Hailing from Manhattan, Susannah B is the epitome of a Broadway baby. Growing up heavily involved in the arts, Susannah’s father was a photographer and her mother was a composer/lyricist. Her childhood was always flooded with music and theater. Her new album “Girl Gone Wilder” pays tribute to the legendary Alec Wilder, whose career spanned 4 decades, starting in the 1940s. When diving into his incredible music, Susannah realized the excellence and depth of Alex’s songbook and needed to share it with the modern music world. Susannah B directly relates to Alec Wilder for her versatility and stunning vocal capabilities.
Susannah’s interpretation of “Crazy In The Heart” is a refreshing yet nostalgic time capsule of musical brilliance. The instrumentation is that of a simpler time and would do Alec Wilder proud.
“Crazy In The Heart” features the classic jazz sounds of yesteryear, but with Susannah’s smoky, cinematic vocals fused in. Susannah masterfully tackles this powerhouse song with ease, showing no intimidation to do her idol proud. For those who are unfamiliar with Alec Wilder’s work, Susannah expertly crafts a glimpse at the compositions he created. For those who are familiar with his work, Susannah brings a familiar sound and fuses it with her stunning vocal ability. Whether you’re familiar or not, I highly recommend giving “Crazy In The Heart” and the entire “Girl Gone Wilder!” album a listen, it’s sure to turn anyone into a fan.
Listen to “Crazy In The Heart” here and read more with Susannah B below!
Welcome to Buzz Music Susannah B! We absolutely loved your tribute “Girl Gone Wilder!” (and the quirky title.) What is it about Alex Wilder that makes you feel so passionate about his music?
You know, it’s weird. My love for his work was kind of a slow burn. The first time I ever heard Alec Wilder’s music was when I was looking for a song to perform at an all-Alec Wilder house concert in Los Angeles. My neighbor is a professional tuba player and after he saw my one-woman musical called “Daughter Of…”, he invited me to choose some songs by Alec Wilder to perform. And honestly, it wasn’t “love at first listen”, if you know what I mean. I felt like the songs were kind of old-fashioned, they’re really from another era. Wilder wrote from the 1940’s through the 1970’s, and very few people have recorded his songs compared to some of his contemporaries like Irving Berlin or Johnny Mercer. He’s that kind of songwriter – classic, American Songbook-style standard that makes you feel so uplifted. He also has a great wit and some songs are sassy, funny, and sarcastic in a super-elegant Dean Martin Frank Sinatra kind of way. I’ve been an actor since I was a kid, and I can act these songs, too, which is special for me. So, I chose a few songs and once I learned them, I was hooked. His tunes really got under my skin. They are beautiful and romantic, and sometimes also have these haunting melodies. At the same time, a lot of it is jazzy, cocktail swing, really good-mood music. And I found these incredible musicians who all responded to the music, and as a band, we really made some magic in the studio, I think. And because Wilder was a very unique guy as well as a unique songwriter & composer who never really promoted himself very well, many of his songs are only known by jazz nerds and musicians. I guess when I realized that I was one of the few people singing these songs, and I connected so deeply to them, I wanted to share them with other people.
It’s so incredible that your mother was also a successful recording artist! Did you always know you wanted to follow in her footsteps?
No, I absolutely had no clue that I would be doing music when I was younger. I am extremely proud of my mom and her legacy as a songwriter. She had a recording deal in the ‘70s with Elektra Records, she opened on tour for Don McLean and Kris Kristofferson, she wrote the best songs on the iconic “Free To Be…You and Me” children’s album and she wrote the score for the long-running Broadway hit “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”. She set the bar very high in terms of artistic success and accomplishment. It was like, inspiring and also a little intimidating at the same time. And I think it also made me avoid music for a long time because I didn’t want to be compared to my mother (or compare myself to her) and not measure up, you know? So, I decided when I was a young child that I was going to be an actor, and that’s what I pursued for many years -- not music, not songwriting, not singing. But somewhere in my late ‘20s, I was trying to quit smoking cigarettes, and I went back to singing as a substitute for the bad habit, and it really worked. I realized that singing feels so amazing, physically as well as emotionally. And once I was singing, I started hearing melodies and lyrics in my head and that was the start of the next 20 years, over which time I have released 4 albums of my own songs and the most recent one which is all covers of Alec Wilder songs. My mom was very encouraging of my songwriting, she liked some of my lyrics a lot, which made me happy. But she did not hesitate to give critiques, too, which was helpful sometimes, not so many other times.
“Crazy In The Heart” seems so well suited to your voice and style. How did you carefully choose which songs would be featured on your album?
Thank you! I know, one of the big surprises for me with this material is how well it seems to fit my voice. I really didn’t know that going in, I mostly sang pop and rock, sometimes a few musical theatre tunes, but not standards like his. As I said before, I started singing these songs at a house concert hosted by my neighbor. And after the first one was a hit, we kept doing more, so over the course of 2 years, we did 8 concerts total. This allowed me to try out a lot of Wilder’s songs. Some were just okay, but some really clicked with me, with my personality, with my voice. It was a lot of trial and error. And of course, performing the songs in my neighbor’s gorgeous, a high-ceilinged living room meant I sang without a microphone. It was really pure. And I stood two feet away from the audience. I could feel which songs they responded to the most. Ultimately, I chose my favorite songs for the album because they were audience pleasers and they could all be updated with modern, original arrangements. I love grooves, so every song had to lend itself to some kind of groove, even if it was a slow one.
We know that you're a lover of integrating a variety of elements into your music. Would you ever incorporate contrasting genres into your music, or do you think it would ruin the type of sound you're attempting to reach?
Totally! I do love to dance, I love electronic music, so I am working with a DJ now to try and get some remixes of the Girl Gone Wilder tunes that would have a bit more of a club-lounge vibe. Don’t know when they’ll be done, but hopefully, soon.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! What’s next for you artistically? Do you have any upcoming shows you’d like to mention?
Next up for me is a project I’ve had for a long time that I’m really happy to finally be doing. I’ve written a few scripts before (my first screenplay Bellyfruit was made into a film a while back) so I know how to tell stories that way. This project will let me combine all my talents into one – I am co-writing a TV series which is also a musical with original songs and lots of singing. And I’ll act on it and it will feature many of my super-talented friends. I hope to get that done in 2020. And then there will be some touring of my Alec Wilder show – New York City, Abilene & Austin, Texas, and hopefully, San Francisco is on the list for 2020. And my band and I will continue to do house concerts in Los Angeles and the surrounding area as benefits to raise money for different charities. There are too many people and too many causes that need our help, and my music is a small way that I can give back and help out the earth. It makes it much easier to promote myself when other folks benefit, too! Otherwise, interviews like these would make me feel much more shy and nervous than they do! Thanks again for your interest. Take a listen to the music, guys! Hope you like it!