Local Music Makers: Sal Landers, Rockin’ & Rollin’ & Payin’ it Forward
By Peggy Ratusz
Sal doesn’t shy away from heavy topics and she’s as honest and clear-minded as anyone I know. She was drawn to move here after many years of forging paths and breaking down barriers in California and like many of us she moved here for the music, the people and the topography.
I’m honored that musicians 50 and over who transplant to WNC, hear my name dropped like Sal did, and contact me to commiserate and shoot the preverbal about the local music scene and how to break into it; the ways to jockey for position after decades of success in their careers elsewhere.
When Sal and I first met up a few months back, it was for breakfast that seemingly so quickly, turned into lunch.
A Laurel Canyon native, Ms. Landers waxes poetic about how she intrinsically absorbed the culture of that hotbed during its heyday. But the pivotal, life changing musical moment for Sal, was seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.
Like all the other screaming teeny boppers, she didn’t want to marry a Beatle, she wanted to be one! Her obsession with their lyrics and sound continues to influence her tonally and harmonically.
It all started when after studying guitar and performing in high school, she became a professional musician at 25 playing her vintage Fender Strat guitar for a Sacramento based lesbian Country/Disco band called Angel Fox.
After some years gigging locally and touring with the band, she moved to Southern California to be closer to family. In the late 1980’s she auditioned for and landed the role of a rising rock star on a highly publicized and controversial gay-themed soap opera, Secret Passions.
Consequently, the showdowns she’s taken on with vigor and compassion, and the negotiating she finessed as a lesbian Rock and Roll band leader are as numerous as one might imagine. Through it all she’s remained generous and forthright.
“In our 40’s we were considered dinosaurs to record labels, music managers and publishers. My career has been one of constantly proving myself because especially back in the 80’s and 90’s I was an anomaly and my all-female band was an anomaly.” It inspired her to write a hit song, “It’s Not the Rock n’ Roll, It’s Who You Know.”
In her 45+ years in the music business, the groups she’s led and facilitated, like The Fixations and Sideswipe have opened for Rock and Roll luminaries like Eddie Money, Joan Jett, Holly Near, Linda Perry and more.
Highlights from her brilliant career include headlining many West Coast Pride Festivals as well as Yosemite Women’s Festival. Sal’s song “Want Your Love” was chosen for placement on Dawson’s Creek and Time of Your Life via Sony/TriStar Television.
Landers has hobnobbed with the likes of Grace Slick and recalls a long lunch she shared with the Jefferson Airplane/Starship icon at a restaurant below David Foster’s studio: “Grace is very outspoken, forthright and has no filter and the one thing she said that sticks with me, is this: ‘Own your age and put it on a billboard.’”
As can happen to musicians at or near the precipice of larger notoriety, Sal recounts to me how her addiction to cocaine became so monumental that by the end of 1994 she checked herself into Betty Ford.
Her long-term sobriety includes being a sponsor. She’s spent nearly 3 decades dedicated to service within 12-step programs. One of the most important aspects of Sal’s life is ‘paying it forward.’
She’s given up high paying concerts and gigs to participate and perform at fundraising events and for causes for which she has enormous passion. And none of them compare, it seems to me at least, to the effort, the devotion and time she gives toward her own and others’ alcohol and drug sobriety.
It’s not lost on her how the simple act of answering a phone call can save someone’s life. “Over time I’ve learned that we are all expressions of divinity and I believe our gifts are given to us so that we can help others. “
I encourage you to visit Sal’s full-service website https://sallandersmusic.com/ where you can read more about her enormous life including her valiant recovery from breast cancer.
What I hope you’ll glean from this spotlight, on yet another enormously talented, well-traveled, ageless goddess is that she comes equipped with a big, gregarious personality. Her grit and passion for music and life translates seamlessly to her confident and unabashed approach to playing guitar and singing.
It’s not lost on listeners that she brings heaping helpings of bravado and fun to the stage and engages her bandmates to follow suit. She brings what she means and means what she brings.
Decades of a hard and joyful life mixed with inspirations of artists from all genres gives way to performing with utmost rock n’ roll authenticity. Her confidence through self-made empowerment is contagious.
“I’m always looking to bring the audience in, to connect with the band and feel a part of us; making connections is the goal. The band is just a conduit to getting people moving, dancing, clapping and singing along. I try to make my audiences feel like it’s their show.”
On her website, she elaborates: “This oneness with the audience is the most incredible thing for me. I get a total physical rush from it. It’s the best feeling in the world and I know that I have no choice but to keep doing it.”
On September 2nd, Sal will be one of the featured players for One World West’s Invitational Blues Showcase starting at 4pm. And on September 16th, she’ll be doing a house concert in West Asheville with local female music artists, Ashley Heath and Jenny Bradley. Contact Sal through her website to get more information on how to reserve your seat for that performance.
Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach,
song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at