“I don’t think God is a he or a she. I don’t think God has a penis.”
RELATED POST ON IFELICIOUS.COM– http://ifelicious.com/?p=1473
You never know what to expect from Sally Anthony. That’s what I think makes her so amazing. As a pop singer who has been on the scene for a while and quite a devoted fan base to boot, you’ll find she covers a range of topics in her music. Her latest album “Goodbye” is no exception. The single “So Long” and its accompanying video send a bold farewell of sorts to our 43rd president George W. Bush. At the same time, the single “Your Way” has more of a classic sappy pop lament sound (believe or not, I mean that in a good way) perfect for your rainy day blues or just some chill time. I could totally see one of her songs popping up on an episode of MTV‘s “The Hills” or “The City” to musically narrate some girl drama like a break up or something. You know when they put a little blurb at the bottom of the page with the song and artist?
As much as Sally plays the tough girl, “anti-princess” type who doesn’t give a fuck, there were distinct moments during our conversation where I found her to be the polar opposite. Her concern about conveying the right message to younger fans and her decision to adopt a sick infant from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for example. She also cares about her fans, and from the comments that have already popped up here on my blog, I can tell she has a strong and supportive following.
Art imitating life…
Or is it the other way around? I was brand new to Sally Anthony‘s music, her story, her life, but my interview time with her left me wanting to listen to more of her music and make the connection to the person I spoke to on the phone. I essentially studied her music for the past few weeks. I can’t get that techie engineer out of me. You would’ve thought I was going to write a master’s thesis on her work the way I replayed her albums “Vent“, “Goodbye“, and her special treat to her fans of previously unreleased tracks called “The Step-Children.” Was she believable? Is she really the “anti-princess”? Is her sound unique? Hmmm, maybe it’s not so much from the techie engineer in me. Maybe it’s more that we’ve all become music critics after the onslaught of reality shows like “American Idol.” Who the hell was saying “pitchy” and “poor song choice” 10 years ago?
We talked about everything from the adoption of her daughter Marley to Britney Spears‘s comeback. All the while, I could hear the passion in her voice about everything she shared- whether it’s her music, helping others to a fault, social activism, or even fussing with her mom which was the jumpstart to our conversation.
Marley and Me…
Sally was admittedly having a chaotic day when we spoke and, as us ladies do, appeared to need some quality vent time before kicking into interview mode…or somehow blurring the two together. Her house was full with her housekeeper’s children and her own daughter Marley running around and, just before calling me, she had been fussing with her mom, to whom she shouted an “I love you” to midway through the interview when she walked by (it was cute), about the cover art shown below.
“My mother’s a nightmare. She’s driving me absolutely crazy…I love my mother. My mother and I are very, very, very close…She’s walking around talking about a poster of me, telling me it was too slutty and that she needed to cover it…It’s not even that bad. It’s similar to the Miley Cyrus picture in Vanity Fair.”
Chaotic indeed, eh? The conversation smooths out over time. Without pause, Sally went onto talking about her daughter Marley (now 3 years old) that she and her husband adopted from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Before my fellow black Americans start rolling your eyes about this Brangelina type notion, because I did it too for a moment, I found Sally was genuine in her purpose. Yes, she did go to the same orphanage as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (Wide Horizons For Children), but I love her outlook on adoption as you’ll read below. Here’s my 2 cents…It’s nice to see African babies be the “it” child for American adoptions right now. It just speaks to our progress in an occasionally racially handicapped America. If you want to argue domestic versus overseas adoption, then that’s kind of a whole other ball of wax. I say “kind of” because I know our orphanages (well children’s homes…we Americans don’t like such harsh terminology) in the States, while some may be bad, are not nearly as rough as what you’d find in a Third World country. Besides, anyone willing to take in and care for an unwanted child of any race, color, or creed is a blessing.
“We adopted her (Marley) when she was 4 months old, and she actually was a special needs baby. She had a serious heart condition. They didn’t know how serious it was, not that it would have made one difference in the world to me. I sort of told God, whatever He sent me first, umm, and I refer to God as a he, I just… I just say he, but I don’t think God is a he or a she. I don’t think God has a penis. Anyway, I just sorta had this chat with God that whatever we were sent first we would take, you know? Because that’s how pregnancy works. You get is what you get, and I felt it should work the same way on the other end.
We got a picture of her and a couple of people had passed on her. She was found abandoned. [The orphanage] was in Addis Ababa ..It was a tiny 4 room place- 4 cribs and 2 babies in each crib…She had been left on the steps of a police station as a newborn. She wasn’t even 10 days old, and somebody happened to pick her up…and take her to this particular orphanage.
I feel like she’s an angel. I feel like God placed her to be with us…”
Marley had been passed over by other potential adopters because of a heart problem. The orphanage in Addis Sababa could not say with certainty that it could be corrected, based on the instrumentation they had available, but Sally had clearly fallen in love with this little girl. I applaud Sally for not letting Marley‘s heart condition deter her, knowing that she and her husband had the means to give this little girl a second chance at life. Even the details surrounding her birth date are not certain.
“She was born November 1st, 2005, but they based that on…her umbilical cord [and when she was dropped off to the orphanage].”
“We drove to the orphanage, and they literally put her in my arms, and that was it. Then we went to this tiny courtroom, and it wasn’t even a courtroom. We waited for like 6 hours, and she laid on my chest and was very lethargic but would smile really sweetly at me and she slept and would sweat a lot. I knew something was really wrong with her. Their echocardiograms didn’t work very well. They did the best they could diagnosing her. They didn’t lie to us. They just didn’t have the technology to see what was really going on in her heart.
And so once we got back here (to Indiana), we came back on a Sunday…a lot of family greeted us at the airport, but we were at the hospital on Monday. We had an echocardiogram, and the room started filling up with people and that’s when they told us she had a serious, serious heart condition, and she needed open heart surgery.”
It was touch and go for a good while with little Marley.
“You have 2 ventricles that go into the heart…One goes to the lungs and one goes to the body, and the one going to her body wasn’t working. So eating for her was like running a marathon. At 4 months old, she weighed 8 pounds. Tiny, and so she couldn’t eat so she was starving to death, and when she would eat she would sweat a lot.”
Sally, her mom, and her husband stayed by Marley‘s side until she could leave the hospital.
“I actually started writing a song about it to put on the [Goodbye] album but it was too emotional. I thought I would never get through this on stage…It’s too soon”
Marley had been hospitalized twice before things took a turn for the better.
“She was also quarantined because she was from Africa, and they were afraid of her. They kept testing her for AIDS and I was like ‘She doesn’t have AIDS, my gosh, like get over it. She doesn’t have AIDS. [The doctors and nurses] would come in there in these like ET outfits. You know when you watch ET as a kid and they have those huge space suits on, I was like ‘What do you think she’s going to do to you? She’s like tiny.'”
There was humor in the way Sally recounted the details of Marley‘s adoption. That’s just her style of communicating; the crowd pleaser, the performer; but I could tell it was also a very sad time for her.
Fortunately, Marley‘s tiny spirit prevailed, and she’s a healthy 3 year old toddler today. During this part of the interview, Sally also expressed her deepest gratitude to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana (rileychildrenshospital.com), and how she uses every opportunity to make a donation (around here, you’ll find donation forms at places like WalMart and McDonald’s).
Sally and her husband are currently in the process of adopting 2 more orphans from Ethiopia.
“We’re adopting an older child this time, like a 15 or 16 month old to a 2 year old, and we’re adopting an infant. So we’re adopting 2, and I’m not specifying health and I’m not specifying whether they’re boys or girls either because I feel like again that’s like me choosing and I’m not going to choose.”
She also expressed interest in helping out in places like the Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa (for NPR article about fistula click HERE). I admire Sally‘s generous spirit and the fact that she has been driven to action. Many of us see, read, or hear about troubles in the US and abroad but too often do not take action. By the time we got through this part of the interview, Sally was already my homegirl (you know what I mean if you read my interviews…lol).
Flip the script…
She then threw me for a loop by pausing to say…
“But let’s talk about you…”
I laughed to myself (and apparently out loud as I put de podcast pon de replay) and cringed at the same time because she was not supposed to flip the script on me. That was a new moment for me. So we chatted a while about some of the posts that were pretty fresh at the time like Charles Barkley‘s DUI (click HERE).
“I read that [post] and thought that so many times. I’m not a big drinker so I don’t ever run into that problem…but I agree with you on that. Like all these people have been arrested on DUIs this year. Every time that happens…we say the same thing. ‘You have money for a driver.’ I have money for a driver!…’Take a cab! Like do you want to be in the papers or do you want to be in a taxi cab?'”
She then brought up the post about Eartha Kitt‘s passing (click HERE).
“My mom raised me with that kind of music. The blues. [My mom] still sings that R&B/Blues. My mom sings more than I do actually.”
“Ya, at clubs and bars and stuff.”
Now, we were really off topic, but it was all good chatter between us chickadees. 😎
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…
Sally‘s definitely warmed up to me and seems less distracted than at the beginning of the conversation. This is the part I enjoy the most because I finally get to step beyond the performance part of the artist into what makes them tick. You recall I was wondering about art imitating life? I started making the connections with her music as Sally begins to talk about her childhood. References to prison and drugs. Her songs of anger, hope, and heartbreak.
“I really had a tough upbringing. My mom and I were really poor growing up. My dad left the house when I was 7. He was a drug addict. Actually, he’s in prison now [for drug trafficking]. He’s 60, 61, or 62…I found this out because a waitress told my aunt to tell me that he was dead, and that’s how I found out that he was in prison.”
Were your parents together when they had you? Did they get married?
“Ya, they were together. They got married. Then my mom got pregnant. My mom was pregnant at 19. My mom stayed with him for 7 years.”
“We were very poor. We were on welfare. My mom and dad were in a band together. I was going to bands, gigs, and practices and stuff as a kid like in the 70s with like Bob Segert, all these people. I was traveling around…as a kid and being snuck into bars or being picked up late at night after their gigs, and I remember them smelling like smoke.
My mom never did drugs. My mom never drank…My dad, on the other hand, he sold everything we had including my toys for drug money. He would disappear for weeks at a time. He was abusive, and at the age of 7, I don’t really remember this but my mom told me that he came in and tried to pick a fight because I had broken this 75 cent ash tray…so he could leave. He wanted to leave for like 2 weeks. That’s what he would do. He would leave with our only car so my mom would have to walk to the grocery store. It was really bad. (Returning to the story about her dad picking a fight) …My mom said she saw me shivering in a corner and breaking out in hives because I knew I was going to get yelled at. So she said [to her husband] ‘Just go,’ and while he was gone, we snuck out and moved to Indianapolis…I maybe saw him a handful of times after that.”
Sally began pursuing music seriously at the age of 18. As many new artists do, she took whatever gig she could- open mic nights, bars, etc. Her first big break was getting a call from ClearChannel about opening for Christina Aguilera.
“So I quickly put a band together which was a great band. I got JD Blair who played for Shania Twain…Chris Kent, and all these great musicians…[ClearChannel] got such great positive feedback that I went on to tour with James Taylor for 2 summers straight.”
Things really took off from there. She then opened for groups like The Wallflowers, Tom Petty, Jackson Brown, and Enrique Iglesias.
“[I] even [toured with] Alabama…I thought they were gonna shoot me. I was like ‘I’m gonna get shot up here’ because I’m singing music that’s like Alannis Morissette at that point. They’re not gonna get it. They’re gonna kill me.” (laughs)
After a nice run touring with artists through ClearChannel and working with various managers, Sally landed with Gracie Productions (gracieprod.com) under the management of Tony Bucher who launched the the company with Sally Anthony as the company’s premier artist. That’s when she released the album “Vent” independently and also around the time that she adopted Marley. With her attention on Marley, Sally was not able to promote “Vent” they way that she wanted, and that’s why you’ll find several of the songs from “Vent” re-released on the “Goodbye” album. All of the songs on “Goodbye” were written or co-written by Sally except for “Not An Addict” which is a cover of a K’s Choice song. The interlude you hear before the song was adapted from a scene in the movie “Wonderland” where Dawn Schiller (played by Kate Bosworth) was asking for drugs. The song itself speaks of a person in denial about their drug addiction. In hindsight, Sally would rather not have put the interlude on there. She explains:
“It’s kind of an Eminem-esque type of humor. You can’t take me seriously. That’s what people don’t get. I’m joking…at the next pressing because we have so many teens that follow me and we’re getting so many fans and like we got to number 60 on the top 100 charts…I’m going to repress the album and take that stuff out to make it cleaner because I just feel I’m giving the wrong impression that I support that or that I do drugs and I don’t because of my father…I don’t want to give the wrong message to kids because I know how it ruins their lives and I want to make sure I’m giving a positive message. Honesty within the song, but if there’s skits and little jokes, they don’t need to be there.”
Do you think you’re more sensitized to that now that you have your own daughter and contemplating adopting more children?
“Ya, I think that has definitely has changed my way of thinking…I don’t want her to think this is what mommy’s about. It’s definitely changed my heart on things and it’s made me take a closer look at the image and the perception I’m putting out about myself.”
I saw your video about your car accident on your myspace page (myspace.com/sallyanthony). It looks like it was really bad.
“[My co-producer and I] had finished a track and we had gone out to get coffee at like 5:30 in the morning. We had the lease for this place [where we recorded] for one year and the lease over that day, and we had to finish everything that day. We had no choice. My co-producer and I would always drive around when we finished a song…to see how it would sound in the car…I was going 125 an hour, I’m not going to lie. It was a Porsche…and I slowed down to about 50 [mph] because there was a stop sign and [the road] just stops. It’s like a T with a major highway…At 50 miles an hour, the brakes went completely out on my car…and I was able to see a set of trees and a field to the left…I aimed for the field and I turned to the left and I hit the very last tree. I almost made it, but I hit the very last tree. It was bad. I knocked us out (blacked out). My co-producer kept saying ‘I think I’m dead. I think I’m dead.’ Cops were there, chaplains were there, the road was cornered off. [My co-producer] kept saying ‘Make sure I’m not dead. Make sure I’m not dead.’ I’m like ‘I don’t think we’re dead.'”
Right, because you all are talking to each other, but I know how it is in that moment. You’re kind of stunned. It’s kind of funny now, but I bet it didn’t feel that way at that moment.
“Well, ya. It was kind of a funny thought, but at that moment it was kind of like ‘aaah!’…I had hit my head. I had a concussion. I must have been passed out for like 5 or 10 minutes. All of sudden to this cop I was like ‘If I’m internally bleeding am I going to know?’ The cop was like ‘Ya.’ I said ‘Ok, then you need to take me back to the recording studio.'”
I remember that part on your video, and I was shocked to hear you say that.
“My co-producer was like ‘How hard did you hit your head?’ I said ‘Hard enough to know that we need to get this work done’…The police actually took us back to the recording studio and we kept a video of what was going on and then we finished recording because we just had 1 bridge left to do…We had a deadline that we could not miss.”
To Sally it was the lesser evil to just finish that last bit. A testament to her toughness…and tendency to be quite stubborn, too. 😎
“So we went back and we finished recording and moved out of the place and then we went to the hospital. (laughs) …I had fractured ribs. My knees were huge and swollen and like bruised…my boobs were bruised and black and I couldn’t move for like weeks, but I actually did use the car and did a photo shoot.”
Ya, I saw that part, too. What made you decide to do that?
“We took the car and did a photo shoot 3 days later with the car, because they were going to take it, you know? I was like ‘Let’s use it. This would be great’ so we went to the junkyard where the car was and got one of those [movie] star trailers. I had a stylist do my hair and makeup, and I had a big crew of like 7 people there and my photographer Stacey Wade who is amazing, and we did the photo shoot and I was in a lot of pain. It’s funny. At that point, I was like super skinny because I was sick and I couldn’t eat…because I couldn’t breathe very well…All I know is that you can see, if you look at my legs on the cover of the album, you can actually see the bruises. It’s kind of crazy.”
What are you working on now?
“I’m not sure what I can say.”
Well, I will say she is still recording some singles for radio rotation and hinted that we may have a chance to see her on tv. I’m excited to hear that news when it comes out. Stay tuned here on ifelicious.com for more on Sally Anthony.
I find the range of beautiful people out there so intriguing. It’s my favorite part of interviewing artists. Sally Anthony was no exception. She exuded such vibrant positive energy from the moment she said hello that just felt good to hear. It was probably 10 minutes before I asked my first question, and for a moment, I was worried she’d turn diva on me and hang up with no warning and I’d be left with pages of unanswered questions. Instead, she and I spent over an hour on the phone, by far the longest time I’ve spent with any artist, and I was appreciative at how much she wanted to share and how generous she was with her time.
Thank you, Dove, from Tygereye Entertainment for sharing another artist on your roster with me.
Thank you, Sally, for giving me such a great interview. I hope to meet you someday soon in person.
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If you read down this far, you deserve a little more Sally for your soul. At various points throughout the interview Sally got to talking about various artists. Below are some snippets.
On Jessica Simpson…
“She might be a nice person. I don’t judge her as a person, but I don’t think her music is all that fabulous or life changing.”
On Britney Spears…
“I am a big Britney fan, though. Like I am excited about her 8,000th come back, I think? (laughs) I like what’s she’s doing. I think she’s a hard worker, and I think she was just really young and got mixed up with the wrong people. I’ve had my taste of being dealt with in the press.”
We didn’t get into specifics about Sally’s own bouts in the press, but I know about them and I’ll let you google that if it suits your fancy. Continuing with Britney.
“I wish she would sing more live…She gives a great show…I’m proud of the way that she’s come back in this industry when it’s tried to keep her down.”
So we banter back and forth about Britney because I’m not really a fan, but I like some of her songs. Ironically, just a few days after this interview, I found myself texting Sally to tell her I just bought tickets to see Britney perform here in Columbus for her “Circus” tour.
“Eminem is like one of my huge idols. I would love to work with him someday but I don’t think he knows I exist yet. I call him my next husband. I tell my husband ‘Ya, you know whenever we get married how is this going to work out?’ and we joke about it…I know a lot of people aren’t a big fan of his but I appreciate the honesty in his work.”
I’m a huge fan as well. I felt that rawness in your work when I was first introduced to you with your feminist, anti-princess kind of vibe. Eminem is definitely throws all of his business out there in his songs.
“That’s what I like, and you know I haven’t even gotten to the level that I would like to like he does. For example, I haven’t been as honest. I mean I admire so much that he is so honest in his work. He can lay it all out there and I haven’t been able to do that. Every time I write something, my family is like all up in my business like ‘What’s that mean? What’s this mean?’…It has nothing to do with him being a white hip hop artist or rapper. I don’t give two shits about that. It has everything to do with the way he writes. That’s what I love about him. He write about his personal life, and a lot of rap isn’t about their personal life. I find that,it’s about money and women and cars. I get sick of hearing about that. Like, it’s fun to dance to in a club sometimes. I’m not a big club goer but. basically I really like music that has substance and that’s not really substance to me. That’s what I like about him. He has a way of combining great hooks with amazingly substantive lyrics.”
On Bob Marley…
We rolled right from Eminem to Bob Marley.
“And I’m a big Bob Marley fan. That’s why my daughter’s name is Marley.”
Oh, I was wondering about that.
on Johnny Cash…
From Bob Marley to Johnny Cash. Who knew?
“And I’m a big Johnny Cash fan. So like my next kid, we want to name a boy Cash. Everybody’s like ‘That’s so like hip hop,’ and I’m like ‘It’s not hip hop. It’s named after Johnny Cash.’ (we laugh together) Nobody likes it, but that’s one thing about me, I don’t care what people think. So, oh well, get over it.
on OJ Simpson…
“I always put stuff about OJ on my albums because I’m like ‘You’re guilty. You know you’re guilty.'”
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in Max & Erma’s in German Village neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio with some friends and heard “I’m Not An Addict” playing. I was so excited! I wanted to stand up and tell everyone in the restaurant, “Excuse me folks. I know her and will be posting an interview soon.” Of course, I didn’t do that, but it was definitely what I’d call a proud mama moment because it was such a random setting.