By Diana Martinez and Leslie Colon
Independent singer-songwriter Nancy Sanchez, known for her eclectic musical ability that moves with ease expressing both her Mexican roots and her life experience growing up in Southern California, has hit a commercial milestone.
Her recent collaboration with Gina Chavez and Alex Bendaña on the song, “Juntos Together,” is now the music theme for the new Target department store campaign, “Lo Que Valoramos No Debe Costar Más” (What we will be worth should not cost more).
A message that during a pandemic has multiple meanings.
“Being part of the new Target campaign is very special because Target is a huge part of my community; it’s a place that I personally frequent,” Sanchez said.
“It is a big part of the Latino community’s daily life and it’s special that I was part of the team that created a song to outreach to this community. It’s special that Target chose our song and supports independent artists like myself.”
While Sanchez may be viewed as a new emerging artist to a mainstream audience, those in the music world in Los Angeles know she has been at the center of the current music scene and the surge of musical talent well known in the Chicano/ Mexican American community, and has performed with several major jazz groups.
She has a foundation of work that includes her history with the Latin Grammy Award-winning group Flor de Toloache, and the Grammy Award-winning group Quetzal. She has a long, established working relationship with the all-female mariachi group Las Colibri.
An “artivist,” Sanchez readily performs for community benefits and during the pandemic co-produced the virtual event, “Artists to Reunite Families,” to bring attention to the crisis at the border and the separation of families. Sanchez wrote the song, “The Kids Are Still in Cages,” featured during the benefit concert.
“People always ask, ʻwhat genre are you,’” Sanchez shared during an online virtual interview hosted by La Plaza de Cultura de Artes.
“The genre is whatever I’m feeling at the moment.”
But Sanchez is clear in placing no limits on herself, and uniquely says she has “no genre.”
Sanchez was born in Toluca, Mexico, the oldest of three siblings, and migrated to the United States at the age of 4. Her family settled in Orange County, where she connected with other young musicians.
She credits her father, who is a singer and a guitar player, for her “obsession with music and songwriting” from a very young age.
“My father likes to tell the story –- in the 90’s when we were coming to the United States we took a camión, a long 3 1/2 day bus ride from Toluca to Tijuana. During the long trip I kept asking my father, ‘Are we there yet?”
It was on that trip north that Sanchez at the age of 4, would write her first song.
“My father described the flag of the United States to me and how beautiful it was. He told me about the colors, the red stripes and that it had stairs on it. I think this is where it all started. On that bus, I wrote my first song called “Las bandara de los Estados Unidos. I was fascinated that a flag had stars on it.”
Sanchez continued to write lyrics and melodies, but it would be an afterschool Mariachi music program that got her on the pathway for a musical career.
“That’s when I was exposed to music theory and exposed to playing with a group, and I picked up the guitar more seriously,” Sanchez said. “I was playing with teenage Mariachi bands all over the place, and it opened the world for me and solidified my passion for Mexican music and the world of music education.”
She sang with various youth Mariachi groups starting with Ritmo Mariachi Kids, Mariachi Puño de Oro, and Mariachi Anacatlan led by Maestro Gabriel Zavala.
As a result of that experience, she started to look into music classes at Fullerton College, studying vocal jazz and music theory. From there, Sanchez was exposed to other music beyond the Latin music that she heard at home.
She has a long list of artists that she loves, with an affinity for jazz.
“My instructor put on an Ella Fitzgerald [song]. That was the first moment I heard her, and my main jazz influence became Ella Fitzgerald,” Sanchez said. “I also love Sarah Vaughn, Nancy Wilson, Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee.”
Sanchez put a group together in college that started out as a pop band. It became a jazz band, and was asked to play around town.
She referred to her work as “Art Pop.”
“I love putting the songs together,” Sanchez said. “It’s ‘Art’ through the words I write, and it’s very much ‘Pop’ because the words and the music are fused together.”
Her first official recording was the self-titled “Nancy Sanchez” jazz ep, released in 2010 that included two of her early original compositions. In 2014, she released her first full length original singer-songwriter release, “Ruby In LA.”
After establishing herself as a working musician, Sanchez would go back to college and later graduate with a degree from Cal State University Los Angeles in vocal jazz.
“I didn’t get my degree right away but going back to get my degree was important to me,” she said. Her sister decorated her graduation cap that read “Young, Gifted and Xicana.”
When asked what has been the highlight of her career so far, Sanchez considers the admirable position she is in as a working musician.
“The highlight of my career is carving out a way to immerse myself in music, songwriting and performing for a living. I get to live and breathe music and get to share my music with a grand audience and get to collaborate with other talented and committed musicians and artists,” Sanchez said.
“When you embrace all aspects of yourself, you not only enrich yourself as a human being, but you enrich the community around you. Your culture is what makes you unique and makes life full of adventure and joy.”
You can listen to “Juntos Together” and Nancy’’s newest album, “La Gran Civilización” now available on all digital platforms, including her YouTube channel Nancy Sanchez music https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=youtube+nancy+sanchez+music .)