By Savoula Stylianou. There’s nothing more surprisingly exciting than a well-placed song in a popular TV show – especially when you Shazam it and find it’s from a relatively unknown up and coming artist. While watching an episode of Reign, I heard the clear, sweet voice of Sanders Bohlke and his song “The Loved Ones.” Now Bohlke is bringing his silvery voice and ethereal songs to Canadian Music Week.
The Oxford, Mississippi singer is currently on tour with Canadian artists Justin Nozuka and Megan Bonnell and they’ll be making a stop in Toronto tomorrow May 6th to play at the Mod Club. We chatted last week to discuss his upcoming appearance at the Toronto festival, his latest album Ghost Boy, and future plans.
“It’s my first time playing the festival, but not my first time in Toronto or at the Mod Club – I love the Mod Club, it’s a big venue and feels massive especially when I’m playing solo, but it’s amazing and it sounds amazing,” he says. “I like the green room upstairs at the Mod Club, and I just like Toronto. Any time I can, I would love to come back.”
Sanders’ slight Southern accent comes through on the phone, as does his genuineness and appreciation for his audiences, no matter where they’re from.
“I love Toronto, it’s so clean, and you have a great mayor and a great basketball team. It’s a great place for sure,” he jokes to me.
Bohlke has had songs played not only on Reign, but on Toronto-filmed series Suits as well. His song “An Unkindness of Ravens” can be heard during the final minutes of last month’s season three finale.
Currently touring with two other artists, Bohlke told me in our interview that he can’t gage the chemistry just yet because they had just met last week.
“On the tour, Toronto is one stop and we play Montreal and then down the east coast. Our first tour stop was great, it went really well. Justin’s really nice and his fans are great, so I think it’s going to be a great tour.”
For Bohlke, the tour is about new people, but not new places.
“I think every spot we’re going to, I’ve played before, and been to, so it’s not a new adventure, but every place we’re going to, I love. I like that part of it,” he says.
To get ready for shows, Bohlke has his own way of preparing.
“For me, I don’t ever eat. I might eat an early lunch on the day of the show, but I can’t eat around normal dinner time, I wait until after,” the musician says.
For him, this is all part of getting into the right headspace to get on stage.
“I get into a headspace to not get nervous, I have to treat it as, you know if you’re an entertainment person, I do what an actor would do – he has a role to play, so he goes and plays the role but off camera, he’s the normal guy. So for me, I’m like a normal dude backstage, but I have to switch gears. When I don’t have time to do that, it flusters me,” he says.
Once on stage, the singer says his consistent favourite song to do live is the soft, spaced out, harmony-filled “Search and Destroy.”
“It’s one of the songs I feel most comfortable doing, I like it lyrically, and it’s only two chords so any of the nerves go away and I settle in and don’t have to worry. I get into this trance of a song and it helps me, and hopefully the crowd, to set the tone for the night.”
“Search and Destroy” is from Bohlke’s older material, and he admits that his sound has since changed a lot. While the singer’s earlier songs are more folk-based tunes, his latest album Ghost Boy has taken a “necessary departure.”
“It’s dark, vibey, ethereal, and folksy in a way, but also the stuff I’m doing now is less folksy and more sound-scapey,” the singer-songwriter tells me.
From the new album, tracks like “Ghost Boy” show Bohlke’s willingness to experiment with new instruments, new vibes, and new musical directions.
“I think my first record is so acoustic and folksy and I think I tried over the course of all the singles I released to build to this record right now. I’m always growing and getting inspired by different things – I don’t ever want to make the same record again.”
Bohlke says that he hopes his fans will take the new journey with him as he continues to grow in new and different ways.
“It might be annoying to some fans, but at this point people seem to have come with me. I never want to alienate people by doing an off-basis sort of record but I need for my sake to grow as an artist, and with this new album, it’s the album I needed to make,” he says.
In terms of future plans, the singer-songwriter says a new album is in the works.
“I will be in the studio throughout the summer. I could wrap up quickly or it could maybe drag on, and next February there’ll be a release,” he said. “It will be another slight departure, which I hope will not alienate anyone – it’s just one of those things that it’s the record I need to make right now.”
Until then, look for Bohlke during this week’s Canadian Music Week festivities, bringing his brand of sweet and sensitive pop/folk vibes to the Toronto Virgin Mod Club tomorrow, Tuesday May 5th at 8pm with Megan Bonnell and Justin Nozuka.