Sasha McVeigh has come a long way. Growing up listening to country music in a small UK town she’s since performed in Nashville, and sung the US National Anthem to thousands. Currently on tour across the UK and Ireland (we saw her in London on April 8), Sasha’s album, “I Stand Alone” is set for release on May 25. Her first UK single from the album, “Someone To Break My Heart“, is now out in the UK.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself for anyone who may not be familiar with you and your music yet?
I’m Sasha McVeigh and I am a British country singer/songwriter. I’m also a huge Disney nerd or “Disnerd” as we’re called, to the extent that I wear a Mickey Mouse watch that I’ve had since I was 4 years old and it doesn’t even work anymore, but I have to wear it!
Did you find the transition from growing up in small village in the UK to performing in Nashville and across the US easy? Were you surprised by how well you were received there?
It was definitely a big risk to take and of course very scary to take that plunge into the deep end so to speak. My biggest fear was the crowds and people over there would find it weird that a British girl was singing country music, but they welcomed me with open arms. It was more than I could’ve ever hoped for! It was a huge dream of mine to go to Nashville and play shows, attempt to make an impact, and I was able to do that. I have to pinch myself on a daily basis.
How did it feel to perform the American National Anthem to 40,000 festivalgoers? How did that come about?
There aren’t even words to describe that feeling, it was an honour. My Dad was in the Special Forces in the UK and many of my American friends have family in the military so it meant a lot to me to sing the anthem for them and for all the people in the crowd. I did that after I’d played my set on the main stage, the festival organisers asked me if I wanted to do it because they thought I’d done a great job. I was nervous at first but knew it was something I needed to do. It was very moving and a moment I’ll never forget!
Where do you find your musical inspiration? Are there any artists who have had an influence on your style?
I draw inspiration from lots of different genres. My Dad was the country fan in our household, and he got me into it from a very young age but he also loves Cat Stevens and The Beatles. Whereas my Mum is a Motown, Rolling Stones and Simon & Garfunkel fan. I’m a huge fan of Zac Brown Band so I firmly believe they’ve influenced my style and I’d like to think Wyatt Durrette has had an influence on my songwriting. I think I get my bluesy side from my love of Elvis Presley who I’ve been into since I was 7 years old. Also Taylor Swift because when I was writing songs I thought it was weird that I was writing so honestly and openly but then she burst into the scene with these songs that even mentioned the guys name and it inspired me to stay true to what I was writing because that honesty got her a long way with her fans.
What kind of music does you most like listening to?
Country music ha ha. I’ve been a country fan since I was a little kid and I just love the honesty in the lyrics and the storytelling. It’ll always be my favourite!
You are about to release your first full-length album; can you tell us a bit about that?
I am so excited about this album because it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. The whole project was funded through Kickstarter, by fans, friends and family, which I think makes it even more special. I couldn’t be prouder of the songs on the album. I think there will be some surprises for listeners and of course some old favourites too. It’s cool to hear my songs with full production when previously I’ve only done acidification stuff. The recording process was just such fun! It’s called ‘I Stand Alone’ and I chose that title because I truly believe with this album in standing my ground and staying true to who I am. In the music industry and in life it’s easy to get caught up with what people say you should do, but you have to follow your heart and be yourself.
You have some concert dates coming up, what can people expect from your show?
I’m currently on UK and Ireland tour with Sonia Leigh and it’s been awesome so far, then I have UK festivals in May before heading to the US over the summer. They can expect a lot of laughter and fun. People will hear the stories behind my songs and for the first time will get to hear me perform with my full band, I also throw in a couple of acoustic songs too just to bring it down to the basics and back to how I performed previously. I’m having the best time!
What would be your dream collaboration?
That’s a tough one so I’m going to answer it in two parts. I would love to collaborate with Wyatt Durrette in terms of songwriting because he is my favourite songwriter out there, I love what he does, he has such a way with lyrics and melodies that speaks to me.
I would also love to collaborate with Alan Menken, whereby he’d write a song and then I’d sing it while he conducted the orchestra or played piano. He’s the composer behind all my favourite Disney movie music and my goodness that man knows how to compose music to make you feel very emotion possible. The end music, ‘Farewell’, from Pocahontas has me in tears and with goosebumps all over my body every time I hear it. He’s amazing!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? And what advice would you give to anyone starting out in the music industry?
My advice would be buy tonnes of lottery tickets!! Ha ha, I’m joking, but on a serious note, the music industry is a lot about the money you have and the connections you make which can get very disheartening if you’re like me and your parents are pensioners and you’ve sold everything to get this far. I can’t count the number of musicians who would be huge now if it was solely about talent. But you can’t give up and never change who you are for anyone!! You have to push past all the nonsense and the “industry” side of things because otherwise you can drown in the depression of it all. I just want to make the public aware of how shady the entertainment business can be and that you can’t take things at face value a lot of the time. I’m a very honest person and I apply that honesty to my music. Jerrod Niemann once said to me that the most important thing to remember is stay true to yourself and work hard, then everything else will fall into place. I thought that was great advice!
Where, ideally, would you like to see yourself in five years time?
I want to be at a level where I’m able to tour all over the place – be living part time in the US and part time here, bridging the gap between the US and UK country market. Still doing what I love, making music and having the best time doing it. I don’t like to be more specific than that because I don’t want to jinx it ha ha!!
Tell us about AJ Masters. How did you come to work with him? Describe him, his influence on your music etc?
AJ Masters was truly one of the greatest songwriters out there and I was lucky enough to get the chance to work with him because we’re both members of the same songwriters association in Nashville, SESAC. I had wanted to get together and write with some people so SESAC scheduled some co-writes. I was nervous about it because this was my first time co-writing with anybody and I was thinking “what on earth are a 64 year-old and a 20 year-old going to have in common” you know, how are we going to be able to meet in the middle. But I got into that room with AJ and we just clicked like two jigsaw pieces.
He co-wrote ‘You Only Live Once’ and I honestly couldn’t have finished it without him, no matter what he might’ve said to everybody!! He passed away in January, the day after I flew back to finish the album. Honestly, I was heartbroken, there’s only been one other time in my life that I’ve felt as shattered as I did when I heard the news that day. He meant the world to me and it’s weird because in total we probably only spent about 3 days together, but he just touched my life massively in those few days. He was the kindest person, had a heart of gold and could get along with anyone – that was so inspiring to me.
Someone said at his memorial that when AJ entered a room, he wouldn’t say, “Here I am” other people would say, “There you are” because that’s what he did, he impacted people’s lives without even trying to. I put the work-tape of us singing and playing the song the moment we finished it on the album, even though the quality is horrible, because you can hear him on there. On the actual track we used AJs guitar to play the lead acoustic part that he never got a chance to do. He was my songwriting soulmate and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and I still cry when I listen to our song. That’s why I can’t talk too much when I do it live but I want to play it because I want everyone to know how special he was.
He was so talented; he could write a song with anyone, and my goodness could he make you laugh. When we were writing YOLO, which was inspired by something my Mum said, he said to me “At this point I my life, I don’t have a bucket list, I have a f*** it list” cause he said when you get older you start to realise lots of things don’t matter as much as you thought they did when you were young. I’m sorry to go on and on, I don’t mean to…I just wish he was still here that’s all. But I carry him with me everywhere I go. Every time I sing our song I feel him right there with me…I hope he’s proud and I hope he knew how much I loved him.
What question do you wish someone had asked, but nobody ever does?
Well, when you’re in the spotlight or are in an industry where people watch every move you make, it’s difficult to have an opinion. If you say one wrong thing or say something that can get twisted then you can end up losing everything you’ve built. It’s crazy but it happens all the time. I can be very opinionated and I’ve had to learn to keep my mouth shut a lot of the time…there’s a lot I’d like to say, so how about we make a deal right now. How about you ask me the same question a year from now…I think you’ll be surprised by the answer!