Interview: Sharon Hendrix Chats About Laura Nyro, ‘La Boheme,’ and How To “Hold On”
Sharon Hendrix released the music video for “Holding On,” a track from her EP, Fortitude, not long ago.
From the time she was two years old and stood upon a church pew to belt out a hymn, Sharon’s life has been music. Later, in high school, she was selected to become part of The Young Americans. After spending two years with The Young Americans, traveling around the world, and performing, she worked with Bob Dylan, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow, Olivia Newton-John, and Billy Cobham.
The video, directed by Dan Voss, Jr, percolates with buoyant pop and EDM energy, while talented dancers strut their smooth moves. Sharon’s potent, alluring voice infuses the lyrics with hope and confidence in the future.
“Everything will be just fine / You just gotta hold on / We’re gonna be alright / Things are gonna get better.”
Muzique Magazine caught up with Sharon Hendrix to talk about her formative years in music, her influences, and the inspiration for “Hold On.”
What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?
Honestly, belting out a song in the car is very different from belting out a song in the shower (where you have the best acoustics!). When I’m in my car, I love belting out anything from Kurt Elling’s repertoire. I’ve been a huge fan of his for years and love anything and everything he has ever recorded. I also love singing Laura Nyro songs and Steely Dan/Donald Fagen in the car. Now in the shower, that’s a whole other ballgame because you’ve got the perfect acoustics, and the steam gets your vocal cords all moist, so I switch to opera! I love singing Puccini arias. He is my favorite composer and I belt “Mi Chiamano Mimi,” from La Boheme, which is my favorite aria of all time.
Who is your favorite music artist?
I would have to say my favorite musical artist is Laura Nyro. She was an extraordinary singer/songwriter. I first became familiar with her music when I was seventeen and had become a member of The Young Americans. The director chose “Eli’s Coming” for my first professional solo, and I was given her album, Eli and the 13th Confession as a gift. I was floored by her musicality. She was such a brilliant singer/songwriter – her voice, the arrangements, the lyrics, the fusion of jazz, gospel, folk, and blues in her music was so extraordinary. She was mesmerizing, so unique and different. She didn’t follow the rules and I loved that about her. She danced to her own beat. My dream is to one day do an album of her music.
How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?
I have been singing since I was two when I stood on the pew at church during an Easter celebration and sang at the top of my lungs with the choir! I continued to sing in church and school throughout my childhood, but my first professional singing experience was when I was selected to sing with The Young Americans. I was a senior in high school, and The Young American organization sent out letters to high schools all over the country, inviting choir directors to send two of their best singers to audition for the group. My choir director, Mr. Hyden, sent me and made sure I had a way to get to the audition which was two hours away in Culver City. I auditioned and was selected, and for the next 2 years, I traveled all over the world, singing and dancing with 29 other amazingly talented young people, doing tours, television, and film work. It was an extraordinary experience and opportunity that changed the trajectory of my life. My plan had been to become a social worker. I wanted to get into Berkeley, major in social welfare, volunteer in the Peace Corps overseas, and then come back to the U.S., and volunteer for VISTA, get my degree and work to ensure the safety and welfare of children; but being in Young Americans changed all of that. It propelled me into a completely different career – the music business. I kept leaving school (I didn’t get into Berkeley, I went to Chapman University) because I kept getting hired to sing and dance with different artists and before I knew it, it was my life.
What musicians/singers influenced you the most?
I think as a young girl, I was heavily influenced by Motown. I loved Martha and the Vandellas, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, etc. I was also a huge Ella Fitzgerald fan. She was, to me, a flawless singer. I loved watching the PBS channel because of the incredible array of artists that would perform. It was absolutely magical to see everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to Leontyne Price. As I got older, I drew a lot of my influences from Angela Bofill and Donny Hathaway.
What inspired your new song/music video “Hold On?”
We shot the video for “Hold On” at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, so we were very limited as to how we could shoot it. My producer and life-partner, Dan Voss Jr., came up with the idea of just getting shots of me singing, which we did in our home, and then using footage shot before the pandemic. It was later all edited together.
What do you want people to take away from the video?
What do I want people to take away from the video? A smile.
Is your sound evolving? If so, in which direction?
God, I hope my sound is evolving. It’s very rare for me to be satisfied after I finish a recording. I always hear something I could have done better or differently. I want to always try to be more authentic and believable in whatever I sing. I will never stop studying and learning all that I can about music. I am always working on bettering my craft.
Why do you make music?
It’s in my DNA, I think. I never set out to be a performer but God/The Universe had other plans for me. This career honestly, had a life of its own. It has always felt like I had no control over it. It all just happened, putting me in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. I have always asked myself, “So, what are you going to do when you grow up?” Because it really has been this extraordinary gift.
I make music because I love it so. And again, the ‘DNA’ thing. I’ve always sung. I’ve always been around it. I was really good at harmony as a very small child. I loved the ability to find a note that harmonized with someone else’s. Music has always been in my blood.
How are you handling the coronavirus situation?
I have my good days and bad days. I hang on for dear life on the bad days and I smile and I’m grateful for the good ones. I miss so many people. I miss performing. What I did do in this last year is, in a way, go back to school. I studied everything, Economics, History, Music Theory, Philosophy, Italian, Spanish, Art, a myriad of subjects. I listened to fascinating courses on Astronomy, The Universe, and Space Travel, and I was changed forever! I now hope to one day travel to the International Space Station. And maybe even Mars! I’ve become this Space travel geek! But probably the most life-changing thing I’ve done is to return to my beginnings. I started taking classes in Social Work and Child Welfare. It is still in my heart to do something that can benefit children in the child welfare system. So I am now planning on doing volunteer work for the CASA organization, which is an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocate.
Looking to the future, what’s next?
What’s next? Well, musically, we have another song/video coming out in the next month or so. Dan and I have also been talking about a couple of other music projects we would like to explore. Personally, I’m determined and dedicated to grow and learn, be better in all facets of my life. The coronavirus has been a two-edged sword. After working non-stop for over 40 years, everything came to such a halt. At first, I enjoyed getting into the home life, but the day-to-day slowly reared its ugly head, and I became anxious, and angry, and resentful, and scared. I had a period where I was crying at everything and anything. And then we elected a new President and the first woman of color Vice President, and the clouds began to part and although our world is still filled with its problems, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, so whatever this year has to bring, I find myself holding on to grace, being a bit more hopeful and stronger. I live in a beautiful home with my beautiful man, so whatever this year may bring, we are good.