Susannah B got carried away by acting and music due to the fact she grew up in an artistic environment. Nowadays, she’s promoting her new album called ‘Far More’, which I reviewed last month. Well, this interview not only provides information about her latest project. Beyond that, she expands on her beginnings and her identity as a singer/songwriter. Happy reading!
1 – Hey Susannah, thanks for taking time out to have a chat with us. What have you been up to in the first days of 2018?
Well, first I was on vacation with family & friends in Hawaii for New Year’s Eve & the first week of January — and that was just amazing, such a blessing. I felt incredibly lucky to be able to go there. My husband and son and I brought our godson and my son’s friend, and then we met up with some beloved friends who we don’t get to see too often. We were a group of 10 and we had a really relaxing, fun time in a beautiful setting. My favorite thing to do on vacation is playing tennis in the morning (I LOVE tennis!), then spend the rest of the day by the pool and the ocean, reading books on my Kindle and sipping on a Pina Colada. One day, everyone in our group went zip-lining while I spent the whole day alone just listening to music on my headphones and reading over my journal from 2017. It was so luxurious. I swam and lay around (always in the shade of an umbrella, I do not tan!) and thought a lot about what I want to create going forward in the new year. I’m really feeling excited about 2018.
Since I got back from vacation, I’ve been working to promote my EP “Far More” — doing some interviews and live podcasts on Facebook — as well as talking with a DJ about doing remixes of some of the songs on the album, which is a vision I’ve had from the start of the project two years ago. I’m also producing a new project with my husband. We’re planning a series of house concerts for charitable causes — I’ll be singing jazz with my amazing 4-piece band and my husband will cook and we’ll invite people to eat delicious food and sit in our living room and be surrounded by live music. In return, they’ll make a donation to a chosen charity. At the end of each evening concert, we hope to raise a few thousand dollars for a homeless shelter or a foster youth support organization or an environmental group. There are so many people who need our help in this city, in this country, and at this point in my life, I don’t feel the need to ask my friends to come out and hear me play at a club just for my ego. I want my musical talents to be used for a larger cause, to benefit others. And this house concert idea is the first step in my promotion of myself as the entertainment act for larger charity benefits and fundraisers. Do you have a charitable cause you want to raise money for? Do you need entertainment? I’ll pay my band, donate my musical services and come sing!
2 – What made you take a decision to get into the music scene?
I didn’t really choose it at first, it kind of chose me. I grew up in a very musical household, my mother Carol Hall had a recording deal with Elektra Records in the ’70’s, she toured with Don McLean and Kris Kristofferson, then she wrote songs for “Sesame Street”, “Free to Be You & Me”, and she wrote the score for the long-running Broadway hit “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” which was later made into a movie. She had a lot of success during my childhood, so I never even considered being a songwriter, I felt like music was her thing, not mine. I didn’t even sing for almost a decade after high school. I just wanted to be an actress. I was totally focused on acting from a very young age, I actually started performing off-off-Broadway when I was in seventh grade. But later, in my 20’s, I started hearing these melodies in my head late at night, and lyrics started pouring out…and it became something I couldn’t ignore. I began writing songs and recording them, and then I was on a musical path.
3 – How do you combine music with your acting career?
I haven’t really combined it yet as much as I’d like to. I have a project I’m working on now that I hope will allow me the chance to combine the two. I haven’t done a lot of musical theatre, but I’ve done cabaret where I’m “acting” certain songs, that comes pretty naturally to me. But I also like singing for the technical challenge of it, more like a jazz singer. I’ve actually combined music with my screenwriting more often — I wrote a script once that had a teen pop star character in it, so I wrote some songs for her. I also wrote the opening title song for the film I co-wrote called “Bellyfruit”. I worked on that with Stephen Bray, who wrote some gigantic hits with Madonna and also the Broadway musical “The Color Purple”. It was really fantastic to work with him because Stephen is not only an incredibly nice guy but someone I admire so much… it gave me confidence that he thought I was good enough to collaborate with.
4 – What makes your 5-track album ‘Far More’ so special?
For me, it’s special because it’s a bolder musical statement than I think I’ve made before. It’s less eclectic than my earlier albums, much more “all-one-vibe”. I love listening to music in the car (I live in L.A. after all) and one of my favorite stations is Sirius XM’s “Chill”, which is electronic, but not in a BPM kind of way, more relaxed and mellow. So I decided to do a whole collection of songs with that vibe.
I also think the album could be special for listeners because it was created to be uplifting and positive and even somewhat spiritual. Some people find it “soothing”, while others have said the grooves make them want to listen to it while doing Pilates or Kundalini yoga. So relaxing & energizing at the same time, which is cool. I like to think of myself as “Oprah-friendly”. I want to consciously offer up a positive, hopeful message. It seems to me that at this time in our evolution, with the world so chaotic and divided, so filled with violence and fear…we need music more than ever to help heal us. And these songs were written (or the covers were chosen) to remind us to accept where we are right now and to inspire us to be grateful.
5 – Tell us about your creative process and how the songs came together.
Well, it all came pretty effortlessly and magically. I was at a workshop with an old friend of mine named Paul Selig, who’s a world-renowned author, psychic and spiritual channeler. And he said some simple, but potent wisdom that just stuck in my brain and sprouted into songs. Then I made some really simple Garage Band versions of the songs, using loops and singing different instrumental parts or harmonies… then I took those to my longtime collaborator/bandmate/co- producer John Ballinger and we started working on them together. He’s got a home studio and we work in blocks of 3 or 4 hours because I’m a mom and I still have to drive my son around and school’s out at 2:30 PM… so we work pretty efficiently and quickly. And I adore being in the studio, recording tracks. I love percussion, I hear bass lines a lot. I don’t play anything really, John plays EVERYTHING, but I contribute by singing (“I play the voice”) and the studio is one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon. As a kid, my mom took me and my brother with her to work, so I took lots of naps on leather couches in recording studios. I love how comfy and private and sealed off from the world it feels. Like a musical cocoon.
6 – Are you planning to release a music video?
Yes! I have a video for the song “I Am Here” that will be released soon. It was made this past summer on location in Italy when I was traveling with my family (we prioritize travel over everything!) and it was shot by my stepmother Sharon Schuster, who’s an amazing photographer/video director. Her sister Arlene Schuster-Goss (a casting director in L.A.) became our producer and my stepsister Rachel Waldman who works at Vogue was my stylist. It was so fun. The four of us made it in one day — a very, very hot day — and we had a total blast! It was a really sisterly day, they were all cheering me on, and I felt very supported.
I also made a video for “Far More” last year that we’re still editing. It was a 2-day shoot and has a large cast, so it’s taking a bit longer to sort out. But we shot it at my house in Silver Lake in L.A. and I gathered a great group around me and we had a really good time and ate fresh tacos to celebrate at the end. I absolutely love creative collaboration. It’s my favorite kind of party.
7 – Who were your musical influences which have inspired you all your life?
Wow… there are SO many. This is gonna be a long answer, but it’s such a fun question to ponder, for any of us to ask ourselves, ”Whose music has moved me the most? Cheered me up? Made me want to get up and dance, or sing along at the top of my lungs in the car?” Which songs healed your heartbreak? Or made you want to fall in love again? If you ever feel blank trying to think of something you’re grateful for, just start making a list of all the music you’ve ever enjoyed in your life. There’s so much to appreciate! To me, that’s a great way to notice what I call The Divine Spirit. I consider music to be part of the Divine Presence of God — a healing energy uniquely expressed by artists all over the globe since the beginning of time. Music is infinite and eternal…and for me, it’s a combination of beauty and magic.
So back to my musical influences…well, certainly my mother, whose songs I listened to over and over, for years. She always played for everyone after a dinner party at our house, or at other peoples’ houses, at family gatherings, …so I watched her sit at the piano and play her songs probably hundreds of times. And I was raised on movie musicals from the ’30’s and ’40’s so I know lots of Irving Berlin songs. My favorite singers are Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, & Bonnie Raitt. I’ve memorized the scores of Broadway shows like “A Chorus Line”, “Pippin”, “Little Shop of Horrors”, “Spring Awakening”, “Next to Normal” and of course, “Hamilton”. I’ve listened nonstop to The Beatles. The first album I ever owned was Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life”. He was a huge musical influence — pop but a little jazzy too, chord-wise. I was blown away by Prince — especially his first album “Dirty Mind” because he made the entire thing himself, playing every instrument, which, at the time, was completely radical. I love Carole King, Al Green, Billy Joel, Madonna, The Police, Beastie Boys, Talking Heads, Beck… I’m also obsessed with those one-hit-wonder soul-funk-disco dance tunes from the ’70’s like K.C. & the Sunshine Band and Betty Wright. I used to DJ, playing all that stuff. And then Alanis Morrisette had a huge impact on me because her writing was so personal, almost like straight from her journals, and her singing is so amazing. I really admire offbeat artists who do their own unique thing, like India Arie, Aimee Mann, or Ben Harper. People who don’t sound like other people. That’s kinda how I am, too, I think…a little hard to categorize. After all, I’ve been called “chameleonic”! 😉
And yet, at heart, I’m very mainstream. I basically worship at the altar of pop music. I love the idea that I can hear a brand new song on the radio that I’ve never heard before and in less than two minutes, I’m singing along with the chorus. To me, that’s total musical success, writing a hooky pop song that gets people singing along. I almost always write songs by starting with a title (hook). I love that. So of course, I’m totally into classics like Earth, Wind, & Fire, and also Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift. I love Coldplay and Haim. And in the car, I listen to electronic music a lot. Oh my god, this is crazy, I could just go on & on! Okay, I’ll stop now.
8 – How would you describe your sound?
Soulful, soothing, spiritual groove. Meditative chill electronica. Sade + Madonna’s “Ray of Light” album, produced by Peter Gabriel. I wish I had a more “now” reference. You tell me!
9 – What has been your top career highlight so far?
Well, performing an autobiographical one-woman musical I wrote a few years ago called “Daughter Of…” was really empowering and important. But I’d say the top highlight might be singing in the orchestra pit of a Broadway musical written by my mother (“The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public”) while leggy chorus girls tap-danced above my head and the sound guy pushed their mics down and my mic up. This gig also included making the Broadway cast album recording, which was produced by Peter Matz who worked with Streisand. And I was dressed by Bob Mackie in a sequined outfit for a pre-show, faux-Vegas lounge act that I performed in the lobby of the Lunt-Fontanne theatre with my fellow pit singer Ryan Perry. I sang Frank Sinatra songs and created a character called Penny Nichols. Get it? Vegas lounge act, Penny…nickels. That was really fun, being on Broadway…and it made my voice a lot stronger.
10 – Finally, any shout outs or anything else you would like to add?
Thank you so much for being interested in my work & asking such good questions. Thanks for anyone who’s taken the time to read this far! Be grateful for music, enjoy music, use music to soothe your soul. And check out my music on Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud…or find me on Instagram . I’d love to hear what you think.
CONNECT WITH SUSANNAH B NOW!
Exclusive Interview: Paul Mayson Delves Into His Debut Album ‘One Life’
Paul Mayson‘s first-ever album, ‘One Life,’ is like a special mix of his love for House music, blended with different kinds of sounds and cool collaborations from artists all over the world. You definitely don’t want to miss this interview!
1 — With the release of your debut album ‘One Life,’ what are your expectations for how listeners will connect with the music?
My goal was to showcase my story and my sound. And for it to be an uplifting, positive, and summery album. Hopefully, it feels like that! It’s a collection of songs made at the moment, to make you feel happy and free. It’s about embracing life, the good things and the bad. And about doing what makes you happy.
2 — You’ve teamed up with a diverse range of international artists on this material. Please let us know how these collaborations came to be.
It was really exciting taking elements from different genres, working with a group of great artists who come from very different backgrounds, and bringing all of these sounds and flavors together on one project. A lot of artists I meet myself, reach out to the people I’m interested in. I often travel abroad to work on music together and do sessions in London or LA. Sometimes collabs can also happen through the label or the publisher, but ultimately it’s great to have an artist-to-artist relationship.
3 – What compelled you to emphasize the themes of life, freedom, and diversity in this album?
I’m very passionate about House music culture and the way it started. Which was all about positivity and celebrating life together. I love that message and think the soulful, feel-good element of House music is what always really attracted me to the genre. And to music in general, including other genres like Soul and RnB.
A few of the songs (like “Tell Me How” and “I Want You”) were basically made during one big jam session. It’s me just trying out completely different sounds, textures, and rhythms and experimenting with live drums, guitars, and whatever I feel like. Letting go of any rules connected to dance music allows for a really fresh approach to the album songs.
6 – How does the artwork complement the album’s concept?
It emphasizes the feel-good element and the overall message of the album. Life is in front of you, it’s there for the taking. You’re in the hallway, step into the light and embrace life.
7 – Will there be another amazing music video like “Have It All,” dropping in the near future?
We released a really cool art piece and visualizer for the album which I’m very excited about!
8 – Given your ambition to push boundaries within the Dance genre, do you think the bunch of producers already out there could make it tough for you to really stand out?
I think individuality is key. Doing something you’re passionate about. Telling your own story. If you go into that process, the outcome will be unique. Not following trends and doing my own thing is what helps me stand out and allows me to be ahead and I try to keep pushing myself.
9 – Among your studio essentials, what’s the item that you consider the cornerstone of your setup?
Quite a lot of my work is digital. I carry my laptop around and can produce and write anywhere with it, whether it’s my home studio, the studio in Amsterdam, a hotel, or even an airport. That’s what makes it flexible and international! Just being able to work anywhere and get the creative process going. At home I also love my Adam A77x monitors and I also use a Prophet synth.
CONNECT WITH PAUL MAYSON NOW!
Exploring “My Friends”: Tobtok Talks Creative Process And More!
In this exclusive interview, Swedish producer Tobtok discusses all the details about his latest single as part of the ongoing countdown to the upcoming ‘My Friends’ EP. This is a collaborative effort with farfetch’d that you definitely shouldn’t overlook.
1 — Congratulations on the release of “My Friends.” Please tell us more about the influences and musical style that shaped this cool track.
Thanks! This tune has taken inspiration from bits and pieces of tracks I’ve been into over the last 10 years, everything from Daft Punk to Fred Again. It contains a lot of micro samples and vocal lines that are in a similar vein as old French House records, but we also wanted to experiment with the current UK rave sound, which we think ended up in a pretty unique and interesting way.
2 — How did you and farfetch’d navigate the creative process together, especially when faced with differing ideas or disagreements?
We were kind of on the same page with most things to be fair. Jerry from farfetch’d is a very creative guy and he loves to bash out new ideas, which worked well for me to develop into full songs. We worked on every track together in my studio and finished them off together. Of course, we had some different ideas about certain things but since none of us had a big ego, we just compromised. I think when you like the same kind of music, you usually think quite alike.
3 — What sets this collaboration apart from your previous singles?
I think this is possibly the strongest single from the EP. It feels catchy and is super simple yet not too boring. It also has Jerry’s voice in it which is unique to any other of our tracks.
4 — Can you share any funny anecdotes about specific moments while crafting “My Friends”?
We have hidden a few wacky voice notes in it as a sort of ambiance. It can be heard in the second verse or whatever you wanna call it. You clearly hear Jerry laughing about something, but I can’t remember what it was.
It’s track no.3 from our ‘My Friends’ EP which has a total of 6 tracks. It was released via Perfect Havoc on 29th September.
6 — What are your emotions when your music receives recognition and praise from other producers in the industry?
It’s always so much fun to get praise from your peers and colleagues. These people live and breathe music and probably hear way more stuff than the average listener, so I guess they tend to be less impressed by music.
Haha most definitely. I started out with French House which evolved into Nu-Disco. I later jumped on the Tropical House train (quite early on in my defense). Left that and tried something cooler with my track “ABER,” and from there, it’s been more of a mix between UK and Deep House.
8 — Is there any specific music genre you’re eager to explore?
Old School Disco and Soul. I’m a big fan of the 70s as a whole, that’s why I’ve bought a few vintage Roland pieces in my studio and a Rhodes Piano.
9 — Considering the global nature of music today, are there any international artists you’d love to collaborate with?
I love Jungle right now, for reasons made quite obvious in the previous question. They’ve mastered this cool retro 70’s/Motown sound and yet managed to make it sound fresh somehow. I’d love to just hang out in the studio with them and see what they do.
10 — As we conclude, do you feel that there’s a certain formula that artists can follow to produce chart-topping hits?
Nowadays, it’s all about doing something that stands out from what everyone else is doing and probably also adding a sprinkle of nostalgia and familiarity into something. A good example is the new Peggy Gou record which is a massive hit that takes inspiration from ATB but puts it in a new and interesting context. It doesn’t hurt to have a massive TikTok following either lol.
CONNECT WITH TOBTOK NOW!
From Drummer To EDM Producer: Kouss Opens Up About “Can’t Go Back”
You must read this interview with Kouss! He used to rock it as a badass drummer in the Stellar Revival band, but now he’s spilling the beans about how he switched things up and got into making electronic dance music (EDM). The spotlight is now on his latest track, “Can’t Go Back.” Learn more here.
1 — Putting your sound into words, how would you convey the mood and sensations that your music evokes to someone unfamiliar with it?
My music aims to be an uplifting and thoughtful blend of Progressive House and Dance-Pop. Even though the music is very dancefloor-friendly, the songwriting is very Pop-forward. I also love mixing live instrumentation with electronic production to create layered recordings. As a drummer, having live elements mesh with the electronic really brings out a unique texture.
2 — Your transition from Rock music with Stellar Revival to EDM is quite remarkable. Can you tell us more about it?
The transition from Rock to EDM is an exciting and natural creative evolution. I’ve always been passionate about electronic music, so finally being able to fully immerse myself in the genre as a producer and songwriter has been fulfilling. My background as a touring Rock drummer also gives me a unique musical sensibility that I try to incorporate into Kouss Records.
3 — As a drummer, you had to adapt to a different genre. How did you translate your rhythmic background into this new realm?
When approaching any genre, especially Dance music, I’m utilizing my background in percussion to create grooves and drum patterns. The drum parts still come from the same creative place whether I’m sitting behind a drum set or drawing with a MIDI controller. I will say that with EDM I find myself focused more on groove and restraint.
4 — In what ways have Illenium, Zedd, and David Guetta played a role in shaping the sound of your new single “Can’t Go Back”?
Illenium, Zedd, and David Guetta definitely influenced the melodic and atmospheric vibes in “Can’t Go Back.” Their music motivates and challenges me to produce massive soundscapes on the highest level. They’re all melodic magicians, and I continue to be inspired by their work. I also feel like I put my own spin on “Can’t Go Back.” It’s almost like the line between EDM and Pop became blurrier on this track.
5 — What’s the story behind the song title?
“Can’t Go Back” is generally about moving forward and not dwelling on the past. For me personally, it’s about evolving as an artist and person.
I was introduced to Anna soon after starting the Kouss project by “Can’t Go Back” co-producer and dear friend Phil Barnes. The second I heard Anna sing I knew I wanted to work with her. She’s an incredible songwriter and an awesome human. It was an organic collaboration that we’re both stoked about. Definitely be on the lookout for more collaborations with Anna in the future!
7 — How do you aim to connect with listeners on an emotional level through this single?
I aim to connect with listeners on an emotional level through the authenticity and musicality of “Can’t Go Back.” It’s about delivering that special feeling to the listener. We crafted this recording from a place of passion as artists. The lyrics are relatable and cathartic, and Anna’s vocals draw you into this sonic world we created. We also tap into some nostalgia with the Big Room House vibe. But overall the goal was to give listeners an authentic musical experience that resonates with them, regardless of what genre they usually listen to.
Yes, “Can’t Go Back” mixes electronic production with live drumming and live guitars. The live instruments give the song a dynamic texture and human feel. Not every Kouss song will have live instruments, but it’s definitely a major part of the debut EP coming in 2024.
9 — Looking ahead, how do you envision your music style evolving?
I want to continue bridging the gap between organic and electronic. Creatively, I think there’s a lot of meat on that bone. I also don’t want to limit myself to a single genre or style. I love all types of music and ultimately hope to develop a sound that draws from those diverse influences and experiences.
10 — Lastly, reflecting on your journey so far, what’s been the most memorable or rewarding moment of your music career?
Working with talented musicians and creators who are excited about my music has been humbling and inspiring. I didn’t expect it, but the reaction to “Can’t Go Back” has been both unexpected and validating. It’s so cool to see the song played in clubs, gyms, and cars. I’m truly fortunate to share my passion for music and connect with listeners who share the same passion.