MUSIC | Jenny Sanford, the best kind of “sappy love song girl”


If Jenny Sanford doesn’t have pipes, there’s no such thing. Hers is a strong, clear, subtly emotive voice that will stop you in the middle of fiddling with the radio dial, looking for a station to listen to. Whether you’re a great fan of pop music or firmly believe it should outlawed, there actually is, as with all singing, an art to doing it right. Well, these days, it’s mostly a science, but Sanford is a throwback to when it was done with artistry.

Pop vocalists today often rely on a range of about four notes and an array of sound-enhancing effects. Sanford calls on chops fueled by passion, culled from true old-school influences like Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, and Gladys Knight. Her track record includes opening gigs for such stars as the Temptations, Huey Lewis and the News, Little Richard, Sheena Easton, and the Doobie Brothers. Added to which, she’s starred in shows around the globe: Spain, Africa, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii, to name a few, and she’s performed for U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf, Croatia, and Diego Garcia. Locally, she once was part of the seminal Afro-Cuban-rock-cum-funksters One World. For good measure, her mom is jazz chanteuse Sherry Simone.

Right now, Jenny Sanford regularly works in the recession-defying showband Belladiva, which steadily stays in demand. She’s one of Belladiva’s three front ladies. Leading the line-up is singer and band boss Lisa Marie Furth, with Lisa Pallen and Sanford in close support. You can catch Belladiva on a weekly basis at Champps in Eden Prairie.

Dwight Hobbes: How’d you come to be a member of Belladiva?
Jenny Sanford: In 2004, I was asked to be in Belladiva after the first version of the band, Sugar Divaz, broke up. I was a regular sub in Sugar Divaz at the time, just coming out of several years of corporate gigs with the band Synergy. I needed something different. Singing the same songs had me on autopilot and I needed a challenge. Belladiva added choreography. And it was more [of] a show. To be able to sing and dance at the same time was the challenge that I needed. I had to think about what move was coming next, not have my mind drift off in the middle of my song about what I was going to make for dinner the next night. We have so much fun on stage together—sometimes too much fun. They’re my best friends.

How’d you come to join One World?
In 1989, I had just come back into [the Twin Cities] after living in L.A. and was recording tracks at the old Metro Studios in Minneapolis. Stan Kipper and Chico Perez were in the studio around the same time and heard some tracks that I recorded. They got my phone number and came out to see me sing live at the old Rupert’s Night Club. They told me about this group that they were putting together, One World, and the concept behind it. I think I said “yes” before they were even done telling me about it. We all clicked right away. They are my soul brothers, and I love them.

Any ideas about a solo career?
I am going to do a CD sometime this year.

You write songs—well enough, at that—and do covers. What’s a song have to have to interest you?
I have to feel the song. It has to move me in some way, whether it’s the lyrics, the melody, or the groove. It has to have “meat and potatoes.”

Who are your songwriting influences?
Songwriting is about the melody and the hook. The lyrics have to flow and be clever at times. My songwriting influences vary all the way from the Gershwins and all the writers of that era, to Kenny Loggins, Barry Manilow, and many, many more. I’m a sappy love song girl at heart.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.

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