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Salt Ashes in New York City | Photo by Cortney Armitage

My first impression as she walked into the room – she knows herself. You can’t say that about most young women … but Veiga Sanchez (professionally known as “Salt Ashes“) is different.  There’s an aura about her, and she certainly made quite a first impression with me when I met her for an interview.

I immediately knew that I would like her as a person. Her beauty and wit were obvious, but I was particularly surprised with her bubbly disposition. After all, her music is a bit dark …. dark in a good way … in a Depeche Mode kind of way. Just listen to the first single off her debut album, “Save It” . The song is practically  a map for finding inner strength in the face of darkness and despair after hitting rock bottom. But upon reflection, there is a sense of hope latched onto the pervasive and optimistic underlying beat; hope that is laying in wait under the dark tones of the music. This underlying optimism, which bubbles to the swell into the bridge, seems to be the essence of Salt Ashes.

There’s probably two sides of me. There is the personal side of me and then there is this dark side in me which comes out a lot, but obviously comes out more in my writing.  It is when I’m in my room and kind of locked away from everything and I get into my head and that’s when all that kind of stuff comes out. And I have days where that darkness just comes out, and I have to lock myself away from everybody because I don’t like being that person around people. I like talking to people, and I like meeting new people and learning new things, so maybe I reserve that side of me for the music and have that as the outlet for that.

BC: Would you consider yourself an introverted extrovert?

Yeah maybe, probably, because I get this quite a lot, “You’re happy, you’re bubbly!”, because I bring that part of myself out in the right moments and when I know I’m going in that dark place, I know to take myself away. I like being by myself. I like my alone time and I think I need that alone time to allow all that stuff to come out then and not when I’m with other people. 

Before the interview, I was granted a quick photo shoot. I’d come a little early and scouted the area looking for some locations that might suit her as an artist. I’d found a doorway with a billboard in it that read “Leave the Crowd / Stand Apart”, now I couldn’t wait to get her in front of it.

Salt Ashes in New York City | Photo by Cortney Armitage

BC: What’s your favorite song to perform?

It’s probably “Whatever You Want Me To Be”. I’ve only performed it live twice but in those two shows it just felt awesome. It is one of the slower ones on the album, which is maybe the whole novelty of it because my live set is usually pretty up beat the whole way and then when we introduced “Whatever You Want Me To Be” which is a slow number it just felt so good and it was like “this is new and exciting and different” but I connect quite well with that song so I think maybe that’s what it is.
BC: What is it about it that you connect to?
I wrote the song about a documentary I watched about Edie Sedgwick and just about what I thought might be going on in her head and I guess there are probably certain times in my life that I do connect with that feeling like you need to do whatever you have to do to please other people. Luckily most of the time I don’t feel like that, I’m quite strong minded and independent, but everyone has those vulnerable moments and in those moments is when I connect with that song. 
BC: Especially for women…
Especially in this industry, I think it’s really difficult for women. Everyone feels like they have to conform all the time and there is kind of this “what people consider to be perfect” and it’s mainly women that get pushed to be that way. But who decides what perfect is? I mean everyone is perfect. I get very angry about this subject matter because I just think, “Whatever it is that someone is telling you need to be, if you’re happy, as long as you’re happy and you’re content within yourself, then that is all that matters.” Like fuck them in the ass.
Switching locations to the Flatiron building, we discover that we’re both drawn to motion in photos. Without missing a beat, Veiga starts to flip her hair and move about the spot. I loved her commitment, desire and trust in me to get an amazing shot. Not everyone is secure enough in themselves … or brave enough … to jump out into a crowded NYC street and start moving about with grand gestures.

With hardened New Yorkers passing in the background, I check my camera to see what we are getting and stumble upon a gem. I show her the photo and we crack up. The image is an honest New York City moment. It’s comically beautiful and I love Veiga for getting it. I’m won over by her sense of humor and I realize in my laughter that I had broken one of my own rules: never show artist shots of them before they’ve been edited. But the trust she showed me, I just had to return. I realized that she understood the process and can objectively look at herself, discovering first hand what a great performer and collaborator Veiga is … and it’s awesome.

Salt Ashes in New York City | Photo by Cortney Armitage
I love performing with a band over doing it by myself. I don’t think I would perform – never say never – but I prefer not to perform by myself just cause there’s no vibe on stage. I like having the energy of feeding off of those guys on stage. We’ve got really great connection… Even though Salt Ashes is me, I like to include other people with in it and I think it’s more fun for the audience as well… I think my performance in general is quite energetic, and it’s not so inward. I want people to have moments of everything. Moments of feeling really engaged and really connected in a sort of somber moments and then moments where they just want to dance, and then moments when they feel like crying or laughing or screaming. I like to take the audience through lots of different emotions, cause that’s what I want at a gig. I want fire and laughter and crying. I just want to feel this “Oh my God!” So if I want that from a live show, then I should give that. 
BC: Where do you draw your inspiration for writing? 
Most of the time I’d say it’s personal experiences, but there are definitely moments where I draw from either friends’ stories or documentaries and books I  like to read. I like to people watch, sometimes I’ll just sit in a coffee shop and watch people go by and I imagine what their lives are like and try and create a story. “Raided” was one that I wrote in a club while I was watching people and it was about what I thought that they were escaping from. Even in those moments (when I’m watching) I’m still connecting to what I’m writing about in some way. There’s been moments in my life where I felt that way that I’m writing about so there’s never too much of a disconnection where I’m not like, I don’t relate to this. But generally it is personal experiences. 
My personal experience with Veiga can be summed up with our walk downtown. Trying to save time, I had my head down while I was toiling with the settings on my camera. I’m a native New Yorker, and I thought I could maneuver through the heavy foot traffic …  not this time though. Veiga, with the strong and confident steps of a distinct urbanite, masterfully cut through the pedestrian traffic with ease, and I followed her lead. She’s not a tourist looking around and getting lost and swept up in the noise.  She has an agenda and a destination. There is a distinct difference between going somewhere and actually getting somewhere.
Salt Ashes in New York City | Photo by Cortney Armitage
Veiga, your destination has been chosen and it is certain. New York has embraced you. We can’t wait for you to start touring through the states because clearly without much reservation, where you go, we are going to follow you.
Salt Ashes self-titled debut album is out July 15th on Radikal Records.
Follow Salt Ashes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Salt Ashes in New York City | Photo by Cortney Armitage