- Smooth Jazz Network
Yancyy: Behind the Beats
Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Yancyy.
Saxophonist Yancyy is back with another smooth jazz radio hit. His new single “Happy” was added this past week on the Smooth Jazz Network, and we expect this tune to really make some waves on the national charts. We grabbed a few moments with the talented artist this past week as well.
Yancyy, thanks for taking some time with us. Your music always seems to have an uplifting vibe to it. With the new single “Happy”, that vibe seems to be front and center. Tell us about your new single.
I have found that anything that makes you feel happy has a way of increasing the feel good chemicals in our minds and that’s what I desired to do while creating Happy.
When writing music, I always desire the end product to inspire the listener to abandon their worries, take a break from the drudgery of the day and lose themselves to the power of music. Happy is a collaboration between producer Phil Davis and I that features Guitarist Paul Dozier.
And your prior single was titled “My Joy.”
My Joy was written to put positive energy in the world during the height of the pandemic. I am convinced that music is a medicinal tool that uplifts, heals the soul and raises each listeners vibrations. My Joy was birthed during a time when the world needed to be uplifted.
You taught yourself to play saxophone in your youth. Tell us about some of your musical influences.
As for my musical influences, there are many. Growing up in a religious family, I was exposed to gospel greats like The Winans, The Clark Sisters, Mahalia Jackson and a popular gospel saxophonists named Vernard Johnson. While growing up, secular music was not played nor allowed in the house.. One day while visiting a friends home, I was exposed to the late great Grover Washington Jr.’s Smooth style and funky grooves. Needless to say that experience shifted my musical paradigm and had a profound impact not only on my music but my entire life. Hearing Mr. Magic and Winelight took my music taste buds in new directions. Directions that would fill up the pages of passports and transform my life in ways I could never have thought possible. In addition to Grover, John Coltrane, Ronnie Laws, and countless others have expanded my musical palette and inspired new roads to travel on my musical journey.
And as an adult your education in performance was extensive…
My performance education has come from great instruction, numerous examples and different sources. Playing music in the church growing up offered many encouraging moments and examples of great artists delivering mesmerizing performances with each passing week.
I was very fortunate to have a band director named Richard Hadley in high school who opened many doors for me. He always made sure I was exposed to situations that helped me grow. I also had the privilege of studying classical music with the renown Donald Sinta at the University of Michigan.
Studying with such a brilliant, revered professor gave me the right tools needed to stand on stages, hold my own and play with many great artists across diverse styles. Furthermore, growing up in a musical city like Detroit taught me how to sharpen my talents and develop an A game. The consequences of not being able to entertain a crowd may have resulted in a musician not receiving a call back and that was not an option for me.
You have worked with some very successful artists in the pop music world. Tell us about some of your experiences.
Ok sure, I’ll name a few artists I’ve enjoyed working with and tell you about the common thread I find in all of them. Ollie Woodson, Will Downing, Freddie Jackson, Wyclef Jean and Jill Scott. From my experience working with these artists and others; I learned that folks with successful careers are often the most down to earth, compassionate, hard working, humanitarian, people loving folks you ever want to meet. It’s refreshing to me when artists remember where they came from and are mindful of the fans who helped support them.
Tell us about your work with gospel jazz and how spirituality impacts your creative process.
I have had the pleasure of toggling in multiple musical communities for the past 30 years. At this point, I don’t think much about genres as I do intention. For me, every note I play is a spiritual tool that carries the ability to impact someone in a positive way. I no longer label what I do, I just play from my heart. I give my all during every performance no matter if it's 100 people in a Jazz club or 80,000 people at an outdoor festival.
Spirituality’s impact on my creative process can be observed by the love and positivity flowing through every breathe I inhale and exhale. I don’t take my gift of music lightly and I use my music to build bridges, uplift, awaken and inspire the human spirit.
How does social media fit into your marketing program as an artist?
Social media marketing is a necessary thing that’s here to stay. As such, I have no problem hiring folks to work my branding and marketing. For me, having a good P.R. person, manager, record promoter and additional support people on my team makes a big difference.
Upcoming plans for live performances?
During the quarantine, I eventually learned to enjoy performing on zoom. I grew to love the freedom of working from home and remained thankful for the ability to do what I enjoy in front of audiences. However wonderful virtual concerts became, it never compared to engaging with fans and feeling the synergy created while playing live.
Needless to say it feels amazing to be back doing live shows. I have upcoming performances in Wisconsin, California, Texas, St Louis and Detroit. Shows that are public are post on my website and social media handles.
Any advice for young people who might be interested in learning a musical instrument?
Advice I give to young people is for them to follow their hearts and don’t allow anyone to block the fulfillment of their dreams. I encourage them to find a good mentor, always show up early to engagements, be prepared with the material and study the master musicians who paved the way. I encourage them always honor their word, be present in the moment, stay away from substance abuse, collaborate with other artists and I caution them to not let acquiring success compromise their values or consciousness. Thank you so much for this opportunity.