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Samantha Sidley--Out jazz singer engages in 'Girl' talk
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2019-09-22

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Samantha Sidley is an out jazz vocalist from Los Angeles. Her debut album Interior Person was just released by Me Records—and the lead single from it, "I Like Girls," already makes her a standout from many jazz singers who don't have the same perspective.

The album was created by a team of women musicians including tour mates Inara George and Alex Lilly along with Sidley's wife Barbara Gruska. Gruska was interviewed for Windy City Times, along with her brother Ethan, in 2011 as a member of the group The Belle Brigade.

In her first face-to-face interview, Sidley sat down to discuss her work before a recent Chicago performance.

Windy City Times: You studied music in school?

Samantha Sidley: Yes. I had a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music, but I didn't finish.

WCT: Was jazz music something you liked or was it just more suited for your voice?

SS: My parents weren't musicians. My dad noticed I could sing when I was four years old. I could repeat anything from the radio. My dad only let me listen to jazz. He didn't know how to teach me music. I only listened to Billie Holiday growing up. I didn't know music from my generation until way later. I discovered pop and loved it.

I have a natural jazz sensibility and loved singers like Ella Fitzgerald.

WCT: Judy Garland was also a big influence?

SS: She was huge for me. She's magic!

WCT: So you are on tour with the band The Bird and the Bee. How did you meet?

SS: I met Inara George through my wife who is playing drums for her. Inara put me on her label. She was always one of my favorite singers and now I sing background parts for her. It's so crazy!

WCT: Was coming out for you as a musician a big deal?

SS: Yes. I wasn't singing for a while. When I started again, I changed all the pronouns to women. I should have been doing that when I was 22. I was singing about girls then.

It changed up the whole vibe. It wasn't something I thought about because I was brainwashed by straight culture. I don't think about it now. Love is love and I am me. I have to sing from my perspective. If I was singing to a dude, it would be weird! [Laughs]

WCT: That's understandable.

SS: It changed everything for me and it also made an interesting element to my shows. I am a lesbian and grew up in a gay neighborhood in LA. I came out to my mom when I was 13. She said, "Oh, honey, we are all a little gay!"

WCT: How is the lesbian scene in LA now?

SS: I think it's great, but I am married. I am such a homebody, but when I go to a lesbian event, I am in heaven.

WCT: Talk about the creation of your song "I Like Girls."

SS: My wife Barbara Gruska and Alex Lilly were writing songs for me. I'm a singer-singer. I'm like Dionne Warwick that needs a Burt Bacharach. I'm an interpreter, so I suggested writing a song about it. They came up with a riff and asked what kinds of girls I like. I don't have a type. They wrote a song about that and it blew up from there.

My songs are not necessarily about being gay, but it's from a gay perspective. My music is about triumph and believing in yourself. I want people to know if they come to my show that they will have a great time.

WCT: Do you hear from fans in the LGBT community?

SS: I do. Younger girls will write to me and thank me. It makes me so happy. The boys really like my music, too. I have a huge gay male audience. Anyone can relate to my work!

WCT: So you continue touring on the road?

SS: Yes. I tour as an opener for The Bird and the Bee. I also tour with the Foo Fighters.

WCT: I saw them at Lollapalooza. The Foo Fighters have a lot of energy.

SS: I was there! It changed my life because it gave me this clout that I hadn't had before. I love Dave Grohl. He's the best boss in the world. His fans love him so much. It's very inspiring to watch. I call him Liza Minnelli because he has super human energy. He brings it every night. He will play for three hours and want to go longer. The crew has to shut him down.

WCT: Tell me more about your wife.

SS: She's Polish and Jewish. He grandfather survived the holocaust. He came to Venezuela with no shoes, so she has a whole family in Venezuela. Somehow she wound up in the Bronx with her grandmother.

WCT: Where did you meet her?

SS: I was a fan of hers and wrote to her on Myspace. She's an amazing songwriter and drummer. She is really special.

She was playing at place called Spaceland, that's now called The Satellite. I snuck backstage and gave her my phone number. She texted me a few hour laters and we had a date two days later. We have been together for 10 years!

She sings background for the Foo Fighters, too, so we are together all the time and we love it.

WCT: I love that there's a secret lesbian aspect to the Foo Fighters.

SS: Well, I love that Dave asked us to be part of his vocals. Barb is butch. When we got the call to the background singing gig, she told their manager that she wouldn't put on a dress to perform at concerts. He said, "Oh, you haven't met Dave..." He loves her now. They are best friends!

For more on this talented performer, visit SamanthaSidley.com .


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