Musician Sarah Sanders performs under the pseudonym Mama Blue. A Jacksonville native who grew up on the city's eastside, she has performed extensively at venues and events in Northeast Florida since 2011. Through these performances, she has blossomed to become a staple in the regions music scene. It's not just Jacksonville residents that notice Mama Blue's talent. She performs in cities throughout the United States, bringing Jacksonville's rich history of blues, jazz, and soul to audiences across the nation.
In October, Mama Blue performed her way to being named the winner of the 2017 First Coast Blues Society's Regional Blues Challenge. Subsequently, she was invited to perform at the 34th Annual International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, TN. This event brings together performers, industry representatives, and fans from all over the world to celebrate the blues. The IBC is a worldwide search for blues acts that are ready to heed the call and perform at an international level.
Mama Blue will spend the next eight weeks preparing to compete at the IBC. She's asking her loyal fanbase to be a part of the journey and help make her performance on Memphis's legendary Beale Street possible. After winning the regional championship, Mama Blue launched a gofundme campaign with the goal of raising $9,000 so that she and her band can travel to Memphis and compete. After 20 days, 30 people have contributed to the campaign, bringing Mama Blue 1/3 of the way to her crowdsourcing goal.
You can find Mama Blue's performance schedule listed on her website. She has six performances scheduled in Florida prior to her January 16, 2018 appearance in Memphis. Mama Blue invites you to Whiskey Jax on December 9, 2017 for a fundraiser hosted by First Coast Blues Society. 100% of the money raised from this event will go to assist Mama Blue on her journey to represent Northeast Florida on the international stage.
10 Questions with Mama Blue
Do you have any patterns, routines, or habits when starting a new project?
No, not really. I take each moment as it comes with all the love and optimism that I'm granted... And lots of practice, tea and honey, Honey.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistic endeavors?
I've learned that I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was. I've also learned that keeping up with the Joneses definitely ain't the way to go, and that my authentic self is my best self.
How do you define success in what you do?
I view success as if it were a tree. My talent is a seed and I planted it in rich and fertile soil. I give it my best care, attention, time, and patience. It requires love and light. Success is every inch that tree grows and it will continue to grow so long as the roots remain deep and strong.
How did you craft your persona of Mama Blue and how does she differ from Sarah Sanders the person?
I can't say that I crafted Mama Blue. It's more like Mama Blue chose me. She just... happened.
The difference between us is, I do the dishes and the laundry. Don't get it twisted though, I am just as fabulous!
What led to the flower in your hair becoming a signature piece of your performance attire?
I've always loved how back in the day women took the time to adorn themselves. As a woman of today, I see that modern styles are different. But, there's still something beautiful about taking the time to finish off your look by adding something to your hair. Whether I adorn my hair with a flower or a feather, it's like I'm choosing to put an exclamation point on my attire.
I think every little girl should wear a barrette, a flower, feather, or something in their hair to let the world know that she's arrived! And if you don't have hair, then a wrap, a scarf, or a headband would do just fine. Something that serves to add a little extra sparkle.
Jacksonville exhibits traits that indicate that it is a city struggling to define its identity. In actuality, Jacksonville has a rich history rooted in the arts and in many ways, the arts are a cornerstone of the city's yet unrecognized true identity. What does it mean to you to be carrying on the legacy of soul, blues, and jazz music in Jacksonville and taking a piece of the city's heritage and sharing it with others?
Organic music is alive and well. It means the kids are going to be all right. It means that from those beautiful homes in Ponte Vedra all the way down to 20th Street Expressway in Springfield, Jacksonville has heart and we persevere.
Remember that tree I was talking about? Jacksonville has loved on the tree call Mama Blue, whose roots are deep and whose branches are strong. If you've seen her, you know the trunk on that tree is amazing! She's flourishing because her hometown has given her nourishment and keeps that soil fertile with authentic love and genuine truth.
Your audiences tend to be extremely diverse. You perform with such energy that you transcend a person's allegiance to any one genre of music. What do you think contributes more to the way an audience receives you, the material that you perform or the conviction with which you perform?
You'd have to ask the people that one, Babylove.
Mama Blue appears to gain momentum with every performance. What does the path look like from inception to where you are today and what are some of the growing pains that you've experienced as a performer along the way?
Some parts of the path are worn are rocky. Some are forked and frayed. There are parts of the path that have grown over, while other parts are golden. There are also some parts that require wings to navigate.
What I've learned is you've got to work. Accolades don't pay the bills. Good or bad, trust your gut. If you can see it then it shall be so.
You launched a gofundme campaign to raise money so that the band can travel and compete at the International Blues Challenge. In your campaign video, you cover Otis Redding's "A Change Is Gonna Come," singing the lyrics "It's been a long time coming." What does it mean to you to represent Jacksonville at this competition and what do you think 2018 will hold for Mama Blue?
What an honor it is to have been chosen. I've always been proud of my roots in this city. I've seen a lot of greatness both come and move away. Heck, I even moved away. But Jacksonville called me back because there was something that I needed to do.
I also work as a teacher here. I form relationships with our babies AND our elderly. My family is here. I'm going to make it work here and stay rooted in Jacksonville.
I believe musicians can be pillars of our community! Jacksonville might be a huge city in the South, but we rally, Honey! We're family and we do what needs to be done! We are making progress and moving beyond discriminatory lines drawn against race, sexual identity, religious beliefs, and age - but we still have a long way to go. We're going to get there though because every day we're getting better and stronger.
Who knows what 2018 holds for Mama Blue? All I know is that it's going to be GREAT! As a matter of fact, I just got an offer to go play in Nantes, France in June. That is some exciting stuff! Can you see it? Mama Blue brings Jacksonville to France! I can and I'm clutching my pearls, Honey!
What would you like to see as an effort to support and grow the city's creative economy?
I would like to see more Jacksonville venues supporting local musicians just as they support out of town musicians. There's a lot of talent here. Invest in it and it wont leave!
And to other local musicians, we are the troubadours of our time. Be genuine and true to your audiences. Put in the work and don't box yourselves in. Do this and you'll receive love and support that will allow you to live, love, and prosper!
We'd like to thank Mama Blue for her participation in this interview. We'd also like to thank you for taking the time to read this week's 10 Questions interview. If you enjoyed what you read or you found it engaging, please consider making a donation to the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. Your donation supports the advancement of the arts and culture in Northeast Florida.
Questions? Comments? Submit something for consideration?
Please email Jihan@CulturalCouncil.org