Getting To Know Susannah B
Great to chat with you! Care to introduce yourself to our readers?
Hey guys! My name is Susannah B and I am a singer-songwriter whose music has been described as “hypnotic, uplifting, spiritual chill electronica”. I grew up in New York City in Manhattan and I've been living in Los Angeles for many years. I’m the mom of a teenage boy and soon, I'll have a teen daughter, too — my husband and I are adopting her from Colombia. I’ve had many different jobs — playwright, screenwriter, actress, teacher — but my favorite thing is to sing. I love to make music in the recording studio, I love to perform with my band, and I also love to sing in groups and get people to sing along with me.
How do you think your broadway background has helped you as an artist?
I grew up in a very musical family, my grandmother was a classical pianist and violin teacher and my mother was performing classical piano at a very young age. It was my mom’s dream to be a composer/lyricist and write Broadway musicals and she succeeded. So I grew up going to tons of Broadway musicals, because that was my mother’s community. She was friends with or collaborated with people who wrote shows like “Annie”, “Pippin”, “Ragtime” and most recently, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”. I think that exposed me to an awful lot of styles of music — pop, rock, country, classical, standards from the 1930’s and ’40’s, jazz, blues...and I think maybe that's why I'm a little hard to categorize musically, because I absorbed a lot of different kinds of music as a young person.
Do you think Broadway music deserves more recognition and respect in mainstream music or do you think it has its own lane and own genre of music?
I don’t know that I’m an expert or anything, but I guess I’d say that Broadway music is its own genre really, because the songs are always connected to the musicals they were written for, and motivated by the specific characters in the story. In a Broadway show, songs are used in specific ways to help tell the story — like, a character realizes something important during a song and changes in front of our eyes as they sing it. Or important plot points happen during a song, like in “Hamilton”, when he meets Eliza at the dance. I think Broadway musicals are getting more and more recognition and response from the young listeners of mainstream music because more shows are being written in rap, hip-hop, pop and rock genres. It didn’t always used to be like that, and I personally love musicals like “Spring Awakening” and “Next to Normal” and “Dear Evan Hansen” because of their modern musical sound. But to me, songs that we listen to on the radio — what you call “mainstream music” — that's totally different. Those songs weren't written to tell a story or help a character realize something about themselves. Pop songs, in my mind, are meant to express more universal concepts in catchy ways that make us want to sing along. Pop songs are my favorite kind of music, truthfully. I absolutely love “hooky”, catchy choruses that have me singing along halfway through a song I’ve never heard before. To me, that’s kind of amazing.
“Far More” is a really nice song and we enjoy the lyricism. What was the inspiration behind it?
Thanks! I’m glad you like it. It came to me very easily, which is always a wonderful thing when it happens. Sometimes I’m crafting a song more consciously, like a poet would work on a poem. Other times, a song slides right out, like I'm hearing it in my head and just taking dictation. So anyway, the process of writing “Far More” was like that, kind of magical and effortless. I was by myself at an amazing place in Big Sur, California, called Esalen. It’s a very beautiful retreat kind of place right on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They host workshops and classes in all sorts of alternative therapies, like massage and yoga, as well as in relationships and introspective work. It’s a very healing place. So I was in a workshop at Esalen with Paul Selig, who’s a world-renowned psychic who is also an author and teacher. And he said something during one of the sessions that stuck with me, and it had to do with how we are all — at our core — much more amazing than we can ever imagine. Like, when we connect with that part of ourselves that’s connected to Jesus or Buddha or God, our higher power, whatever you want to call it — when we are living from that place within us that’s more loving than competitive, more compassionate than judgmental…then we really are “far more” than we might realize. In my mind, social media and the world focus nonstop on such superficial things like how much money we have or what car we drive or how flat our stomachs are. I wrote this song to talk about who we are on the inside, at our spiritual core.
What was the hardest part in creating this song in your opinion?
For me, it’s courage. I always have to work to convince myself that no matter what anyone thinks, this is my music and I need to express it. I think when I did this song, I realized that I wanted to be more open about being a “spiritual” person. I decided to do the entire album with music that would uplift and heal and relax people. I wanted people to listen and feel like, things will be okay. That’s how I’m dealing with this time in our history, which is so full of strife and division. I pray, I meditate, I believe in God…but not in any religiously-specific way. I am continually amazed by the beauty of the world and the human spirit, despite all the hate and bad news. And I've had to take deep breaths as I write about spiritual themes, and call upon my own courage...because it’s easy to get scared of what people will think of me or what judgments they’ll make.
Who are some of your musical influences from the past and if you could collaborate on a song with any of them, who would you select and why?
Oh, man, that’s such a hard question! Hmm. I’ve had so many musical influences. The first ones who come to mind are John Lennon and Prince. I was deeply influenced by both of them —the big issues that Lennon wrote about in such a personal way, and of course everything he ever wrote with Paul McCartney. I think I know almost every single Beatles song by heart. Talk about unique and perfect songs. And then Prince came along and totally blew my mind with his one-man-band-in-the-recording-studio and he was just pure funk. I love to dance, and Prince is my hero. Also, both those guys were such enigmas as public figures and yet also so vulnerable and willing to bare their souls in their music. I’d collaborate with either of them if I could fulfill that fantasy.
What's next for you?
Well, first I’ll go adopt my teenage daughter from Colombia! Hopefully, in the next few months. And then, in 2019, my husband and I will be expanding a project we have where I sing and perform and he cooks — and we donate our talents to whatever organization needs to raise money. We produce charitable fundraisers and there’s music and great food, and people pay good money to attend…and we end up raising much-needed funds for all sorts of people — disadvantaged youth, the homeless, the environment. It’s incredibly satisfying to be at a place in my life where I can just use my musical talents for a good cause. I’m not trying to get a record deal, I’m not obsessed with how many followers I have…I just want to do my small part and improve the world. And I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to have the time and means to do that. I’m extremely grateful every day.
Connect with Susannah B on social media: