Riches to Rags
HOUSTON - Myrna Sanders started playing bass by accident. But her success in the music business is certainly no fluke. The Houston native has performed all genres of music in her career, everything from folk and country to R&B and rock to heavy metal. At age 9, she picked up her first guitar - left to her by her mother, who died when Sanders was barely a year old - and began learning songs from records and the radio by ear. Sanders paid her musical dues in Houston metal and hard-rock bands after learning to play bass by default. At age 18, Sanders formed a band with an ex-boyfriend, but the group was missing a bassist at the first rehearsal. During a break, a radio station was playing 'Smoke on the Water' and she mimicked the lick on her guitar. At that moment, she became a bass player. She studied the styles of her bass-playing idols, Paul McCartney, John Paul Jones and Geddy Lee. When she played bass with Houston metal band Bad Heaven, Sanders would rock the house and drew accolades from touring musicians when her group got to open for the likes of metal shredders Megadeth and Metal Church. As a vocalist, she loved to perform tender ballads and balls-to-the-wall rockers, citing influences from Linda Ronstadt to Janis Joplin and Robert Plant. She put all her vocal and bass-playing talents together in rock band Rare Seed, voted best rock band in Houston in 1996-97 by the Houston Music Council. Most recently, she was nominated for Best Female Vocalist in the 2003 Houston Press Music Awards. Along the way, Sanders wrote other songs of a more personal nature that did not seem to fit with her other bands. So in recent years, she began playing solo acoustic gigs to give those songs an audience. Some of the songs she wrote, such as the poignant 'Slight of Hand' or the hard rocker 'No Love Lost' were based on traumatic experiences. 'With 'Slight of Hand' I had just come out of two years of pure hell. A divorce, both my father and grandmother died, I lost my job, you name it,' says Sanders. 'Everything poured out into that song, the misery and depression, but I think that's how I was able to move on.' All of those songs can be found on her debut solo CD, Riches to Rags, which also includes tunes with optimistic undertones, such as the funky roadhouse rocker 'Good Thang' the poignant, sweeping ballad 'Everything' and the rootsy, Allman Brothers-inspired riffs in 'Nice Girl.' Sanders, whose vocal style at live shows has been compared to Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge and Michelle Branch, was able to work with some well-known Houston musicians during the recording of Riches to Rags, which includes sweeping orchestrations and arrangements that she created, especially lush vocal harmonies on both the ballads and the rockers. Still, the creative process of making the CD became a continuous project, she discovered, while honing the sound and arrangements when putting a new band together for live shows. 'I thought it would be cool to take the orchestrated sound on the CD and give it an edge for the gigs so I put together the new group with players who all have a background in heavy metal bands,' said Sanders, who has switched back from bass to rhythm guitar. The Myrna Sanders Band includes Mike Simon (lead guitar), Wynne Ann Chaney (drums) and Greg Barr (bass). 'Having this contrast of the sweet vocals with the ballsy bass, drums and guitar creates the kind of compelling sound that I like to hear when I go out to see a band live.'