Fans of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing may not know the name Hayley Sanderson, but they will be sure to recognise her silky smooth vocals. Peterborough-born Sanderson’s profile was raised after her haunting rendition of “Moon River” during the 2008 series. Sanderson, who has been a regular vocalist at Ronnie Scott’s and can be heard both as a singer and saxophonist in Pink Floyd tribute band Think Floyd, has finally been offered the chance to record her own record. Her vintage reworkings of timeless classics can be heard on debut album Just Songs. With 2009’s Strictly Come Dancing drawing to a close and an album to talk about, zap! bang! grabbed a few moments with Sanderson to see who she is backing.
I hear you have been very lucky career wise, can you tell us a bit more about your background?
I come from a musical background, my uncle was a musician so he inspired me to listen to lots of different styles of music and helped me get out gigging at a young age. I was also part of a local theatre school/group. As I grew older it was clear this was the industry that I was going to work in. I had been part of a girl group and got to work with people like Nile Rodgers. I also met so many musicians and after the band fell apart started doing session work and became one of the resident singers at Ronnie Scott’s. All sounds quite simple when you put it like that doesn’t it, but it all involved lots of hard work.
People can see you ever week on Strictly Come Dancing, how did you land the gig?
I’d been recording backing vocals with Tommy (Strictly Singer) and Dave Arch (Strictly MD) for a show called Dance X. Soon after that we heard one of the singers wasn’t going to be able to continue on the show and they asked me if I wanted the job! Who wouldn’t want the job?
As a resident vocalist on Strictly Come Dancing, do you have a favourite contestant this year?
My favourites are Natalie and Vincent! She seems so happy all the time and actually just really enjoying the process! Not overly competitive but generally quite content! She looks right at home on stage!
From resident singer to solo artist, how did the album come about?
I’ve always been recording and writing songs since the age of around 12, so it’s nice to finally have one my albums actually out. It’s a difficult industry and there’s still a lot of hard work to do. We really wanted to create something honest and quite bare so you could really appreciate the songs for their wonderful words, melodies and arrangements!
The album is built around altered cover versions, are you worried people will put you in the same bracket as other reality TV singers?
There are a couple of originals on there but it is mostly covers, however, the jazz world is filled with amazing songs covered by hundreds of different artists with their own twist and I can only think it’s a good thing to remind people of great writers! I think the difference between myself and most (not all) people on reality TV is they’re searching for fame where as I just want to make some music
How did you choose the songs for the album?
I thought it was going to be easy to pick some songs I wanted to do but you’d be surprised how difficult it is to find songs where the lyrics are as strong as the music and vice versa. When the songs are as stripped down as we’ve done them, there can’t be a weak link! This usually eliminates songs which are known for their grooves too, like some funk/rock tunes. This is why we’re delighted at the end result of “50 Way’s To Leave Your Lover”, the song working without needing to hire Steve Gadd every time I play a gig is quite a relief!
What is your personal favourite?
Depending on my mood “I’d say Life On Mars” or “I’m Yours”.
I’ve always been recording and writing songs since the age of around 12.
You won at talent competition aged 12, did the win fuel your desire to perform?
My desire to perform came way before twelve, this just gave me the funds to do it! I was able to buy my P.A system and little tape deck to start gigging!
You gained places at drama school, what made you decide to pursue music instead?
I’d already started getting some good work in the diary and it’s hard to get your foot in the door and it’s twice as hard being remembered! I worried that if I left the industry for three years to train they would forget and I’d have to start again three years older. It wasn’t worth the risk. Also, I’ve never borrowed money so when I found out the costs, even with my scholarships, the idea of getting a student loan didn’t really appeal to me!
Do you harbour ambitions to return to the theatre?
I miss it! I would love to do something I was right for. I’m not the most versatile of actresses; I’m more instinctive than technical. To a director that probably means I’m hard work!
You were the voice of the Talk Talk charity single “Something In The Air”. How did Talk Talk select you?
This was also through the wonderful Dave Arch. I’d been getting lots of good feedback from Ronnie’s at the time so it all helped really.
If the solo career takes off, will we possibly see you as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing or will you stick to the singing?
I would love to do it, mostly for toning up! I’m so lazy but it seems like an enjoyable way to keep fit.
If you had to be a contestant on any reality TV show, which would you choose?
Well, it’s not exactly reality but I’d love to go on The Krypton Factor. I’d be terrible but it would be the best fun!
If Just Songs takes off, what will come next?
Hopefully ‘More Songs’… I’m aware how cheesy that was, I’m not heading for a career in comedy that’s for sure!
Hayley Sanderson’s debut album Just Songs is out now. To find out more, visit her official site.
Hayley Sanderson has been kind enough to donate three signed copies of Just Songs. If you’d like to get your hands on one, all you have to do is tell us which Jason Mraz cover can be found on Just Songs. Please email your answers alongside your full name and address to email@example.com.