Memphis Music Feature: Victor Sawyer of Lucky 7 Brand Band
Today’s interview is with Victor Sawyer of the Lucky 7 Brass Band.
Check out all the features here.
“ I started playing music with no intention of economic prosperity or fame. It was just about the music and the deep joy it brought me.” –Victor Sawyer
Victor Sawyer is a freelance trombonist. Currently, Sawyer serves as an Instrumental Instructor at the world famous Stax Music Academy. As a performer he has recorded at legendary studios such as Sun, Royal, and Ardent. Sawyer has also performed with Memphis legends such as 8Ball and MJG, Valerie June, Steve Cropper, and others. Sawyer attended the Manhattan School of Music for a Masters Degree in Jazz Performance.
You can check out his band, The Lucky 7 Brass Band, on most streaming platforms.
MEMPHIS MUSIC FEATURE #11: VICTOR SAWYER
Here’s the Q&A:
MH: What about Memphis inspires you creatively?
Victor: Adding new pages to a legacy of musical excellence.
MH: Who in Memphis do you love to listen to?
Victor: Alison Kasper is (was?) my favorite!! I went to almost every show. She’s moved during the pandemic but her music is still my fave. Hard rocker. I also love Webbstar and Ryan Peel. Fun Hip-hop with witty wordplay and infectious beats.
MH: Which place gives you that Memphis vibe?
Victor: The corner of Cooper Street and Young Avenue (specifically the patio of DKDC) is my forever home in Memphis. There’s no other place like it. So many vibes of humans and music. A hidden in plain sight gem.
Honestly, the Karren Carrier spots (Mollie Fontaine; DKDC; Beauty Shop; and the since closed Do) truly feel like homes and the staff feels like family. I have spent countless hours performing, growing, laughing, and reflecting in those spots. I have chilled to jazz, moshed, danced, and screamed to the music at all of those spots.
MH: Can you give advice for a young artist getting started, or lessons you have learned?
Victor: Try to stay constant. Set up a routine for personal practice and stick to it until it’s automatic. Regularly go out into the virtual or physical world and look for your contemporaries, the OGs, the venues, the new music, etc. You have to be really explorative to carve out a niche in music. There’s no clear cut path so you really want to be an artistic explorer to know a bit about multiple pathways to success before you really hunker down and go all in.
Maybe you want to tour, record, play clubs, play a cruise ship, make music using only used water bottles, whatever! The main thing is that someone has probably done at least a little bit of what you want, even if you don’t exactly know what, “what” is just quite yet. While you have the space and energy just get out there and explore.
From a much more pragmatic standpoint I would say spend some time as a freelancer, or side-musician. The romanticized artist’s path is an incredible journey but there’s an insane amount of valuable experience from not being the main attraction. When living as a freelancer you learn from the bandleaders who hire you. You get to play in every kind of situation possible. You learn how to go all in for completely empty gigs or for major festivals. You are forced to learn a lot of music you otherwise wouldn’t have encountered and perhaps most importantly you learn basic professional skills.
Show up on time. Return messages and calls. Wear the right clothes. Leave your attitude off the stage. There is something a bit cold and dangerous about treating music like work but there’s value in learning to adopt a professional manner that removes any non-music related issue from the stage and performance.
MH: Do you have a quick story that changed you as an artist, a moment in time that moved the needle for you?
Victor: There are so many but I’ll go with my most recent! A few years back through no fault of anyone I suddenly found myself down four bands. Founders called it quits, I quit one, an integral member left one, an artist moved to a bigger city, etc. That was a lot of work but what it ignited was a determination to create my own music opportunity. The danger of living in the freelance world was that I became complacent in pushing myself.
I enjoyed the gigs I had and I was mostly fulfilled. It was the “mostly” that forced me to change. I had to seek out things that pushed me or create those things for myself. From a more zen perspective it confirmed that all of my music endeavors could end overnight and I have to be ok with living in that truth. I started playing music with no intention of economic prosperity or fame. It was just about the music and the deep joy it brought me. Being comfortable knowing the work may dry up or I may have to pivot reminds me of that original truth and keeps my eyes forward. The pandemic just magnified everything.
MH: Where can we hear you?
Victor: I’ve written some horn parts recently, and of course am waiting for a good time for my band the Lucky 7 Brass Band to come out of hiding. Doing live streams just didn’t feel right for me in any way. I’ll gladly participate, but I didn’t find them to be personally valuable. If Lucky 7 did one it would have to be extremely bombastic and over the top.