The first time I heard Enter the Blue Sky band play at North Park Vaudeville about three years ago, I was surprised by its eclectic blend of light rock, country and ballad music. It was unlike any other band I’d ever heard, except, quite possibly, the Eagles.
Sandé Lollis, the band’s leader, songwriter and main singer, has created lively music that stays in your soul. Her voice gets right into your heart.
But I did not hear the band again until just last December when they played at Kaffee Meister in Santee. My husband went with me and he, too, was intrigued with the music, with Lollis on the guitar, Karen Childress-Evans playing the viola and Paul Tillery on bass.
The song “I Really Want You” especially intrigued us, with its lyrics easy to sing along with and melody that imitates the hum of wheels on the highway. We bought the CD and played it on the road coming back from our trip to Morro Bay.
Enter the Blue Sky is going places, for sure. They make regular rounds across East County, from the Brew Spot in La Mesa to Navajo Live in San Carlos and Pine House Café on Mount Laguna.
What’s more, Lollis has competed and won two years in a row in the West Coast Country Music Association’s annual awards. Last year she went to the North American Country Music Association International competition in Tennessee and won Best Female Vocalist of the Year in her age group. She is competing there again this year on March 15.
Lollis and the other two members of the band were a delight to interview.
Q: Sandé, how did you come up with the name of Enter the Blue Sky?
A: When I was trying to name the band, I thought about the music and what it meant to me or how it made me feel. I would always see the color blue. I’ve always been obsessed with flight, both aeronautics and space, so Enter the Blue Sky came to mind. I like that you enter the blue sky from above and below, when you leave the planet and when you return. The blue sky is a beacon for home. Fans started calling us ETBS and I really like that, it’s easy, it’s on my license plate.
- How long have you been singing? When did you realize that you may have real talent?
Sandé: I’ve been singing my whole life. I grew up in a singing family. My mom and dad both sang growing up and in church, so it rubbed off on me. Because of their different tastes in music, I came to be able to enjoy it all, from jazz to Dean Martin to show tunes to classical.
I began writing poetry in seventh grade English. My teacher, Mrs. LaRue, thought I had something and really encouraged me. That early support made all the difference to me, I wrote my first song at 13. Not so good, but that’s what encouragement is all about: it makes you see the possibilities in yourself.
Q: How do you go about writing your songs?
Sandé: I am always singing or humming tunes, just random tunes, and especially in my car. And then when something strikes me, I’ll record it on my phone to work on later. I hear people say things at coffee shops or wherever and write them down. I write often in first person but the songs are not always autobiographical. I allow perspectives different from my own to develop. I suppose when things are coming out of me, they come from some place that has a need to express itself, even if I’m unaware of it. So I open the door and let it come into the light.
Q: How did all of you band members find each other?
Karen: I met Sandé at Bugsy’s Coffee House in La Mesa right after I retired as VAPA Director for SDUSD in 2014. I heard “Like an Angel” and thought I might be able to add something to an already fabulous song. I gave Sandé my card not knowing that there already was a violinist in the group. The violinist left the group shortly after that and Sandé asked me to join her. At that time we had five total in the band including a drummer. Over several years the band has morphed to the very comfortable trio where we are today.
Paul: I first saw Sandé perform at Spacebar. At the time I was playing with a lot of the different performers, donating my time so to speak. Usually when I was done I’d leave, but on the particular night she sang, I watched her entire performance. I was dumbstruck at how commanding she was on stage. And her tone was perfect. Sometime later, Sandé approaches me at the same venue and asked if I’d be interested in playing with the band. I explained that I was fairly busy but didn’t want to say no. She and Karen came to see me perform at the Riviera with The Garners. Apparently they had made up their minds that they wanted me in the band. I played four songs with them at the Spacebar and the rest is history.
Q: The three of you in the band work well together and seem to genuinely like each other.
Sandé: I enjoy what we each bring musically but also personally. It feels like family, in that we have our private jokes and understand each other. Being in a band is one of the most intimate and vulnerable relationships I know, and I feel safe with them. Sometimes I can have a hard edge and they’re both able to lighten it up a bit. So, in the end we give it [our] all, great attitudes, great caring for each other, plenty of elation going around.
Karen: Our love comes from a total respect for each other’s abilities and style. Sande has worked passionately to find the right chemistry of personality and ability that magically transforms the group in to something greater than the sum of its individual parts. Her music can stand alone or in a small ensemble. She is the solidifying entity that we all orbit around. I think the fact that we have regular rehearsals and do perform regularly around the County ensures a very tight sound that audiences of all ages enjoy.
Paul: I am new to this style of music and find it quite different from the Jazz I’m used to playing. They give me a lot of chances to solo with the bow and harmonize with Karen. It’s definitely a big part of why I enjoy playing with them.
Q: Where do you see the band five years from now?
Sandé: I was involved in music in the late ’80s, early ’90s, and took 22 years off to raise our daughter. It’s a good thing I did, who knows if I’d even be around at this point. I mention this because when I got back involved, I was too scared to even dare to dream where I would want my music to go. It’s hard for me to forecast ahead because I’m just starting to really get a grip on the fact that I never want to stop this, ever, and that I don’t have to. So, is it too much to say I would wish to be able to do music and nothing else? To have songs placed in films or TV? To win a San Diego Music Award? To win a Grammy? Makes my heart race.
For more information about the band and to see when and where they play next, go to www.enterthebluesky.com.