Updated: Mar 19, 2022
Music lovers of all generations enjoy Yancyy's entertainment. With impeccable style and captivating ability, Yancyy has won the hearts of jazz lovers, classical aficionados, ecclesiastics, and fans of pop, rock, funk, and hip hop all at the same time. I had the pleasure of interviewing this talented jewel. Here's what he had to say.
Hi Yancyy! Hey Gina! What’s up!
I'm wonderful! I'm excited about having a chat with you today! By the way, I absolutely love your music! Well, thank you!
You're welcome. Thank you so much for giving me your time today, it's an honor. Well, I want to thank you for supporting what I do as an artist.
Thank you so much. So, shall we dig in? Absolutely.
Great! So, where are you from? I grew up in Detroit Michigan.
When did you know you wanted to play the saxophone? While I was in church, a man was playing the saxophone and his performance blew everyone away! I was so captivated by his playing that it instantaneously awakened my enthusiasm for wanting to master the saxophone. So, I begged my father to buy me a sax. He did, and I'm grateful for that! I believe that my saxophone has been a blessing not only for me but for others.
So, you're from Detroit? Are you a stepper? I took a steppers class from a master stepper before the pandemic hit. As of today, my stepping has been reduced to a crawl. (laughs)
That's OK, you can still crawl in the name of love.
How long have you been playing the saxophone?
About 35 years.
That's a long time. That explains why you're such a skilled player.
Are you a multi-instrumentalist? Yes, I would say that I am.
What other instruments do you play? In addition to playing the sax, I am proficient on the flute, piano, clarinet, violin, and a little bass.
Are you as skilled with other instruments as you are with the saxophone? Not really.
Playing violin and clarinet are not my strengths. Let's just say that I will not play either of those instruments live.
How did you learn to play these instruments? In college, I was interested in becoming a music educator. Among the instruments I was expected to learn, some stuck with me and others didn't.
When you were younger, did you take music in the public school system? Yes, I took music classes throughout middle school, high school, and college.
What intrigued you the most about the saxophone? As a young man in the church, I was amazed to see how powerful and authoritative the gentleman's playing was! In church, we called it, "playing under the anointing." I was greatly impacted by the way he played the sax. Living his dream had an impact on my life that he didn't realize.
This is why I believe that it's important to live out your dreams. You never know whose life will be changed because you simply and fearlessly stepped out in courage. You can literally alter the course of someone else’s life by stepping out and doing what you’re called to do. He had no idea that he would influence the rest of my life in ways that I could have never imagined.
Many of my amazing opportunities have allowed me to travel, work with people, and forge lifelong friendships with talented individuals of great influence in the music industry. Because of this, I feel blessed. All this happened because of one instrument played so eloquently by one gentleman. I believe that's how the circle of life works.
That's a beautiful, inspiring story, Yancy. How would you describe your style? My musical style combines gospel, traditional jazz, and smooth jazz mixed with a little bit of funk with a smooth delivery. My music speaks to the soul. By listening to it, you will feel the smooth vibrations of it.
How physically demanding is playing the saxophone on your body? Most professional musicians practice no less than an hour per day. If you can discipline yourself to practice longer, that's even better. As far as demanding, if you play regularly, it's not demanding. Conversely, if you slack off, you will encounter problems. Also, exercising regularly will help tremendously. Most artists I know, either jog or cycle. Exercise is a very effective way to keep your stamina up. A healthy lifestyle contributes to longevity.
In your early years of playing. Have you ever been tempted to quit? The moment I began my sax journey, there was no turning back for me. Challenges are inevitable. Sure, in my 35 years of playing, I've faced many challenges. The reality is, I don't know everything. I would like to gain a better grasp of many things but turning around and abandoning the ship is not an option. There is no other way for me. We burned our boats in the ocean so that we couldn’t go back. There is no retreat. Progress is the only path to success.
Many people want what someone who has lived out their dreams has because of the glitz and glam that comes with it. Because it appears easy, they set their hearts on achieving that goal without ever considering the costs. Now, when difficulty comes, they want to give up and throw in the towel. However, if you hang in there and power through those tough moments, you'll see the light at the end of the tunnel. You must do it for the right reasons. You have to know that that's God's purpose for your life. Oh yes.
Can you share with us a few people that you have worked with? Wow! I've worked with so many people I don't know where to start. My mind works in a way that once I've done it, I put it behind me. But just to name a few, Howard Hewitt, Freddie Jackson, Will Downing, Maysa, Jill Scott, Regina Belle, Oleta Adams. And the list goes on.
That's amazing! Have you played on any of their albums, or have you only performed with them live on stage? Although I've mostly played with these artists live, I've recorded with SWV. Currently, I'm focusing on and trying to give birth to what's in my heart so that I can leave a legacy behind.
Your name is beautiful and unique. Is that your birth name and what does it mean?
Yancey was given to me. The lord part came from my music being a tool for the Creator. I feed the people. In Europe, the lords would feed the people. Because music is a spiritual thing for me, I chose the name (lord) to define how I’m being used by the Creator as a tool to give the people what they need.
Do you write and produce all your songs? Yes, I write, produce, and collaborate with other producers.
Yanceyy, where are you today and where are you headed? Who am I today? Wow, that's a really good question. I am a student and a person who lives my life wondering how I can add value to the world. Where am I going? I plan to continue recording, networking, and creating meaningful music that feels right and helps listeners get through their day. For me, it's all about expressing love, whether it's through kindness, with or without my horn, or just in my everyday life. I'm a person that is constantly trying to find ways to live out every moment of my life with passion. I believe in living life to the fullest.
How did you make your way into the professional circuit? Attending college was a positive thing that prepared me with the necessary skills I needed to have a solid and skilled professional career. After I left college, I began working with a few top-tier artists in Detroit. Those encounters led to other opportunities for me to begin networking with other artists. For example, when opportunities came around, I would get a phone call. Someone would call me and say “hey Yancyy, Will Downing is looking for a sax player, and so on.
So, I began to get these types of calls. In addition to that, I had solid business contacts of individuals residing in various states offering me opportunities for exposure. For me, having absolute integrity is one of the most important qualities of an artist. This means keeping your word and always giving more than what's expected of you. We started slow and now we're taking off like a locomotive! (Laughs)
Are there any fundamental differences between your character on and off stage? Does Yancyy have two different personas? That's a complex question. I say this because most people wear several types of hats. Your mother may get a different person from your sister. You might present a different version of yourself to your child, but, for the most part, I remain true to who I am. I'm consistent with my love for humanity, spirituality, and desire to see progressiveness in the lives of people. It makes me happy to see people working together for a common purpose. In that sense, I would say that I'm consistent on and off stage. However, you would never see the playful side of me in public.
You know Yancey, I find that some artists are quite shy off stage but are electrifying in front of an audience. Therefore, because of their talent they are frequently on stage, in front of a crowd, which almost forces them to assume this persona for the sake of performing. On the flip side of that, you have people who are extremely outgoing and love being upfront and on stage. This makes the transition much easier for them. That too is complex. There are times when I’m reserved, and others when I’m more social. I enjoy engaging conversations. In that instance, my persona is relative to the situation. People are very important to me, and I try my best to make time for them whenever possible.
I knew of a few artists who were doing well in the industry. One day, a few fans asked if they could take a photo with them. Both artists refused to do so and told the fans that they didn't have time because they weren’t working at the moment. This broke my heart because these are the people who buy and support their music. Fan support is one of the most vital tools for the success of an artist's career.
Just to witness someone treating their fans like that is heartbreaking. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The gift that God gave you is not about you! He gave it to you so you could bless others. It's not wise to get into an ego trip or you'll be at home playing all by yourself! I'm not that person and I never will be. I love people!
Definitely! You know Yancyy, I’m a heart person. I love beautiful hearts over talent. Talking to someone with a beautiful heart and who is humble is always refreshing. In business, a person's character is crucial. If you have great talent but a horrible heart, eventually it will catch up with you. I agree. I know many gifted artists, producers, writers, and entertainers who are no longer at the top of their game because of character flaws that ultimately caught up to them. They've burned so many bridges that they’ve run out of places to go.
The Bible says that pride comes before fall. Also, in the entertainment business, reputations spread quickly. I agree
Do you have any upcoming projects? Yes, I'm working on a new project with Chris Big Dog Davis. He is an amazing artist and producer. There are some extremely talented artists on board for that project as well. Additionally, I'm working on a project with Phil Davies. They're not related, but they're both bad boys in music!
I can't wait to hear your new music! Thank you. Furthermore, I'm working on a project with Norman Brown, which will be very exciting!
I know that your project is going to be fire! I love Norman Brown. What a great collaboration! Thank you.
Do you have any endorsements? Yes, I’m endorsed by Sax Dakota and Fiberreeds.
Are you going to the next NAMM show? You know. I haven't planned on it.
I hear you. Everything is so different now. Indeed. Zoom conferences and online performances have become so commonplace for me now that I hardly go anywhere anymore. It's nice to stay at home in my slippers. (laughs)
Let's talk about post-pandemic life. Have you started touring again? I'm slowly getting out there. For me to do a show, it has to be one that really inspires me.
I hear you. Another thing is as a horn player and vocalist It's very important to stay healthy. Because this virus attacks the lungs, artists have to be extremely careful and responsible.
What would you say that would inspire an up-and-coming artist? I would tell them to pursue their passion, follow their heart and their dreams. I would also encourage them to immerse themselves in their artistry. Search online for as many books as possible that will assist you in advancing your understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and who you want to be.
Many great musicians teach master classes and even basic lessons online and through social media. It would be extremely beneficial to engage in those types of lessons taught by the best in the world. There are many free lessons available online, but you must put in the work. Do it, learn it, then become it.
In light of this, I pray that God will continue to bless you and keep you safe. May God bless you with a prosperous and long career. Your talent is incredible, and it was a pleasure to talk to you. I appreciate your time very much. God bless you as well.