sanders bohlke

Sanders Bohlke Prince Music Theater May 10, 2014

Saturday May 10, 2014
Prince Music Theater
1412 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA,
Justin Nozuka, Sanders Bohlke & Megan Bonnell

Artist website:

Sanders releases his new album Ghost Boy on February 19, 2013 via Communicating Vessels, one of the new crop of cutting edge Southern record labels, based out of Birmingham, Alabama with Jeffrey Cain (of Remy Zero) at the helm.

Lead single “Ghost Boy” is arguably Bohlke’s most infectious melody and fully realized flirtation with pop music, and could easily hold its own with the biggest indie singles of the last few years. On this new record, Sanders continues his evolution as a songwriter with lush soundscapes that layer brooding and billowy textures against his soulful voice. Recorded with Jeffrey Cain, they’ve perfected a sonic world that deftly highlights both the beauty and the dark romance of Bohlke’s songs.


David Cohen: Since the last time we spoke your CD  Ghost Boy has taken off and you’re on the road a lot.

Sanders Bohlke: Yes, it’s a little later than when I wanted. Its great I’ll take it.

David: It shows that Ghost Boy it’s a timeless recording.

Sanders: That’s a good point! I just started this wing of the tour. It’s shorter than last years. It should be fun.

David: It’s shorter but there’s more distance between gigs.  Are they driven or flown?

Sanders: A significant portion is driven but I will be flying to the Toronto show on May 6th.

David: I’ll ask you this now and then again in a few years when you’re filling big halls. Can you sense changes in yourself from the success you’re having?

Sanders: No, I don’t ever consider myself like that. I think its great that I’m getting more traction but hey, I’m just a dude and I play my guitar. I have a lot people around me to make sure I don’t think about it other than what it is. The thing is I’m not a headliner, I am very grateful when people come. I’m playing to win an audience.

David: With your new popularity do you feel a pressure in your creativity to satisfy your fans?

Sanders: I always feel that. I always feel I have fans that like me for a reason. I also think they understand I need to grow as an artist. There have been bands I like where I don’t like their new stuff. For instance Arcade Fire, I love them but don’t like the new CD but I still like them and I can’t wait for their next stuff. I don’t hold it against them and there are a lot of people who love the new stuff.   I hope people with will feel that way about my music too. I took that risk with Ghost boy. If you listen to my fist CD you’ll think it’s two different artists. For the next one it’s going to be different. I’m going to drift a little bit into another direction. I hope they understand that’s where I have to go that’s where it’s going to go. Beck is one of the most famous artists out there, Radiohead chose to do electronics, and people went with them. I’m not scared about creative decisions.

David: Does that mean it won’t be seven years between releases? Is there something in the horizon?

Sanders: It won’t be seven years I can guarantee that. I’m currently working on the next one. It won’t even be two years. The process of it coming out is out of my hands at some point.

David: Will Jeffrey Cain produce the next recording?

Sanders: Kind of. Some of it is unknown right now. I’m using a lot of different people. I’m recording a lot on my own. I’m recording a lot at my house. Some of it might stay some of it might get cut.

David: What new gear are you using?

Sanders: I just got the Ableton program; I’m diving into that.

David: Is the electronic nature of Ableton an indication of where your music is going?

Sanders: Maybe a little bit. I’m not making an electronic album. I’m getting more experimental with instrumentation. It’s not going to change who I am or the music I make. It helps me make beats a little different. I don’t think I’m going to lose anybody.

David: Any new instruments?

Sanders: No new gear as far as guitars go. I’m still rocking the Peavey. We’ve had problems with it on this tour, my manager suggest getting a new one. I can’t get rid of my baby. I love that guitar!

I haven’t been playing a lot of guitar. I’m not giving it up but in this project I was only getting to a certain places on the guitar so I am playing a lot of drum machine to incorporate different soundscapes into the palate. I’ve been playing a lot of piano, synth, beat making. I’m not going to abandon guitar. I have gotten a Boss VE-20 vocal processor, it’s cool it opens a lot of things and changes your head space a little bit when you’re writing. In concert it opens a lot of harmonies.

David: Do you have practice time?

Sanders: I don’t practice like I want to would like to. I would like to be better at guitar, drums and piano. The time I spent writing is the time I spend playing. That’s been my only regret in my career. Nobody will hire me for anything on sessions. The way I come up with things is a very elementary style of playing. I’m more inventive on guitar my main instrument but I’m not a great guitar player by any means. In some ways it’s good not being able to play really well. It’s more creatively challenging to play this way because it’s a more creative to play. In some ways I can’t tell if I’m lazy in not wanting to know how to play because I can keep that child-like approach to the instrument. With Ableton and Pro Tools I will take the time to learn the programs. Even with the drum machine I take the time to learn.

David: How will your new material translate to stage?

Sanders: I don’t know I might have to hire a band. With the looping I do I can handle certain things, I might not be able to go out and solo I might have to take one or two people. I don’t like thinking about that. I want to get it down first and then think about it.

David: Your last show in Philadelphia was at the Union Transfer opening for Rachel Yamagata. On May 10th you will be at the Prince Music Theatre opening for Justin Nozuka, will you incorporate any of your new material into this show?

Sanders: I will probably play the same set.

David: That is fine by me. When we spoke the first time I asked about how the music on Ghost Boy transferred on stage as a solo act. It was seeing you live that really solidified how great the music is and your talent.

Does your record company give you total artistic freedom?

Sanders: Yes they do! It is nice knowing that they have total confidence in what I do.



Sanders Bohlke 2013 interview with David Cohen

Sanders Bohlke in Philly-Interview w/ David Cohen Classical Guitarist

In an article I wrote a few years back I explained that my climate seasons are marked by the music that captures me at that particular time. It could be re-discovering or discovering a classical composer, finding a new type of bagpiping I never knew existed, or a release from one of my favorite pipa players or something that is totally new to me. I listen to beautiful. The summer of 2013 is the summer of Sanders Bohlke.

Bohlke’s current release Ghost Boy is described as “Inspired by a wintertime retreat to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia”. The music on the CD chronicles the isolation that creeps in when the days get shorter and you’re further and further removed from society.

Sanders opens for Rachael Yamagata at the Union Transfer on Thursday July 11, 2013 and has received rave reviews for his ability to transfer the experience of the CD to the confines of a solo opening act. Philadelphia will be the third to the last stop on this tour. That has spanned the months of June and July across North America.

Sanders Bohlke
Thursday July 11, 2013 Philadelphia
Union Transfer

David Cohen: Right now there is little information about you. You’re from Alabama?

Sanders Bohlke: Actually Mississippi, a town called Sparta. I lived in Alabama for a period.

DC: How old were you when you picked up the guitar? 

Sanders: I was probably 15.

DC: What were you listening to that made you want to play the guitar?

Sanders: It was more like a bunch of my friends were getting into music so it seemed the thing to do. I listened to a lot of blues. My dad listened to James Taylor so I tried to learn those songs. I listened to a lot of blues growing up in Mississippi. It was hard not to listen to the blues, it’s kind of everywhere. I listened to R.L. Burnside, The Mississippi All Stars were becoming popular I was listening to them around the age 16.

DC: So then is your music something unusual to come out of Mississippi?

Sandes: In a way yes but in a way not really. The music I’m doing has a soulful element to it – Mississippi, New Orleans, Alabama that’s all soul central. I feel it’s very native to Mississippi but I put a different spin on it on purpose, I’m not a just a soul singer or blues musician or singer/songwriter and I don’t want to be so I try to bring in different elements in from different things that inspire me. But yeah, I would say it is very native of Mississippi.

DC: When you write songs are they thought out before hand, or a work in process?

Sanders: It’s a little bit of both. I’ve written all kinds of ways. I’m settling in now to more like write as I go. I’ll sit down and find a melody I like and hum along with the piece and take it from there. Sometimes the songs end up meaning something that I was intending to write about at some at point but I don’t sit down with the focus to write a song about this or that. In retrospect I’ve revisited songs and realized that I was thinking a lot about that at the time.

DC: Are your songs more autobiographical than not?

Sanders: There are elements from my own life. They are stories that I think about or have dreams about or read about.

DC: You speak a lot about death and create images that come from a perspective of someone grieving. In the press release it quoted you as saying that the music came from the solitude of a winter retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Was this CD coming from a period of grieving?

Sanders: No, death and the end of the world interest me because we really don’t know a lot about it. It’s interesting because we don’t know a lot about it but it also gives me the freedom to create what death is and what this world is. It’s very freeing to write about things like that because you’re never wrong about it. It’s fantasy in a way. So for me it creates a lot of freedom and it’s interesting.

DC: On the other hand the CD has elements that are very romantic. In the song Serious you write, “If you’re serious I’ll be serious too. I’ll ripe your heart out like you want me to, I’ll kiss your mouth and you’ll be better for it” and later you write, “Why you left me this is serious, I can’t love you like you want me to”. In Pharaoh you write, “There was a time when I was Pharaoh, but the breaking of my heart has just begun”. I was thinking Oh this poor guy is in the mountains getting over someone.

Sanders: The funny thing is I’m happily married. My wife teases me all the time that there is something I’m not telling her. For me the reason I write these things is because it’s more exciting for me to write about heart break because I don’t deal with heart break. I don’t get to confront these emotions so it’s almost healthy to go through the up and downs in my music. It’s interesting for me to create my own characters and my own heartache – my own misery.

DC: It has been seven years since the release of your first CD. What did you do in that time?

Sanders: I actually did a lot. I wrote a lot and we put out a lot of singles. The reason it took so long was because we couldn’t find a group of songs that would make an album. My manager would say there are plenty of songs to make an album but for me they weren’t the songs I wanted for my sophomore album. So we kept just writing. We had a bunch of singles and decided to sell them as singles. A couple of the songs were picked up by T.V. shows. The hope was that people would hear them and want to buy the song. So we ended up doing that and it gave my fans the chance to hear my changes and grow with the changes in my music so they would not feel left out. There were a few hard-core followers from the first CD that love this one. This CD is very different than my first.

DC: I wondered if you worked in a hardware store or some place during that period.

Sanders: I had a few side jobs. There was a lot of writing, a lot of recording. I have a lot of songs that aren’t released yet.

DC: How long did it take to record the CD?

Sanders: Not very long at all. We spent two days in Nashville. I went to Nashville three or four days before the session to rehearse with the band. It was three guys from Nashville. We rehearsed the songs and went into the studio and in two days recorded nine songs live in the studio full band. Then we went through some overdubs in Birmingham and then got it mixed in Nashville. It didn’t take long. It was the process of figuring what to do with the record when it was made.

DC: Going back to something you said, what was the worst job you had during the period between albums?

Sanders: It was the worst only because it was so monotonous but it was kind of interesting. I hated it at the time but I really am mad at myself for not taking it all in at the time. I worked in a screen-printing shop. It was actually a good experience but I hated it at the time. I use to go home almost in tears that I hated the job. One of my favorite songs came from that period.

DC: Which one?


Sanders: I wrote Search and Destroy which is one of my favorites. I wrote that in about an hour.

DC: Interesting! Is that where the line, “I was wide awake with bodies in the gutter”comes from?

Sanders: No, well maybe subconsciously. It was more just one of those things where I had a vision of what the world would be like if it ended. It was the story of a guy experiencing the thing and explaining it to his daughter.

DC: When I first heard the CD and found out you were playing in Philly I knew I had to be there. I was wondering if you would be able to get across the artistry of the album in an opening position. So far all of the reviews have been very positive about your performance.

Sanders: I know from the crowds reaction and a lot of the people come up to me after the shows. A lot of people don’t expect much from the opener and found out they like what I’m doing. It’s been really cool to hear that. It’s been a great tour. I was a fan of Rachael’s before she invited me. A lot of people are buying the CD and I feel like I’m making honest fans.

DC: What kind of guitars do you use?

Sanders: That’s funny question because a lot of people ask me that. My acoustic is a Gibson J-45 but my main guitar is a Peavey P-60. I think it’s a 1988 or 1989 Peavey. It was a $200 guitar I found it in a little guitar consignment shop in Oxford when I was living there. It was kind of temperamental at first and gave me a few problems and then one day it just worked and has worked perfectly since then. I love the sound it makes. I love the way it feels – it’s my baby. I don’t know what I’d do without this guitar.

DC: What effscts do you use?

Sanders: I have a Boss Loop Station and I have a Holy Grail Reverb Pedal and I use the reverb on my amp. I have to fill a lot of space on stage so I use a Roland 404 Sampler.

DC: What’s next? You’ve been touring twenty-eight days and there are three show left on this tour.

Sanders: I’ll be writing a lot. We have an EP coming out. We’re working on mastering that now.

DC: Will this be your first time in Philadelphia?

Sanders: I was there many years ago. I opened for The Frey at the Electric Factory. I am looking forward to playing at the Union Transfer. I hear it is a really nice venue. I’m excited to be in Philadelphia again.