is what you would call a Renaissance Woman. Most may know her as a dancer from her stint as a finalist on FOX's So You Think You Can Dance
, but she's also a singer and just an all-around dynamic performer. Sandra has a new album that incorporates all sorts of styles, especially dance music. She has lately been performing around the world, but is now back to promote her new album.
Sandra recently sat down with us at BuddyTV to discuss her start in the entertainment business, her time on So You Think You Can Dance
, and her burgeoning music career.
Can you tell us about your background, how you initially got involved with music and dancing and entertaining?
My background is I started singing and dancing when I was three with my sister, her name’s Christine, and we basically grew up taking tap, jazz, ballet lessons and kind of ended up incorporating some of things that our dance teachers had taught us and created an act that we then performed as like an opening act on the Las Vegas strip for people like Bill Cosby and Lou Rawls at different hotels in Las Vegas. That’s kind of a short, a short little summary of my childhood.
My sister and I you know grew up with our mainstay being tap and our dance teachers were of the Vaudeville era. One of them, his name was Steve Granger, he actually taught people like Bill Robinson and Shirley Temple and Fred Astaire and a few other people that have some notable, you know, notoriety in that era. And so I feel like a lot of that, the balance between the two, it was Steve and Nicki Granger who definitely helped my sister and I gain a sort of stage presence that has lasted throughout my career as a dancer and singer. Beyond that, my sister and I ended up being on Star Search when I was 13 and we won the whole teen dance category. I went to college at the University of Oregon, and I was a cheerleader there, and I graduated and moved back to Las Vegas and then decided to go and try out to be a Laker Girl. I was a Laker Girl for a year and throughout my college experience I didn’t really do a lot of singing, per se, I did more dancing, but I always had aspirations of getting back into doing both at the same time or evolving it to what I am trying to do today.
After being a Laker Girl think I left LA because I was kind of burnt out on the dance team and I moved to Seattle. And that’s where I focused a lot of my energy on what I studied in school which was Journalism and I created an online magazine which is being re-launched this fall and I also taught dance at five different studios in Seattle and Bellevue and the U-District area. And, after all that I decided that I needed to go back to LA and try to work on the whole entertainment career thing again and that’s when I actually saw the audition for So You Think You Can Dance, the first season. And I auditioned and made the top sixteen and after that show had concluded I decided to redirect my entertainment energy and start working on singing more and got together with some producers and started working on my album.
That’s kind of the shorter saga. Around, I think, November of 2005 was when I kind of decided that that was direction I kind of wanted to go in. And I performed at the Key Club in Los Angeles and got some pretty decent reviews from that performance and that made me want to pursue more of the singing career and try to develop myself as an artist.
Could you tell us about your experience with So You Think You Can Dance? You made it to the top sixteen, did you feel like you should have gone further?
My experience was pretty positive. I think that anytime you go into a reality competition, you need to be prepared for whether or not you win or lose and, for me, I definitely felt like my talent was of the caliber it should have been to win the competition. When you get into popularity contests and voting sometimes things go by the wayside,but I personally believe that I should have gotten a little bit farther in the competition and personally should have won but that didn’t stop me from continuing to pursue my goals in entertainment.
It sounds like after your experience with the show, that was kind of the turning point, where you decided you wanted to change directions a little bit and start pursuing your singing aspirations?
Yeah, well, its funny because when I left the show, Nigel, one of the Executive Producers, said, “You know, this show didn’t end up showcasing your full talent,” and I was like, “You know what? Even though he wasn't kicking me off the show, because I’d been voted off, he’s really, he’s dead on with what he was saying because nobody at that time even knew that I sang.” They had said my specialty was tap on the show, but they didn’t know that I did hip hop or jazz or any other style. So, at that point, I kind of just wanted to make sure that people knew that I wasn’t pigeon-holed into one genre. Not that tap is a bad thing; a lot of people don’t know how to tap, so that was positive for me, but being able to really showcase what I can do, as far as being on stage and showing that I can sing and I can dance and I can act or whatever it is, whether I was pursuing a film or television role, it really came to that point of, “Well, people don’t really know what I can do and now I feel like I need to show them.”
Do you prefer doing one over the other? Singing or dancing?
I feel like, for me, they kind of all work together, and, in the sense that I enjoy each one individually, I’d much rather do them all at the same time. But, breaking it down even further, I like to have the option of doing whatever one I want at that particular time. When you get later into your career and you’re not necessarily the hot new pop star, you don’t want to have to rely on your aging knees that have been broken down from so many years of dance in order to make a living. I’d much rather be able to have the choice to do more of the magazine publications that I’m trying to get into or a clothing line that I am doing, a fashion show that is associated with the magazine, or then decide to do a small concert tour, so that I’m not always relegated to, “Oh, now got to put those tap shoes on again,” or oh, “My voice isn’t sounding too great today and I have a show tonight.” I want to be able to pick and choose the pathways that I want for my career.
Can you tell us a little more about your online magazine that you started?
The magazine is called Original Girl. And it’s OG for short because I was trying to be all hip. It's a magazine that’s geared toward 18-26 year old college students and young adults and it has a lot of mainstream magazine ideas from fashion to celebrity gossip and different trends in the marketplace, whether it’s iPod or whatever new technology is coming out. It also specializes in giving young people information about how to build their resume or figure out their finances, give them information about study abroad opportunities and different ways to negotiate some of the things that people don’t necessarily tell you when you’re a young person and trying to find your way. It’s a good guide, if you will, to having that necessary information for making your life better at a younger age.
I think that, for me when I was in college, I didn’t get a lot of financial tips, whether it was about credit cards or getting a bank account at a credit union because they have lower rates for when you decide to buy a house or information about the currency exchange rate for when you go to a different country and you want to study a different language. Just different opportunities that you may not be presented with if you aren’t that person that goes out to seek it in the library or if you don’t have a background with a family that has been abroad or has even studied a different language. So you know, I got those horrible encounters with, “Oh my god, I have $50,000 in student loans. What do I do to get out of debt!” Whatever those horrible problems are, I’m just trying to help people with them before they end up being problems for them you know?
And that's with all the rest of it too, because, you know, if its somebody who likes reading magazines, well, then they’ll get all the entertainment, all the juicy stuff that they normally find in a regular publication, too.
Let's talk about your new album, Just Dance. First off, how long have you been working on the album?
Well, when I did my performance in winter of 2005, we kind of kicked it into gear in January of 2006, and then I did another showcase at The Viper Room, in March of 2006 with, I think, four songs, just trying to figure out if this thing was going to work. We hired dancers and we were trying to get it in gear and we got a really positive response from that. Then from then on we were just trying to complete the album in between me doing other dance jobs, like the Rhianna job for Fashion Rocks and Victoria Secret and different things with different artists.
Did you write a lot of the material on your album yourself?
Yeah, I actually wrote all of the lyrics to every single song, except for the portion of “Ooh Boy”, which was a chorus that was written by Norman Whitfield, but beyond that every single song I wrote the lyrics to and collaborated on the music with a friend of mine on, I think, 3 songs. Then the rest of them I basically went into the studio and said, “This is the beat that I need and this is what it needs to sound like and the engineers made it happen.” (laughs)
Are a lot of your songs pretty beat driven and danceable, or do you kind of have a blend of different types of songs?
There’s a song called “Signature” which is kind of a take off of Grease with the Sandra Dee song, me being Sandra C., but it’s got more of a rock edge. Then, another song that’s kind of on the rock side is the “Be Free” song and that’s more about Las Vegas. There’s the more club type songs like “Boom Crack” and “Isolate” and a few more that are really more club songs Then there’s some more that are kind of just chilled out, like “Sugar” and “Strut” that are just really more of the laid back, but definitely still beat driven.
Do you have any favorites?
My favorite is “Strut” actually. That is definitely my favorite.