For Sasha Spielberg, the singer who goes by “Buzzy Lee,” the hardest part about music is the crowd. Spielberg writes soulful lyrics and sounds like a natural onstage, but performing never came naturally. She first took up piano in elementary school, and soon began composition and guitar lessons. But after a Fourth of July performance gone awry, Spielberg realized she had major stage fright. “My voice would break. It would shake,” she says. “I just couldn’t sing in front of people.”
Similar episodes at musicals and other high-school productions led Spielberg to temporarily abandon music. She tried acting instead, including in her father Steven Spielberg’s films The Terminal, Munich, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Post, and “liked it fine,” but it wasn’t her passion.
At Brown, Spielberg decided to give singing another shot. She joined a six-person band, and also met house musician Nicolas Jaar, who nurtured the beginning of side project Buzzy Lee, a riff on her grandmother’s name. While the alter ego provided a sort of armor to feel secure behind, Jaar helped bring Spielberg’s music to the next level. “He is incredible with space and sound and letting things breathe,” she says, “whereas I have a tendency to over-stack instruments and want sounds to be a bit louder.”
Spielberg tried acting in her father’s films The Terminal, Munich, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Post, but it wasn’t her passion.
Spielberg started a band with her brother Theo in 2010 before deciding to strike out on her own.
By September 2019, she had already finished recording her first solo album, Spoiled Love, an authentic chronicle of past toxic relationships. It was written during stays in Northern Italy and California, but the coronavirus postponed its release to this winter. Rather than recounting raw emotional experiences, the songs in Spoiled Love—mash-ups of diary entries and lyrics—feel more like a reflective exercise, a way to come to terms with missteps. “Everyone should experience heartbreak,” Spielberg, based in Los Angeles, says.
Looking back, Spielberg acknowledges a lot of her anxiety was rooted in fears about her last name. “I find that I sometimes agree with people: Why does anyone need to hear what I have to say at all?” But between quarantine pastimes of painting pets and watching TV, Spielberg has already started recording her second album.
“If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just go back to doing portraits of dogs,” she says. “But I really need to write music. I don’t know if I can live without that.”
Sasha Spielberg’s Spoiled Love is available on Spotify
Elena Clavarino is an Associate Editor for Air Mail