I’m pleased to feature Nancy B. Sayle in my blog series: Behind the Art. As owner/publicist at VQPR, LLC, Nancy has worked with some of the biggest names in rock, generating a media buzz for each of them. I’d heard Nancy’s name around the business, but I first met her when she contacted me to so generously volunteer her PR services for Phil Kennemore’s benefit concert. Nancy’s unwavering perseverance is inspiring.
Nancy B. Sayle
Owner/Publicist at VQPR, LLC. Follow Nancy online.
In December of 2000 I was in a car accident. I could not work; I was on disability and sinking fast in bills. I started walking dogs because I could not sit nor stand for any period of time. I thought perhaps I’d be a Jacuzzi tester ha ha. In 2001 I had uterine cancer and had it removed. Shortly after, I was hit by another truck . . . again. This time it blew out my discs in my C-spine and I had spine surgery. One day I woke up and my boyfriend at that time said, make your website. I was going to be a publicist. I have no idea why, as I had never done any of that before. However, I do know how it works for me on the other side. I asked several of my rock star friends if I could put them on my site and pretend. I told them that I would help them freely, in exchange. They did not have a publicist or label, but they had names and fans. And whenever I spoke to people I told them I was a publicist. I feel if you are going to be something start saying you are what it is! Then people started hiring me, and slowly I became one of the premier independent publicists of major rock stars.
Who all is on your roster?
Currently my roster is very low. I have primary progressive multiple sclerosis brain tumor so I’ve taken the last year and a half off. Most of my clients went in-house with their label. I am now just getting back on my feet so I really only have a couple clients. John 5 from Rob Zombie is down to here right now. These are my client for 12 years. I’ve worked with Rob Zombie, Steve Vai, Black Label Society, Mr. Big, YES, Les Claypool, Marky Ramone, and the list goes on. I had to take some time to figure out how to deal with the MS. I am trying to get more clients and let them know I am back up and running.
Who’s the first artist that got you started? What’s the story behind that?
I started with Nick Menza from Megadeth. I was referral from a friend of his. Then I got the band Warrant. They were doing the Rockfest 2002 tour, so their management found me and hired me. I also had started writing for a magazine. As I was speaking with publicity for Spitfire records, I told him I’m actually a publicist. He asked me if I wanted to handle Zakk Wylde. Of course, you would say no editors to me on another level. I had to get back-approved to go on a TV show to get the job. That is what his manager required, so in two hours I had a choice of Jimmy Kimmel or the Tom Green show, which was still airing on TV at the time. So we ended up at Jimmy Kimmel; the Tom Green show stopped existing within just a few weeks. At that point I was already on-board and creating joyful things for Zakk.
As a woman in a male-dominant business, what gender-based obstacles have you encountered and how did you overcome them?
To tell you the truth, I never found any obstacles because I think the kind of personality that I have is a very strong, seemingly testosterone-like personality. I think more have been afraid of me then trying to give me a hard time. I do not mean they were afraid, like to go scream and run, but I feel I have strong personality that possibly overwhelms. That’s just my guess. I feel like I’m really rather well respected in the industry and I am grateful for that. I don’t take a lot of shit, and I’m extremely direct, blunt, and bottom line to the point.
Was there a particular moment when you felt you’d “made it” as a music industry professional?
I don’t think there’s a particular moment, but I did feel pretty good when Rob Zombie called me up to ask my professional opinion. Things like that always make you feel good, and you know you’re doing your job well.
What makes you want to research an artist that’s unfamiliar to you?
I only research an artist if I absolutely have no idea or for a position. If I don’t work for you, I probably don’t know you (ha ha). I don’t keep up with current music as a judge, I don’t listen to music in the car so if it is not a band that is multi-platinum or gold, with a strong the background, I find myself having to look it up—and again, only if I’m up for the job. Sounds like I don’t keep up with the latest stuff, but I don’t have time to do that. In my off time I don’t want to.
The animal sanctuary came to me in 2002. I’m a massive animal advocate . . . animals . . . I love them. And a voice echoed, someone should do this. The goal of the sanctuary is to be the overflow for the city and county shelters, while assisting traditional rescues with the foster program and with medical. We will build a 65-acre sanctuary from where the animals will either get adopted, or if they don’t, they will stay there until they pass. It will have an educational center and more. I would like to retire on this property. Animals are amazing and they deserve better than what the human race provides. “Shelter” is such a false name because that insinuates that they’re going there for comfort and care. What it really means is that they have three days to live or possibly get adopted, and then they get killed in a horrible way.
Rock Against MS started just about a year ago. In 2002 I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I was at Steve Stevens’s (of Billy Idol) home. He and his wife are very close to me, and I told him about that plus the multiple sclerosis, and Steve decided after 30 years that the rock star should give back and help me. I also needed major spine surgery and I was unable to work for about a year and a half. So by March of 2013 all these rock stars came together in one night and played five hours straight to raise money for me. There was Rob Zombie’s band, Rick Springfield, Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters and his sideband Chevy Metal, Markey Ramon, Glenn Hughes, Orianthi, Billy Idol, Billy Duffy, and a whole lot more.
After that amazing night I was so full of love I decided to turn this into a foundation to help people with MS. I would definitely say very few people are as lucky as I am, with so many diverse rock stars coming to my aid. I figured I could bring the rock stars to them. We’re still in the workings of getting the nonprofit status, but we do have a physical partner to run as nonprofit.
ROCK AGAINST MS FOUNDATION will provide services from a three (3) grant resource system, which will provide daily care, quality of life needs and emergency funding, while assisting people with multiple sclerosis (MS) to live independent and full lives. Additionally, a brick and mortar facility that we will call THE ROCK HOUSE is in the planning stages, and will provide (free of charge) multiple programs and opportunities designed to heal the mind, body and spirit of all those whose lives have been affected by MS.
Where do you live and why?
I live in an area called box canyon—best known for Charles Manson and Spahn Ranch. It is a beautiful area that is still in LA County, but hidden. I bought my home here because I really am not a Hollywood girl. I prefer quiet and beauty.
What is your morning routine?
Every morning is a crapshoot about when I wake up because of my multiple sclerosis. I have what is known as primary progressive multiple sclerosis and I call it the Mac Daddy Fucker. It’s 24/7/365. It’s a rarer form of multiple sclerosis. Only 10% have this version and it never lets up. Most people have what is called relapse remit and some people will never really feel symptoms; others can progress into a worse version which can lead to wheelchair. But for the most part, relapse remit comes and goes so those people have good days where it’s normal.
But back to the answer . . . I never know when I’m going to wake up, when my body will start to function, where I can stand and move. But once I am up, I am pretty good. I have to take full advantage of every moment awake.
Is there anything unusual about your workspace? What do you keep on your desk? What’s the view from your workspace?
Every day I work with about six cats lying in cat beds on my desk. It’s a huge corner desk and there are six beds on it. If I go to bed on my desk the cats will bug me all day, and be running across my desk.
Do you have a peculiar habit?
I don’t know if I have a peculiar habit because really what constitutes peculiar? Maybe it’s normal to others as well (ha ha).
Please recommend three songs (any genre, any artist) and tell us why you like them.
I don’t know, but I can tell you this . . . I discovered country music. The new style of country music is a retro sound of ’80s hair bands/metal. I heard one song that sounded like Whitesnake and I heard another that sounded like Def Leppard. I like Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Dirks Bentley and more. I never thought I would say I liked country music!
As I’m also an author, I’d love for you to recommend three books and tell us why you like them.
Here is another one I’ll be bad at.
I love pretty much anything Stephen King.
Anything from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross – amazing woman. . . . If you have not read her books, such as Death and Dying, you have not read a good book. Her insights are amazing.
And I like Sanaya Roman; I like the airy-fairy spiritual books. Any of her books are amazing.
Do you have an industry friend who helps and inspires you?
I had to think about this because I thought, what industry friend has inspired me? As much as I love many, I cannot think of one in particular. Then I realized, my artist Jason Becker was a daily inspiration. Many people do not know who he is unless you are in the industry and have a love for guitar.
At the age of 20, just after joining David Lee Roth, he was diagnosed with ALS. They told him he had like three years to live and that was almost 25 years ago. He is on a breathing and feeding tube with 24-hour a day care. However, he still writes music that amazing musicians such as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai record. He is an advocate for ALS. He still has endorsements for guitars and pickups, and still makes the cover of guitar player magazine. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis Jason was worried about me. He has an amazing sense of humor and smiles every day. Although, if Jason was still playing guitar, to this day, he would out-do any of the greats. But when you meet him, you know you’re in the presence of greatness.
Here is his documentary trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGFDWTC8B8g
Now you can get that inspiration too—I share with you all, my besty, Jason Becker.
Do you play a musical instrument? If so, which one(s), and for how long have you played?
I used to play drums but have not for years. I had issues with my right hand and arm from the car accident as well as MS. So now I’m just singing horribly and out loud to my kitty cats (ha ha).
Do you have any superstitions?
I do not walk under ladders and a few other things that we traditionally know. I don’t stand in front of a mirror turning while yelling out bloody Mary. I mean, why chance it? (ha ha)
What phrase do you over-use?
I don’t know any phrase I overuse, but I do tend to say fuck a lot. I can use it as a noun, adjective, verb—I’ve gotten pretty good at using that word. I learned that from Zakk Wylde; his catchphrase was Fuck you, you fucking fuck! Now, that is talent right there folks!
Do you have a funny story related to your job, whether planning a PR campaign, extinguishing (or fanning) a media-frenzy fire, or at a show or event with one of your artist clients?
I do have stories that may be considered funny, but if I tell them I will never get another client!
What is something about yourself that is essentially unknown and maybe even surprising?
I live my life pretty much an open book, and I really don’t hold any secrets. Everyone knows I am a vegan, but I have chronic illness and disease, that I’m Native American, and that I am a ball-buster. I guess one thing maybe that is not as known (unless they tell you) is that I am Mensa and a science nerd. Unless you’re close to me, I usually don’t bring it up in conversation . . . I just let them think I am a regular chick.
What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
The only thing I can think of is getting manager if you have good music—or a good attorney. Make sure you actually have good music and a sellable product.
What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the business side of music?
Don’t become a publicist! It’s limited out here for indie PR people, unless you’re choosing country music or pop or even rap. Definitely know how to write a sentence and communicate to people. Taking communications in college would be a good start with entertainment business courses. Learn how to read contracts and more. Then you can go anywhere in the industry, as you can speak and know what you’re talking about. Make sure you can walk the walk not just talk.
Thank you, Nancy, for your time.
Thank you so much for having me and being patient with getting my interview. Having multiple sclerosis is extremely difficult; in every moment that I am able I must produce work. Please check out my animal sanctuary www.furfeather.org and my MS foundation www.facebook.com/rockagainstmsfoundation.
Billy Duffy, Billy Idol, Black Label Society, Chevy Metal, David Lee Roth, Dirks Bentley, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Foo Fighters, Fur & Feather Animal Sanctuary, Glenn Hughes, Jason Aldean, Jason Becker, Jimmy Kimmel, Joe Satriani, Les Claypool, Markey Ramon, Marky Ramone, Megadeth, Mensa, Miranda Lambert, Mr Big, Nancy B. Sayle, Nick Menza, Orianthi, Phil Kennemore, Rick Springfield, Rob Zombie, Rock Against MS, Sanaya Roman, Stephen King, Steve Stevens, Steve Vai, Taylor Hawkins, VQPR, YES, Zakk Wylde