At first listen, young jazz singer/songwriter Nancy Sanchez is musically mature beyond her years. Better yet, she’s just getting started. The immigrant from Toluca, Mexico, made her home in Anaheim at an early age before settling in Fullerton. Sanchez’s life experience is reflected in how easily the singer shifts among English and Spanish original compositions and classic standards.
With a background in mariachi music during her teenage years, she later turned to jazz and began performing onstage at various venues in Orange County. People quickly took notice—including longtime jazz drummer Evan Stone, who was impressed by Sanchez’s poise and talent. He eventually signed on to produce the singer’s seven-song, self-titled debut, which was released this spring. It’s in the album’s two original compositions, “Stardust 2010” and “Alas,” that listeners get a glimpse into Sanchez’s potential.
Her flexible vocal range displays sultry hint of Norah Jones with a dash of the playful phrasing of Mexican pop rockera Natalia Lafourcade. Lyrically reflective, Sanchez is equally compelling when she incorporates a solo acoustic set in her stage shows. Material not included on the new album—such as the popular “Hippopotamus Song”— gives Nancy Sanchez fans much to anticipate in the years to come.
OC Weekly: As a young musician, at what age did you first start appreciating and wanting to sing jazz music? And how does being Latina influence your approach to jazz?
Nancy Sanchez: I was 16 when I first started appreciating and wanting to sing jazz music. The fact that I grew up in Mexico for the first five years of my life, listening to folkloric music of my country, means it’s a part of me, and it’s innate in my musical spirit. That music touched me early on in my life, so it comes out naturally in any style I sing. It’s a part of me.
How did your self-titled debut album come along? What was the creative process like, and how did you go about selecting covers and developing original material?
Initially, I went into the studio to record a demo to get work. We then realized we had great tracks and decided at that point to make it an EP. So it’s kind of by accident that this came to be in existence. Being in the studio and recording my music felt very natural for me. I love the environment and being around creative people. Evan Stone and I discussed a bunch of standards, and we picked out the ones I loved the most and felt most connected with. I also have a library of original songs of mine, and we decided to include a couple of them in this recording.
You’ve studied under Los Angeles-based jazz singer Cathy Segal-Garcia. What lessons have you learned from her that you directly apply to your music today?
I still study with Cathy Segal-Garcia as much as I can. I think Cathy is an amazing musician and singer. When I’m with her, she gives me a sense of peace, and she is very encouraging.
You perform regularly at Steamers Jazz Club in Fullerton. When did that relationship with the venue begin, and how has it helped you as a young singer?
A couple of years ago I met Terence Love, the proprietor of Steamers, at one of my performances in town. He came up to me after the show and offered me a gig in his club. Terence has been extremely supportive of my music career, for which I am eternally grateful.
What’s next for Nancy Sanchez? More recordings? More concerts? A music video?
Yes, yes, yes to all of the above. I’m in the process of recording my next full-length album of all-original music. I’m very excited about that.
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Nancy Sanchez performs at Steamers Jazz Club and Café, 138 Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-8800; www.steamerscafe.com. Wed., 8 p.m. Free. All ages. For more info on Nancy Sanchez, visit www.nancysanchezmusic.com.
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This column appeared in print as "Jazzy Star."