Lovely Laura on bringing the White Isle to Sunderland + win Sunniside Live tickets

Ben Santiago and Lovely Laura
Ben Santiago and Lovely Laura
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With her blonde mane styled into a Mohican, crop top and glitter face paint – Lovely Laura is not your average saxophone player.

No surprise, therefore, that her slick style combined with her ability to bring out the soul of dance tracks with her saxophone prowess, has captured the imagination of Ibiza clubbers who helped propel her career forward.

Fans’ videos of her lively performances on the White Isle have reached more than 50 million views, and now she’s set to bring those Balearic beats to the streets of Sunderland in this year’s Sunniside Live festival. She’ll be performing alongside her husband, DJ Ben Santiago, and together the pair have played international clubs and festivals, such as Tomorrowland and Cocoon, as well as being regulars at Ibiza’s superclubs, including Pacha, Ushuaïa, EsParadis and Space-Ibiza.

“Social media came at just the right time,” said Laura, who’s also caught the attention of Domenico Dolce, from Dolce & Gabbana, who personally invited Laura to perform at their exclusive fashion shows worldwide alongside Ben.

She added: “I’d been playing sax for a long time, just doing my job, and all of a sudden a video goes viral and you can’t plan for it, it brings you to a global audience. That was about 4/5 years ago and it really changed our careers and took it to the next level.”

The pair will be returning to Sunderland after raising the roof off The Point earlier this year for a Funk Essential club night. “We’ve been in the North East quite a bit recently, we’ve been at Digital in Newcastle and at The Point in Sunderland. We love it up there as it has a real party atmosphere, which is what it’s all about. The crowd can make or break a night,” said Laura. “We want to bring that party vibe and make people smile, like they’re in the sunshine.”

Come rain or shine, the couple will be taking to the stage at Sunderland’s annual music festival for the first night, on July 6, where they’re sharing the bill with the likes of Soul II Soul, Artful Dodger and Hacienda DJ Graeme Park. Meanwhile, the second day and night of the festival, on July 7, will have more of an indie vibe with performances from Lightning Seeds, The Bluetones, Reverend and the Makers, Cast and local singer Tom ‘Mouse’ Smith from East Rainton.

Speaking about what people can expect from their set, Ben said: “There’s a lot of things to consider when we’re preparing for any show because not all music will fit with the saxophone, if it’s too centred on vocals there’s no room for the sax, or even if Laura’s just not vibing it, so we go through tracks together.”

He added: “Every DJ’s different, but I don’t believe in turning up with a set playlist because it all depends on the people in front of you. If there’s an older crowd you tend to play some of the classics, or if they’re younger you do some of the newer, fresher tracks. It’s about reading the audience which is why we never go out there with a pre-planned set.

“For people who’ve never seen us live they can expect uplifting, good vibes, quite a chunky, driving sound which is soulful and high energy.”

It all could have been a different story for Laura who only picked up the saxophone for the first time in her late teens.

“I was about 19 when I first picked up the saxophone so quite late really, but I’d previously played the piano and clarinet,” said the musician who is an honours graduate in jazz.

“I was at college and then went to study a fashion degree, which I hated,” she explained. “I did a couple of days and then rang my mum to say I was packing it in. She asked me what I was going to do and I said I was going to take up the saxophone. My parents were actually very supportive. The first thing I went and did was pick up the saxophone and I’ve never put it down since. Sometimes in life things guide you to do certain things.”

Laura’s passion for her craft has also seen her release her own jazz album, Off The Ground, as well as being a featured vocalist on Hed Kandi album Balearica Unplugged, but Ben and Laura say one of the highlights of their careers is being able to share the stage with each other.

“It’s a complete blessing,” he said. “Most other DJs are on their own and it can be quite a lonely existence. It’s great in the club when everyone’s having a great time, but it’s a lot of travelling to different places on your own. So to be able to do that with your loved one, as a shared experience, is amazing.”

•Sunniside Live is at Sunniside Gardens in Sunderland on July 6 and 7. Tickets from www.sunnisidelive.com

We’ve teamed up with Sunniside Live to give away three pairs of tickets to the Friday night of the festival, on July 6.

Now in its fourth year, the annual event in Sunniside Gardens, Sunderland city centre, is expected to attract 4,000 people each night.

To be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets, worth £60 a pair, answer this question: which of these is a nickname for Ibiza?

A) White Isle

B) Red Isle

C) Green Isle

Send your answer, along with your name and contact details, to Sunniside Live Competition, Katy Wheeler, Johnston Press North East, 2nd Floor, Alexander House, 1 Mandarin Road, Rainton Bridge Business Park, Houghton le Spring, Sunderland, DH4 5RA.

Alternatively, you can email your answer, name and contact details, to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk

The closing date for entries is noon on Tuesday, May 8.