This Monday, October 30th, Willie Watson, co-founding former member of Old Crow Medicine Show, will be headlining Boot & Saddle in support of his recently released sophomore solo effort, Folk Singer Vol. 2. However, it’s the opening slot that we’re most excited about. Kicking off the evening will be Suzanne Santo, one-half of Americana duo HONEYHONEY. Suzanne will be promoting her solo debut, Ruby Red, which was produced by Butch Walker and hit shelves this August. The album is composed of a charmingly morose collection of dusty and boozy blues and country ballads. Yesterday I got a chance to chat with the slightly-under-the-weather singer/songwriter about what it’s been like to be doing the whole solo thing.
Izzy Cihak: First of all, I heard you had the flu! That totally sucks! I hope you’re starting to feel better.
Suzanne Santo: [sniffle, whimper] Thanks.
Izzy: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. I know you’ve played here a handful of times. Any particular favorite gigs or memories?
Suzanne: Oh yeah, Philly is a fantastic town! I’ve come through as an opener and a headliner for years now. When I came through town on tour with Butch Walker last year, we played the Theater of Living Arts and it was a damn great show. I had a couple hours to walk around the neighborhood and really love that area.
Izzy: You recently put out your first solo album, Ruby Red. How did the experience of writing and recording as a solo artist differ from working as part of a duo in HONEYHONEY? Were you trying anything new this time around?
Suzanne: First off, I was writing and working for the first time in a long time, without my partner Ben Jaffe, from HONEYHONEY. He and I have worked together for over a decade and had begun to cement ourselves in our respective roles and much like most comfort zones, when you take yourself out of it, you are forced to operate differently. I love HONEYHONEY and am so grateful to be in that band, but I also have a profound appreciation for my solo journey and how it’s made me grow.
Izzy: What were the album’s most significant influences?
Suzanne: I’m a big fan of David Bowie, Radiohead and Erykah Badu. They’re some of my favorite pioneers of authenticity. Badu especially, as she writes and sings without a sanitized version of her thoughts. I think that takes a lot of balls to do that, especially as a woman. Bowie and Radiohead also make these fully cohesive records that are one massive piece of art that truly need to be listened to, start to finish. As we live in a “singles” day and age, I really appreciate when artists make records that are best served by listening to them in their entirety.
Izzy: Have you gotten any particular favorite reactions to the album, whether from fans, audiences, critics, or just friends or family.
Suzanne: I had a really great compliment from Marc Goodman at Sirius XM yesterday and he said my album has one of his favorite opening lines of all time. I mean… that’s pretty cool.
Izzy: I know the album was produced by Butch, who I’m quite a big fan of. How was working with him?
Suzanne: Working with Butch was like no other. He is a true artist and kind soul and gave me the space and support to work in ways that I’ve never really had the opportunity before. It was an incredible experience and, above all, really gave me a studio confidence I hadn’t had before.
Izzy: While we’re at it, do you have any favorite works of his? “Suburbia,” “Race Cars and Goth Rock,” and “The Weight of Her” are some of my favorite songs of this century.
Suzanne: I really love Afraid of Ghosts… It’s intense and visceral. “Summer of 89” and “Synthesizers” are just a damn blast.
Izzy: You have a ton of upcoming tour dates. Are there any shows you’re especially excited to play, or just cities you’re especially excited to revisit?
Suzanne: I got to go through Cleveland (my hometown) last week and I get to go back again in December and I’m stoked. It’s my favorite. I have a lot of family and great friends there and absolutely love when I get to come home and play. I’m also doing a run in January up through the west coast and NW and will be in Missoula, Montana on my birthday on 1/20. Missoula is a special place. I love the cold and am looking forward to that post-holiday tour of winter rock.
Izzy: What can be expected of the live show when you play our very own Boot & Saddle next week?
Suzanne: It’s just me and a guitar, which has been really cool. It’ll be the last show of this run before I need to drive back to Cali, so Philly will be the big finale! Maybe we should get balloons??
Izzy: And finally, what’s next for you, after these dates wrap in January? What are you planning and hoping to be doing in 2018?
Suzanne: I’m really hoping this record catches on and will bring me overseas. It would be so damn great to take Ruby Red all over the world!