INTERVIEW: Buzzy Lee, aka Sasha Spielberg, on writing music and painting dogs

Sasha Spielberg, Buzzy Lee

Sasha Spielberg (Buzzy Lee), Courtesy.

Reached by phone several week ago, Sasha Spielberg, whose album Spoiled Love as Buzzy Lee comes out Jan. 29, had to take a pause from her big activity of the day: painting dogs.

Spoiled Love
Buzzy Lee
Future Classic, Jan. 29

“Paintings of the dogs,” she said, clarifying. “Though I would like to watercolor a dog at some point in my life.”

Spielberg has spent the long COVID lockdown like the rest of us; oscillating between periods of activity and the lack thereof. At the moment she’s in the former.

“It’s very renaissance over here,” she explained. “It’s a lot of watercoloring dogs, a lot of writing music, a lot of baking pastries. A lot of watching movies I’ve never seen before, and reading books. I had a big slump the last two to three months where I couldn’t watch anything but “Below Deck Med,” a reality show, and I’m just getting out of it and forcing myself to make things.”

That there are classic movies she’s never seen may come as a surprise considering the household in which she grew up. Her mother is Kate Capshaw, who played Willie in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” and her father is that Spielberg, the one who directed most of your favorite movies and has won so many awards the list has its own Wikipedia page.

“It’s funny because I grew up with, obviously, so many movies, and that was everything in my family. But I always gravitated to the scores of the movies,” she said. “My dad was obsessed with scores of movies, too, actually; he would play scores in carpool, so he would drop us off at school playing the opening monologue of ‘The Guns of Navarone‘ and we would all be embarrassed. I was the rebel because I was obsessed with the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys. I wanted to sound like Christina Aguilera.

“As I got older I discovered Joni Mitchell and Led Zeppelin. Then ‘Almost Famous’ came out and I decided I wanted to be in a band. I wanted to be on the road. Honestly, I think my parents would have loved me to be a doctor or get into coding, they know how hard it is to make it in the arts, but they were really supportive.”

Parental trepidation aside, it was a good decision. Music has worked out well for Sasha Spielberg. She’s released EPs and albums with her brother Theo as Brother/Sister and later as Wardell. She released music with a friend from college as Just Friends. And as her current musical persona Buzzy Lee, she’s released a couple EPs. So although Spoiled Love is technically her debut album, it doesn’t really feel like it to her.

“It’s so funny, people keep saying ‘your first album’ and I keep forgetting it’s my first album,” she said. “When I was touring, back when I could do that, I had a full set that would constitute a full album because I’ve made so many singles and EPs. But it’s so personal that it has that first album energy. It’s deeply intimate. Though maybe that’s more a sophomore album energy? It just feels like I’ve been doing this for a while.”

Sasha Spielberg is, however, looking at this differently than the Buzzy Lee EPs she’s released so far. While she did feel like those stood alone as an album of sorts, she made a conscious effort for Spoiled Love to be a cohesive, sequential body of work—as she puts it, “to have that ’70s, Carole King energy.”

However it’s defined, the album has been a long time coming, not just in her career as a musician but since completion. Spielberg finished it way back in September 2019, which is nowhere near as long ago as it feels but is nonetheless a long time to sit on an album. She first delayed so that she could tour the album. That was back when we all thought this would only last a few months. The next delay was due to manufacturing issues. She’s getting antsy because some of the songs are about things from which she’s moved on.

“It’s been a bit difficult. … I feel like I have a whole new set of problems,” she said. “It’s not irrelevant, because the songs are so personal and about me recognizing my own patterns and anxieties, but it is odd releasing an album so long after making it. It’s just a strange feeling. But my heart is very much still in it, I’m still very attached to it.”

It won’t take long for her to begin addressing that new set of problems in her music. She’s due to go back into the studio and begin work on her next album in January, which will include some songs written around the same time as Spoiled Love along with those songs she’s been writing between the dog painting and reality TV.

The difference, she said, is in the complexity. She’s used her time at home to study music theory, which has led her to take more risks with creativity and chord progressions. However, it’s still definitely in her style and voice, though sometimes in a lower vocal register, which she’s also been exploring.

In addition to all that, with the rest of her free time, she’s been working with her writing partner on screenplays. The ideas have been mostly about nerdy girls in high school, inspired by their time as a nerdy girl in high school. But she won’t go into details about any of that quite yet.

“And I bake. I mean, I really bake. A lot,” she said. “And I paint dogs. If you need a Christmas present for family I am painting dogs. Lots of dogs.”

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