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.
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Exclusive Interview: catinca Opens Up On ‘Planet Maniac’ Album
catinca is an electronic musician and producer whose uniqueness makes her songs extra special. After experimenting with Electro-Pop/Darkwave sounds, her debut album ‘Planet Maniac’ came to light. For more information, please read this exclusive interview.
1 — What’s the main theme of your new album ‘Planet Maniac’?
To find a way to live on this maniac planet and to seek the truth in yourself and in everything.
2 — Why did you decide to call this album ‘Planet Maniac’? Were there other ideas?
For a long time it had another name, which I’m gonna use now for the second album. As the debut single is called “Maniac,” it just came naturally.
3 — Did you spend a lot of time writing all these songs? Tell us more about the creative process.
It’s totally different from song to song. Sometimes I just have a slight idea… write a few lines and then it lies there for a long time until it gets attention again. Most of the time the lyrics just flow out at once. That can happen in 10 minutes or several hours.
4 — What drum machines and synths were used on this project?
For the entire album, I just used software synths (Analog lab 4, Analog lab V and Surge) with the Arturia Keylab 61. I’m not nerdy enough, to spend a lot of money on analog synths. I also used the Ableton Push for the drums.
5 — Which of these new songs has the best lyrics? Why?
This is of course a matter of taste and maybe also a fact of what you are going through right now and what resonates the most. But the lyrics of “Stay” are going very deep for me and “Black Angel” because that is what happened to me the last 2 years.
6 — If you were able to change something in this material, would you do it?
The truth is… I’m never 100% happy but if you keep and keep changing stuff… in the end, it’s not better.
Can you ever be satisfied? Even when you have millions of streams or whatever you come to the point where you’re not satisfied. I do it in the first place for myself. Secondly, I like the thought to left something creative on this planet when I leave, and third, I’m happy when there are a handful of people I can touch with my music.
8 — Is it important to you to be musically diverse? How would you describe your style?
Absolutely! I don’t want to be put in a certain genre. I don’t even wanna know what my style is because I wanna be as free as possible. Maybe there will be some kind of a red line through my work but be prepared that every album will be totally different.
That I did this freakin’ album all by myself! But I have to give a shoutout to the collaboration I did with Yellow Majesty from Sweden on the song “Forever.” He is just a crazy good musician and did a fabulous job!
And also a big shoutout to Tino Tranquilo who did a super freakin’ good remix of my song “Stay.”
10 – As an artist, is there something different you would love to approach in the future?
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Exclusive Interview: COY SWEDE & J.O.Y Collab On “Never Ever”
This is the first time COY Swede ventures into RnB by joining forces with J.O.Y. In an instant, you will be blown away as the quality of his new single “Never Ever” feels like charting song material. Read our exclusive interview with both artists!
1 — How did you end up working together?
COY Swede: Me and J.O.Y also did “Closer” through Soundbetter platform together. And RnB being one of J.O.Y’s genres I knew we could make another magic track together.
It’s very rare I work with the same singer again. But we speak the same language musically and we connected, even more, this time.
J.O.Y: Me and COY Swede first met up online on Soundbetter (the leading platform where singers and producers meet to finish each other work). He wrote me to be his singer for his track “Closer.” From there on we became friends and collab more frequently together!
2 — How would you define RnB music?
COY Swede: It depends on how far you go back in time, 50, 70, or 90, and our time. Genre changes very fast in our time and gets a bit blurred or, some genres evolve into something new.
But for me, RnB is still pure Soul and Blues and also can be a flavour of Chill Pop and influences rhythms from Hip-Hop. That’s my personal thinking.
J.O.Y: RnB was my first love in music! I remember listening to greatness such as Joe, Brian Mcknight, and Craig David and was impressed by the runs, variation of tone, and vocal skills these guys have! This made me do a lot of cover songs of the RnB genre and me ending up having my singing style from them.
COY Swede: For me, it evolves me as a producer. Gives me more experience. I work only with the best singers that share my passion among the independent areas.
Over the years I also have learned how to know what I’m looking for around a genre and theme for the song. What vibe do I want to create.
Marketing strategies change all the time and we Indie artists work really hard with the tools we have.
The most important thing for me is to keep going and deliver the music to my listeners. Show interest in other artists, be helpful if I can, and also learn more about how to get my music out there.
J.O.Y: Doing collabs is one of the best ways to showcase your music and learn from it. You learn to see different kinds of colors of music. You are also forced to go out of your comfort zone which allows you to grow.
4 — What new things did you learn while recording “Never Ever”?
COY Swede: Well, it’s actually the first time I produce an RnB track 😊 I would be very happy if the listeners can connect to it. The bells in the intro are actually recorded by an instrument and then I added some effects using “Thermal from Output.”
Every track I make gives me something new. I’m very happy with the variated bridges in this track to be a little technical. And my challenge was, how to make a short song feel longer than it actually is. We also wanted this song to have a good hook and a chorus to sing along to.
J.O.Y made awesome work with his skills as a singer and writer.
J.O.Y: As a songwriter, you always get to learn a new perspective after each song. Especially here I evolved my songwriting by having the hook be a statement and the verses describing my story. I will definitely write more songs like this, where the hook is simple yet catchy and the verses a bit more complex.
5 — Who is the main songwriter of this new track? What inspired you to write the lyrics?
COY Swede: We worked from a theme I sent J.O.Y. And for the chorus, I recorded a sample of my voice. Then J.O.Y did his magic. Just a note, only the VOCAL is mixed together from 15 stems to give you a perspective. 😉
It’s also a love song for people that found new love and how to carry it forward. But as a songwriter/producer you are open to how a listener feels about it. You can, “Never Ever” know. 😊
J.O.Y: COY Swede presented me with the theme of the song, and explained it to me pretty well. From that on I felt inspired and tapped into some of my experiences to replicate this feeling.
The unique bells in the song maybe is a slight try to call on that upcoming Christmas vibe. Mariah Carey, are free to make a cover if she wants. 😉
J.O.Y: To all the listeners that go through a tough time right now. It’s that season again when tracks like these are needed.
7 — How would you imagine the music video?
COY Swede: No plan at this moment. Maybe a lyrics video on my YouTube channel.
8 — Are you planning to drop remixes for this release?
COY Swede: No plans at this moment.
9 — How do you spend your free time when not making music?
COY Swede: Family first, I love to travel around the world, health, training, and love cooking if I have time. I also read everything that has something to do with space research and am also engaged in earth’s environment and climate.
J.O.Y: Coy Swede nailed it. Family first. Sometimes music can feel like a job where all you think of is music. It’s good to have breaks to enjoy with your loved ones. Also, it’s very good for your creativity and finding new inspiration to write music.
10 — Lastly, what are your future plans?
COY Swede: Next year maybe I will try to do some more DJ appearances. I did one this year 2022 in Stockholm. Maybe together with my music bro Alan Walker or, even Tiesto would be really cool!
It would be cool to finally meet them both in real life, and talk about music experiences and future experimental stuff. You “Never Ever,” know! 😊
One thing is for sure I will keep doing this, and create more music. I would also like to try to make a score for movies or TV in the future, would be cool, if one of my released songs were featured.
J.O.Y: Be more active as a songwriter and have a lot more placements with bigger companies or TV/Film. I want to watch a show and hear my music in the background – that’s something I can imagine would be super cool and surreal.
Blind Mutation Discusses Experimental Music Video “Shadows”
If you’re into hypnotizing Ambient Techno tracks, then Blind Mutation should be on your radar. Her latest experimental music video “Shadows” was awarded and this exclusive interview explains it all!
1 — If I’m not mistaken, electronic music is your passion. How does this interest has come about?
I actually think my dad’s taste in music really influenced me a lot. He used to put on a lot of quality electronic music for me when I was a child, from classic Depeche Mode to more underground experimental electronic How to Dress Well. So, my interest in electronic music started growing from a very young age. When I became a teenager, my mental health started to get worse, and I started to relate, and thereafter, listen to darker and gloomier electronic music like dark ambient, triphop, or hard warehouse techno. That’s basically how my music taste was formed, and why I love electronic music.
2 — When exactly did you become Blind Mutation?
In theory, I think I became Blind Mutation pretty much as soon as I started producing and composing music which was 2 years ago. I began writing tracks with an emphasis on cinematic melancholic sounds that translated my deep intense emotions, and I still continue to do it exploring more and more ways to express my feelings through music. But, officially, let’s say, I became Blind Mutation when I released my first DJ Mix called “WAVE/PHONK MIX” on SoundCloud almost a year ago.
3 — Musically speaking, who is your biggest influence or inspiration?
I love to answer that question 🙂 I would say that my influences/inspirations have been changing throughout the years. When I was 14-16 my favorite band was Coldplay. I loved their not-that-well-known tracks which were more on the electronic/ambient side, like my all-time favorite “Midnight”. As for now, I very rarely listen to Coldplay. Now I am more into experimental dark emotional stuff like Techno, Dark Ambient, IDM, and Trip-Hop. Some of my inspirations/influences at the moment are Aphex Twin, Arca, Trentemoller, Clams Casino, Hans Zimmer, I Hate Models, and Crystal Castles.
4 — Congratulations on winning Best Experimental Video at the Indie Online Film Festival. Did you ever expect this result?
I was hoping for it 🙂 But I don’t really like expecting something to happen, especially when it comes to receiving awards. Because if you think you would win the prize, and then you don’t, you would probably get upset. But if you don’t really think about it and just let it happen, you get more excited if you win, and don’t really care if you don’t get an award 🙂
5 — Tell us more about how your collaboration with All Around came about.
We met a little more than 4 years ago in college in LA. He was a directing major, and I was an acting major. We’ve been very good friends since that time, and we’ve done small projects together here and there in college and just for fun. Then, when I switched from acting to music and started releasing my DJ Mixes, he began doing all the visuals for them. So, when I was ready to release my debut track “Shadows”, I knew that All Around would be my director, cinematographer, and editor. We have a similar vision when it comes to art (music/video/films, etc.), and so it’s very comfortable and fun for us to work together.
6 — Would you interpret this clip as a short horror film or is it something else?
Shortly, I would say, yes, it could be interpreted as a short psychological horror film. To elaborate: it’s interesting that when we showed the music video to our close surroundings, a good amount of people said that “Shadows” looked more like a short horror film rather than a music video. “Shadows” indeed has a much slower pace than a usual music video. In terms of cinematography, it’s also shot more like a film rather than a music video. But I think I would still call “Shadows” an experimental music video rather than a short horror film, because, in my opinion, it still has a dynamic of a music video, and our initial idea was to create a music video not a short horror film.
Well, the track itself was produced, mixed and mastered in Ableton. As for “Shadows” music video production, My friend All Around who I collaborated with, has an amazing RED Komodo camera, the music video was shot on it. Also, my face, chest, neck and my arms had to be bandaged in the shot all the time. We needed special bandages, the ones that stick to the skin and to each other. We had 3-4 shooting days, and not all of the bandages could be reused. So, I had to buy lots of them. Was driving from one CVS to another buying the entire available supply of those specific bandages 🙂
We also had a chance to work with an amazing super professional makeup artist, Darya Kholodnykh, who did the make-up for the “demon’s” hand that appears in the music video. She managed to find a creative way to make the hand look realistic and creepy although we had a very small budget.
8 — What can we expect from Blind Mutation next? Are you keen on exploring science fiction themes?
I love science fiction, and I would like to explore themes connected to it in the future. But as for now, I think I’m more focused on expressing my inner feelings and emotions through my music, and treating producing/composing/creating DJ mixes more as a therapy for myself. I’d love to dive deeper into the psychological aspects of our lives and have an influence on people’s emotions and their unconscious through my music. That’s what my next release will hopefully do! It’s a dark ambient track called “I come with the rain”, and it’s coming out in the beginning of January! I’m also working on a new dark warehouse techno DJ mix which will also come out around the same time.
9 — What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I’ve always loved to think about this. I am very interested in psychology, so I would definitely study it in college, and then probably become a psychotherapist (do not mistake with psychologist or psychiatrist), I would do scientific research and come up with new more effective therapies.
I would also love to direct and shoot (be DOP and operate camera) my own film(s) in the future! It’s a big dream! Plus I got my first degree from a film college, so I am familiar with that stuff. By the way, I’m also super interested in graphic and game design! Would love to try doing that in the future too!
And just to top off the list with more geek stuff: if I had another life, I would become an astrophysicist to study and explore space.
10 — Lastly, do you have any specific goals for 2023?
The most important and clear goal is to get the artist visa in order to be able to stay and work in the U.S. Speaking of my artist goals, I would love to get my first DJ gig in 2023! I would also love to explore new music genres in my productions (like trip-hop or hard dark techno)! Finally, I have so many things I still have to explore and discover in terms of production, mixing sound design, etc. So, another very important goal is to just continue learning!