Most of the music we listen to never really gets under our skin. As pleasant and catchy as it may be, it skims along the surface, like a stone skipping across water. Every now and then, if we are really lucky, we encounter an artist like Sandra Bouza who gets right down into our blood and bones. An artist whose voice stops us in our tracks.
It’s not something that happens overnight. Sandra, who was born in Toronto, and spent her childhood flitting back and forth between Canada and Spain, has been preparing for her whole life to arrive where she is right now. Never at home in any one place, she’s always had an outsider’s sense of not quite fitting into her surroundings. Sandra recalls, “When I was growing up, I was always on the fringes of wherever I was. When I was in Canada, I didn’t feel like I was Canadian. When I was in Spain, I didn’t feel like I was Spanish.”
Always a keen observer, Sandra absorbed many of the sights and sounds of her father’s Galician homeland in Northern Spain where she spent nearly half of every other year. Her mother homeschooled her in much more than the academic subjects she was missing while away from her Canadian home. Encouraged to listen closely to songs on the radio as well as records from her mother’s large collection, she received a natural education in music, and has been singing and playing guitar from a very young age.
It was a natural step for Bouza to choose a life in music, and to begin performing professionally in Canada. Right from the start, she worked tirelessly on her craft and walked through every door that opened, but a new element was needed if she was going to take her music where it needed to go. So, after a decade of writing and singing her own songs at home, Sandra’s life took another turn when a planned six-week sojourn to Morocco turned into a three-year long odyssey. Away from her familiar surroundings, Bouza continued to perform and develop her skills until she knew it was time to come home.
Sandra hit the ground running when she returned to Toronto. Within her first year at home, she won the Toronto Blues Talent search and came second in the city’s prestigious Soul Slam. The early promise of ‘Three Years,’ her 2018 Ep, and ‘Falling Away From Me,’ her first full length album that followed in 2020, put everyone on notice that Sandra Bouza was an artist to watch.
Everything came together for Sandra during an artist’s residence on Halls Island where she wrote most of the material for her upcoming album, ’A Sound in the Dark.’ Everyone who’s heard her sing knows that Sandra’s always been a powerful vocalist and a compelling songwriter, but with the new recording, she has truly found her own voice, and the promise of her earlier work has come to full fruition.
“This record is truly me - more me than I have ever been able to give up to this point. With the new songs, I share more of myself than I have ever been able to do before.”
You can hear echoes of Etta James and Carla Thomas in Bouza’s powerful and highly nuanced phrasing. Like Amy Winehouse and Adele, Sandra’s absorbed a lot from listening to the greats from the golden age of R and B, but like them, she has emerged with a style that is all her own. Gifted with a masterful sense of poise and control, few singers can inhabit a vocal like Bouza does.
Sandra has never shied away from the kind of tough subjects that you have to have lived through to sing convincingly about. Sober for several years now, her music continues to touch on personal struggles, but as a person, she has moved onto higher ground.
“I won’t always sing about recovery and getting straight. I used to think that I couldn’t write or perform without a substance to help me get there. But, I don’t think like that anymore. This is me and these are songs of empowerment. I don’t feel the temptation. I know where I am headed. I’m not looking back.”