Suzy Bogguss is a name well recognized and well respected in the music industry. A woman who has forged a place for herself among country music legends with her graciousness, talented voice and charming personality. Suzy’s gift of writing lyrics that portray every day life has been one of her strongest talents and enduring to listeners. Suzy has another new project in the works and a new tour underway; we chatted about these as well as a look back at her life.
Bev: Suzy, it is such a pleasure for me to visit with you. You have accomplished so much and continue to inspire new artists with all you have done. When you look back at how you started, plugging yourself from town to town, working hard and singing in the small bars and clubs for tips and compare that to some of the reality shows that force individuals to jump in both feet first, do feel this is an advantage or disadvantage?
Suzy: I feel so badly for them. They really do not have a chance to find their own bearings and understand the whole business side of this crazy industry; that would be terrifying for me. I feel it is a disadvantage. I had many trials by fire really. I was out there making my own posters and booking my own shows, and was fortunate to gain a real understanding of how to handle so many different situations on my own. These artists are being pushed and pulled and immediately just put into the spotlight without a chance to grow into the responsibilities that go into it. Being thrown into the celebrity part has to be so difficult.
Bev: Let’s talk about your new project, SWEET DANGER. It is something different than your past work, a CD filled with jazz rhythms combined with your signature vocals.
Suzy: Really it is not all that different, although it has the New York influence, the core of the music is still me. I worked with Jason Miles on this and he helped to make it so spectacular.
Bev: What did you enjoy the most about making this CD?
Suzy: I titled the CD out of the scary part of trying something new. I am letting some of my intuitions guide me on this project. But it was so exciting to be working with new players and a new philosophy. I absolutely enjoyed every moment of making each song on this album.
Bev: What has been the one question asked most from your fans after hearing the new music?
Suzy: A lot said they had to hear it several times before they got into it. It does not present itself as a power piece right in your face, this is a subtle sound and has a groove that that puts you into a mood. There is no drama in this project. Eventually they did get into it, but they needed to listen a couple times to let it sink in.
Bev: This project brought together musicians from New York and Nashville, how did that come about?
Suzy: I did a guest spot on an Elvis Presley kids album almost 13 years ago, it was shortly after my son was born, and the producer that did the Elvis project Jason Miles, the same person who co-produced this project. At the time he had thought of me as coming from a whole different world being a country artist and I guess I surprised him because we became very good friends after the Elvis thing and have stayed in touch over the years. He always came to my shows if I performed in New York. When I was promoting my last project, the swing album, he had come to the show and we all went to dinner afterwards and were discussing what was next on my list and it just popped out of my mouth that I wanted to work with him again. One thing led to another and we decided to try using people he knew and worked with from his Jazz world in New York. All of us were tentative in the beginning, but after we settled in and started to work on the project it was so natural and I really felt comfortable and happy with the end result. I am very proud of it.
Bev: You co-produced this project, what do you enjoy the most about the producing aspect of putting a project together?
Suzy: I love that part, but because of how music is made these days, I could literally take the music home and work on my background vocals on my home computer and email them back. It was a relaxed collaborative effort. I enjoy experimenting and this allows us to do it in such a comfortable atmosphere.
Bev: You are currently doing another tour besides promoting your new CD called “Wine, Women and Song” with Gretchen Peters, and Matraca Berg, how did you become a part of this and what do you enjoy the most in doing this kind of tour ?
Suzy: I have known these gals for many many years and written songs with them. Gretchen and I have performed in the UK before, but I have not been back as frequently as she has. We were working on a show in the US together and I had told her that next time she went to the UK to let me know, I would love to do another show with her there, which led to adding Matraca to have three part harmony. As we planned the show and would get together over a glass of wine, we decided to have fun with the show and show off more than just our songs, but also focus on our friendships. We came up with the idea to create a set that replicated a living room so the fans could be joining us as us girls who sat around and drank wine, shared our music and the stories in a casual atmosphere. We cut up and have fun and genuinely it is a great tour to be a part of, I really enjoy the spontaneity.
Bev: Hope For The Holidays is a fundraiser you are involved in with your niece, Rebecca Davis. Do you have any criteria when you are asked to participate in charity work or are you open to doing whatever you can for as many as you can?
Suzy: That is so funny you would ask that, because I just received an email from a gal who’s main thing she does is to hook up artists with philanthropic efforts. She is writing a book about her experiences and she sent me what she had written about me, and I had mentioned how in the old days when my time was so solidly spoken for all the time and I would be booked at a benefit and not really knowing that much about the cause and how horrible and awkward it felt to be promoting something you really knew so little about, it was as if you were a talking head and the dancing bear to get people to put their money towards this cause you were representing. Over the last few years, I have become much more selective on which charities I am involved with. If I am asked to send an auction item is one thing, but to put on a show is another. Now, I do the benefit because it really is a part of me and what I support and believe in. Being a part of charity is very rewarding.
Bev: You have been on countless collaboration projects; do you have any one special memory from any of these?
Suzy: They are my favorites, I love doing these and yes I have done so many. I did a track on the Buddy Holly tribute and I truly enjoyed that. I also co-produced that and it was a very special project, because on of the people we collaborated with was absolutely in awe at working on it and watching him light up and enjoy it from his heart made it more special for me.
Bev: You have had the opportunity to work with some of the industries biggest names in many different genres of music, who are some of your favorites?
Suzy: Chet Atkins is definitely one of my favorites. I had been friends with him a long time and it just hit me while we working on this that this was truly an amazing experience I was a part of. I would be sitting in the studio and it would hit me that THIS IS CHET ATKINS and I would get chills. I am so honored I got to work with him like that and it will always be one of the most special memories for me. Also, working with Ray Benson was another really cool project that holds a special place in my heart.
Bev: Do you have anyone you want to work with yet or who you have next on your list?
Suzy: I do, but I always wait until there is a moment or a sign that the timing is right. I do not just pick up the phone and make a cold call, I like it to be a natural flow and meant to be moment. I think a folk music tribute to my years growing up in the Midwest may be next, but I am just waiting for the moment.
Bev: Your son is your biggest critic and your husband also in the music industry; do you see your son aspiring to follow in his parents footsteps?
Suzy: At the moment he is not so critical, but if I say something trendy he will bust me on it. He loves a lot of the music I grew up on, so I have to be careful not to admit to knowing we like the same music. I really do not want to tell him which direction to go. He loves music, and he has had piano lessons and plays trumpet in the school band, but I am letting him find his own legs. I cannot see him staying away because we are in it; he has recently showed interest in taking guitar lessons, so we will see.
Bev: You have been nominated for and won some pretty prestigious awards for your work, which are you most proud of?
Suzy: A while back I may have said my CMA for co-producing one of the collaborative efforts I did, but I have realized that it is not so much the award. I appreciate being patted on the back for knowing how to achieve what I have done. I have recently realized how fortunate I am to live my life being able to do what I do. I have a Grammy, and it is cool to say I won a Grammy, but then again my Horizon Award is special .. so I do not have a favorite.
Bev: I know another of your talents is making jewelry; do you still do a lot of that?
Suzy: I have curbed that since my son was born. It is a very serious hobby and now I do more crafty things like beading. My mom always said I would be happier doing something with my hands like knitting and I just laugh, because I cannot see me knitting. But I do get satisfaction out of embellishing my costumes and creating jewelry with beads. There are so many great little shops that have the coolest beads and supplies, so in a way I still do the jewelry thing, but on a different level.
Bev: Do you have any goals you are still striving to reach or have you achieved what you set out to do and now you are just enjoying the fruits of your labors and seeing what opportunities come your way?
Suzy: I always have things I am working on. Usually there is massive project I have on the backburner for a couple years, and then there are smaller ones I know I can achieve in a smaller time frame. I look at is as reading several books at one time. There is the 1000 page hard to read book and several 200 page books I can pick up and finish very easily. To answer your question, I do have goals, but not single specific ones, I always have several things I am working on.
Bev: If you could offer one piece of advice to today’s new artists, what would it be?
Suzy: Be sure it is your life. Make sure you are happy doing what you are doing, because this life is not for everybody. People do not realize how hard it is not to be able to go to the mall, or have a boyfriend, and how often you are on the road. The other thing is to play an instrument or learn how, because you have more input and contribute even more to your career when you do.
Bev: Do you have any quotes you live by?
Suzy: I fly by the seat of my pants, so I do not know if there is a quote so much as the cliché’.
Bev: Suzy, I look forward to visiting with you again and have enjoyed this so much. Thank you so much for all the insight to your new projects and sharing so much about your career with me.
Suzy: Thank you too, I will definitely stay in touch and let you know what is next. I have enjoyed our visit very much.
For more information on Suzy Bogguss visit her online at www.myspace.com/suzyboggussmusic , www.bogguss.com/ or www.youtube.com/suzybogguss