Sandy Kaye has a long and varied history in TV and Radio journalism. She was Australia’s first female radio newsreader in Sydney, has worked as an on-air reporter and host for countless TV news, current affairs and entertainment shows and has presented and produced her own radio show for several years.

Her latest passion project – A Breath of Fresh Air, was born during the pandemic. Sandy was asked if she could extend her weekly live segments into an hourly program and she decided to give it a go. Since it hit the airwaves, the show has developed into a must listen mix of music, warm interviews and entertainment that audiences just love. 

Listeners are often surprised to hear an informal chat with one of the popular musical legends of their youth. Big name stars and celebrities across the world feature as regular guests on A Breath of Fresh Air which celebrates the music and the musicians of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s that Sandy, and hopefully you, are passionate about.

Sandy took a few moments to answer some important questions about herself and her podcast…

  • Sandy, you’ve had an extensive career in TV and radio journalism. What inspired you to transition from traditional media to creating the “A Breath of Fresh Air” podcast?

I had been doing (and continue to do) regular weekly live entertainment reports for several commercial radio stations in various cities here in Australia. When the pandemic hit, and disc jockeys weren’t coming in to fill their shifts, some of these stations literally begged me to see if I could blow out my 20 minute chat and fill a full hour. So, never one to shy away from a challenge, I rose to the occasion and taught myself how to build a radio show/podcast on my trusty Apple MacPro. 

At first it took me an entire week to craft a show because I built it as I had learned over many years as a Radio Producer – featuring several segments per hour that covered a variety of topics including music news, film and tv reviews, up and coming musical artists and chats with the musical legends I grew up with. It was a terrific, fast paced, multi-faceted hour of entertainment but I quickly realised it wasn’t sustainable. Within a few weeks I was burned out and was unable to keep up the pace. 

So, I paired it back. First to three guests per episode and sometime later, to feature one guest in depth. 

People often ask me how I have managed to find my guests. Well, I had always prided myself (especially during the days before the internet) of being able to find anyone, anywhere in the world so my research skills, I guess, are pretty highly developed. 

I simply began reaching out to some of my favourite artists from when I was a teenager – John Oates, Alice Cooper, Steve Lukather (Toto) Peter Frampton – and to my greatest surprise, they were also at home during the pandemic with nothing better to do than chat with me.

The show began to breathe as I let these guys tell their stories and once it was packaged up (thanks to an audio engineer in Brazil) it started sounding awesome with guests opening up to me in a relaxed, casual manner, sharing their most intimate thoughts. I had struck gold!

  • Your podcast focuses on the music of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Why do these particular decades resonate so strongly with you?

I’m a Baby Boomer born in the late 50’s. But even as a child, music was all around me. My best friend was the transistor radio that went everywhere with me. I was infatuated with the musical stars of the day and the lyrics from their hits struck a real chord. It was the era of the teen magazines. The days when we would plaster our bedrooms with posters of our musical heroes from Elvis and David Cassidy to the Monkees and the Beatles. It was also the time when everyone belonged to a fan club so I joined many and even became the President of one honouring one of our top local Australian musicians. (I told him I was 16 when in fact I was only 13 – what a bad girl!)

I began watching music television shows and made my parents take me to be part of live audiences when TV hosts were discussing which songs should be a hit or a miss. I insisted my parents take me to live concerts too – the first one I ever saw was Jose Feliciano. A couple of years later, I started to attend concerts on my own. 

For all of these reasons, the music of my youth has really stuck with me. I thought the guys who made the music were ‘gods.’ As a nine year old, when my parents would go out on a Sunday afternoon, I would re-arrange the sofas in the living room and pretend I was Dinah Shore (the TV host). I would use my mother’s single rose vase as my microphone and interview my imaginary musical guests – finding out what the lyrics meant and how they felt about being a superstar. I guess my fascination never left me!

  • Can you share a memorable moment or story from one of your interviews that has stayed with you?

I chased the late Canadian star, Gordon Lightfoot for almost two years before he granted me an interview. I had always been a big fan and was quite taken aback when he chatted with me as intimately as he did. Gordon told me about his first marriage and how regretful he was that he had done the wrong thing by his then wife as well as his kids. He was almost in tears when he admitted that he’d been trying to make up for lost time with his children for the past 10 years and that so far, they hadn’t really forgiven him for being a womaniser and for being away from home so much. He shared that with the wisdom of hindsight he’d do it very differently given the chance again. He was so open and honest that there were even bits of the interview he asked me not to share publicly, for fear of upsetting his first wife. Of course, I respected his wishes and have never shared this portion of our conversation.

  • As someone who loves digging deep into the stories behind the music, what has been one of the most surprising things you’ve learned from a guest on your show?

I guess what I’ve learnt from many of the interviews I’ve conducted is that some of these superstar musical legends are just human, like you and me. No matter how famous, how adored or how wealthy, some of these artists have suffered the same foibles as the rest of us. 

Whether it was the members of Lynrd Skynrd who used to pray before going out onto the stage that their shaking legs wouldn’t let them fall over or Fleetwood Mac banding together ahead of a performance to combat their nerves … our conversations have shown me time and time again that these guys are every bit as real and down to earth as the average punter. While basking in fame and fortune, many turned to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to handle and control the lifestyle and I was surprised to hear that when alone in their hotel rooms at night, people like Freda Payne, Don McLean, Bobby Sherman and the Hollies’ Allan Clarke actually felt lonely and sad, wishing they could go home to a solid, loving family and to a life away from the grind of the road.

  • You’ve interviewed numerous legendary musicians. Is there one artist or band you haven’t yet spoken to but would love to have on the podcast?

There are many that I either can’t get to or who simply won’t talk to me. Of course, Elvis would have been top of my list but currently I’d love to talk to Bob Dylan, Carole King, Carly Simon and Billy Joel. The other one I’ve been chasing for some time and hope to have very soon is Carlos Santana. He has a fascinating story to tell and I’m really looking forward to meeting him.

  • Your show is now broadcast on 165 radio stations worldwide. How do you think your experience as Australia’s first female radio newsreader in Sydney prepared you for this success?

When I was crowned Sydney Australia’s first female radio newsreader, it was during a time when female voices were deemed unsuitable for radio broadcasting. The men who featured on radio at the time had deep, booming voices and the industry believed that a woman could only make high pitched, screeching sounds. I fell into news reading after hassling the news director at another radio station to let me come and do something. Anything. After three months of taking my daily calls (I don’t even know why he picked up the phone!) he eventually relented and allowed me to start doing traffic reports. I was untrained and irreverent. I used to tell people to get off the road that I intended to use to come home, and I simply played with the job and had fun. He obviously liked my style because he asked me some months later, if I’d like to read the news. I grabbed the opportunity and although, again, I wasn’t quite sure of what I was doing, I just had fun and gave it my all. Several weeks into it, the all-male newsroom erupted, and the journalists all threatened to resign unless I was sacked. The poor news director had no choice but to let me go and I drove home that day, on the road I’d told everyone to clear, with tears streaming down my face. I was all of 18. It had been one of my first jobs in radio and I had been fired.

Luckily when news of this reached the press, I was quickly hired at another radio station and my career was back on track. 

I learned a great deal from this experience. It taught me resilience, how to move forward and to let go of past hurts. It taught me to remain confident and steadfast and to never let anyone or anything affect me so profoundly again. It also taught me that I’m able to rise to any challenge and that I can do whatever I set my mind to, really, really well!

  • With a following of over 30k on your Facebook page and a growing audience for your podcast, how do you engage with your listeners and maintain such a strong connection with them?

I’ve worked long and hard to build up my 30k followers on facebook. It’s not something that comes overnight because people have to learn to trust you. I began by posting interesting bits that I’d find in the press about the artists of the 60s 70s and 80s and when people liked or commented on the post, I’d engage with them by providing interesting casual comments in a conversational way as though they were my friends. Gradually more people started liking my page and resonating with my posts. I value my facebook community incredibly highly and try to engage with as many of them as I can. I answer questions, I research for them if asked to and I always ask them if there’s someone they’d like to hear from on A Breath of Fresh Air. When they suggest an artist, I always include them in the process of finding that artist and then I ask them if they’d like to join me on the call and meet the person they’re so enamoured with. They really seem to love that involvement.

  • The stories you uncover offer a unique archival legacy for music fans. How do you approach researching and preparing for each interview to ensure you capture these important histories accurately?

My skill as a journalist really helps me a lot in preparing and conducting these interviews. I usually spend a couple of hours devouring all I can about my interviewee whilst looking for the quirkiest angles and bits they haven’t shared in interviews in the past. In saying that, sometimes I do get it wrong and I’m not afraid to let the artist correct me and set the record straight. Whilst I try to guide the interviewee through the chronology of their musical and often personal lives, I’m a keen listener and am happy to explore paths that he or she opens. I do try not to ask questions that I don’t already know the answers to but sometimes I’m surprised by what is said. My natural curiosity then leads the way as it would during a conversation with any person that I’m interested in. I think it’s the breathing space that I provide that really allows an artist to be open and connect with me on a deeper level. It’s definitely that connection that’s invaluable and I almost always seem to strike it. I often feel like I’ve made a new friend and I’m pleased to say, after receiving a great deal of feedback, the artist often feels same. That’s one of the most rewarding parts of my work.

  • Looking ahead, what are your hopes and plans for the future of “A Breath of Fresh Air“? Are there any new directions or projects you’re excited to explore?

I’m so in love with doing what I do that I can think of nothing beyond A Breath of Fresh Air. I feel like the clock is ticking in trying to secure interviews with some of the artists who have so far eluded me. Already, some of the ones I have spoken with have passed so getting them to tell their own stories in their own voices, remains my priority. It’s my one and only passion project although one day, hopefully, it could also provide me with some income. I may have to turn all of these stories into a book to realise that, who knows?!