is one of those songs that the blues syle is famous for. What’s the story behind it?
A: Never Sleep Your Way To The Middle was inspired when I worked at an office. We had a charming married Australian boss and new young lady that joined his team. I wrote the song to encourage women to follow their dreams and not be distracted by players.
Q: Detroit is famous for their own R&B Motown/Blues style. How much influence did growing up there have on your blues style?
A: The Detroit area was heavily influenced by Chicago style blues with great horn sections and ripping sax solos. Detroit added church organ and blended blues with soul creating a unique emotional blues style.
Q: Feels Like Freedom is certainly an anthem for our lives the last few years. Is there a different mood you’ve got to be in to write a song with so much relevance for today?
A: Feels Like Freedom was wriiten while I was on The Legendary Rhythm And Blues cruise where we were listening or playing blues 16 hours a day. I wanted to honor the people that serve our Country because we know that our personal freedom we enjoy is not free. Ukrainian people know this and our hearts and love go out to them.
Q: Thank you, Sandy.
Sandy’s new album really gets down to basic blues, while singing with a voice that shows she understands the feeling of the blues all too well. Love Me Right brings a slow blues to life with excellent backup including some stellar backing vocals. Sandy lets the pain show through while remaining hopeful for the future. A rarity these days, a tasty trombone lick adds to the feeling.
Feels Like Freedom is an upbeat tune that supports a bluesy look at a timely subject. It can be an anthem for many things—personal as well as global. It’s a timely, upbeat song that brings a hopeful view to life. One of the trademark parts of the song is the full, rich organ that supports Feel Like Freedom. Blending Gospel and Blues together, Sandy creates a sound that mixes the two together in a sweet, yet powerful sound.
Tommy Marsh had this to say about the upcoming Ojai Blues Fest and his latest album:
Q: Crooked Eyed Tommy has been a fixture in Ventura County and Southern California blues music for many years. How’s it feel to bring the blues back to Ojai after the Ojai Blues Fest took an unplanned hiatus since 2019?
A: We are definitely excited about the return of OBF for 2022. With so many events shut down and never returning after Covid we are feeling very blessed to be back up and to be performing in Ojai again. It’s such a great event in one of the best small venues in all of SoCal.
Q: Your most recent album, Hot Coffee and Pain, features a title song that seems to reflect many people’s lives. What was your idea with writing this song?
A: Depite the title, Hot Coffee and Pain is a song about lost love more than old peoples morning routines..lolol This is one of the few songs that came to me from a “hook Moment” I had a sore back one morning and went to get my coffee. The coffee was good and I thought ‘mmmm Hot Coffee this morning’… then my back twinged with pain and I immediately thought ‘Hot Coffee and pain..’. When I started to write the song it came out as a broken heart song…
Q: You’re not only performing at the Ojai Blues Fest, but have an active role in producing the show. What do you think is the state of blues shows in Southern California these days?
A: I live in Nashville, Tennessee nowadays so Im not really sure how the scene in California is going. For my own part this will definitely be Crooked Eye Tommy’s busiest year ever. We are very blessed and the future looks freaking amazing for us.
I started the Ojai Blues Fest at the Ojai Art Center back in 2015 and am very pleased that I get to produce this event each year. The venue is a real listeners paradise. OBF is about MUSIC… Great Blues Music.. no arts and craft booths or distractions of that sort. Great Bands in an intimate setting with tall trees and artwork all around you. The Ojai Art Center is the oldest non-profit art center in California and it is a haven for the arts. We are so honored that they let us produce this event in the heart of Ojai.
Q: Thank you, Tommy. We’re excited about the show!
Ojai Blues Fest
Ojai Art Center
June 4, 2022
Tickets are available here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ojai-blues-fest-2022-tickets-97590703421
Top photo: Sandy Haley and Tommy Marsh photos at Woodystock, 2022 by Doug Deutsch. Photos courtesy of Doug Deutsch PR