‘The song has a life of its own’
Painting by BRUNI Sablan
For the Daily News
San Jose’s Kristina Sablan lifts the spirits of not only all who hear
her lovely music, but also of her fellow singer-songwriters.
Sablan and husband Darren Anderson created Firesign Entertainment, which
books musicians — blues, soul, rock and jazz, in addition to acoustic
singer-songwriters — into many Bay Area locales, including Santana Row, each
They will be at Redwood City’s Little Fox for Thursday evening’s Hit
Songwriters in the Round. Joining Sablan and Anderson will be Steve Krause
and Travis Hogue. In addition to original compositions, each will perform a
cover penned by a songwriter who inspired them.
"We’ve always wanted to start doing a showcase to promote talented
songwriters who need the spotlight on them. The Little Fox is such a
beautiful listening venue, where people come in, sit down, be quiet and
actually listen to the performers on stage.
"It doesn’t have to be just loud rock bands or things you can dance to.
People who can actually write songs that come from the heart deserve more
attention. Most clubs just want stuff to have people dancing or background
music. It’s sparse for singer-songwriters, so we’re trying to get that
She and her husband are establishing the Firesign recording company, having
just released Sablan’s own moving CD, "My Prayer."
"I wanted it to have a spiritual sense, reflective of something beyond this
everyday world," she said of the CD.
Getting a fledgling company to blossom is a challenge.
"When you do it out of joy, out of something you love to do, it may be
difficult, but you also get great satisfaction from it."
The satisfactions of art were imbued in Sablan from birth. Born in Guam, she
moved with her family to Hollywood at 3, then back to her mother’s hometown,
San Jose, at age 8.
Her father was a musician/singer/songwriter in Guam. Her grandmother, a
classical pianist, taught her piano. Sablan’s mother, a painter, owns Bruni
Gallery in Campbell.
Sablan, who sculpts, said of her mother Bruni, "She’s been a big influence
on me to pursue my dream. She was always very encouraging, very supportive."
She knows how fortunate she is to have that foundation. "A lot of friends
had dreams of being musicians or artists, but they didn’t have the support
of their families. Eventually, their parents would say to them, ‘You’ve got
to go into the real world.’ And I see that these friends are marred by it,
As a child, Sablan’s mother took her to Paul Masson Winery (now the Mountain
Winery), and toYoshi’s in Oakland, where she heard and met such greats as
Abbey Lincoln, Diane Schuur, Carlos Santana and Miles Davis. From observing,
Sablan learned the finer points of music.
By 14, Sablan was experimenting with songwriting. "In the beginning, I
thought I had to go by the book, by how they tell you to write a song. I
used to get frustrated by all the rules."
After graduating from Cupertino High School, Sablan (who now teaches
singing) studied at San Francisco’s John Ford School of Voice.
Sablan picked up the guitar in her mid-20s and encountered innumerable
performers at open mics and cafes around the South Bay.
"They weren’t doing it for money, necessarily. They’re doing it because they
wrote a song, worked on it, believed in it and wanted to share it with
"The most important thing I learned was to be free with what I did musically
and not think of it in commercial terms. Only then was the songwriting
rewarding. The song has a life of its own."
Alife in music requires dedication. "You can break through with your art, if
you focus 100 percent on it. We all have to pay bills, but if you commit to
it fully, it can be what you want it to be.
"It doesn’t have to be just a dream. You don’t just say, ‘Well, I’ll try it
for five years and then stop, if I don’t make it.’ That’s silly. Musicians
have to be very passionate people, very hardworking. They go wherever the
gig might take them."
Sablan helps distinctive talents find gigs. "Every song on the radio sounds
like the same singer. There used to be more interest in individuality.
"Someday maybe there will be a surge of what there was in the ’60s and ’70s,
when artists were put into the spotlight because they were unique and great
and not just all the same. I hope for that to come back."
E-mail Paul Freeman at