May 24, 2024

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Interview with Susie Blue: The format of a Blues song is ageless: Video

Interview with jazz and blues singer Susie Blue. An interview by email in writing. –First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Susie Blue։ – I was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania on the shores of Lake Erie.  My Grandmother was a music teacher and a swing singer in a big band in th 1940’s.  Before I could speak she was playing Billie Holiday albums for me and performing standards on the piano and singing along with them.   I learned to sing “Mean to ME” before I learned any childhood songs like “Old McDonald”.  My Grandmother, Sybil Dermanoulian, had always wanted me to be a singer and had me singing in school concerts and local choirs throughout my childhood.  In highschool I continued to pursue music and attended a private Arts Academy “Mercyhurst Prep” and even attended there on a generous music scholarship, because private schooling was very expensive.  So I had to sing my way through school and I started taking singing jobs, as a singing telegram, by the time I was 16, to pay my way.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?  

SB: – My first exposure to music was Jazz and Swing, so it has always been a love of mine, but working as a professional singer I took church jobs singing classical music, I did paid theater gigs, and the singing telegram job was a mixed bunch of genres, whatever the customers wanted.  I even worked as a waitress in a Dinner Theater and that was a lot of operatic and theatrical singing as well.  I have always loved Jazz and Swing tho, so when I moved to Chicago after college I started working with Jazz bandleaders like Von Freeman, Johnny Frigo and Willie Pickens.  When I lived in NYC I had the honor of singing with Doc Cheatham before he passed away, and he taught me a lot about picking songs and researching older tunes that weren’t in the Great American Songbook.  Doc really had a big impact on me because he encouraged me to go to the library and research old jazz and sweet band music and come up with a unique book of my own.  He told me that my voice was unique and that I could bring more than just every day jazz standards to a show.  I will always be indebted to him for that.

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JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?   

SB: – I practice scales and do vocal exercises daily to keep in shape because a singer’s body is their instrument and you must exercise it every day to be in top form. I also listen to a lot of different singers, from Opera to retro country. Kiri Te Kanawa to Patsy Cline … so keep my chops loose and ready for anything. I have also been learning to play the Xylophone, and the harmony lessons are there, for sure!

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?  

SB: – When I was in college studying voice I sang a lot of Opera and I was a Lyric Soprano with a 4 octave range. As I’ve aged my voice is deeper and I am a Mezzo now, but I can still lightly carry off those high notes for a jazz ballad or a background vocal. At age 55 I am discovering a new lower register and I am able to belt out and growl blues songs that I might never have attempted when I was 25. That’s how much a woman’s voice can change after age 50! But I am loving and embracing the change, and enjoying the hearty new material that I could never have performed before.

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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul? 

SB: – I am a Spiritual Person so I feel like energy channels through a musician or an artist bringing healing or pleasure to the world. Johnny Frigo once told me that the best players had no egos, they just stepped out of the way and allowed the music to move through them. I agree with him, the music is an energy that is unique to itself, and as a willing channel I allow it to flow freely through me and let it go where it needs to go. That involves my soul of course, and my intellect helps me keep hold, I have learned over the years so that I have the ability to ride the wave of music as it pours through me. I never take credit for the energy, it comes from a higher source, I am just riding the wave to bring it down to the Earth Plane. It can be immensely pleasurable to allow beautiful, high and loving vibrations like that to move through you, it is almost a religious experience.  It’s an ecstasy I think, and many musicians and singers would agree with me.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for? 

SB: – YES.  Since I have studied both Opera, which is very emotional, and musical theater, I try to perform the lyrics of the song as much as I can, and emote their meaning, so that folks in the audience feel something.  There is nothing worse than a singer who just stands on stage listening to the sounds they make… singers need to TELL THE STORY and a big part of that is emoting the story with facial gestures and body movement.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in blues when most of standard tunes are half a century old? 

SB: – The format of a blues song is ageless. Modern Rock is built upon the blues. I think that a lot of young people today are interested in incorporating different genres into their styles and creating something new. The Blues is always melting and merging with other genres. Look at what Keith Richards did with the Rolling Stones?  The Blues is a constant and in most music schools a standard blues form is the first thing a singer or musician learns.  The best blues songs just keep coming back over and over, nobody ever turns away the blues or forgets it.  Never.

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life? 

SB: – I don’t know what that higher source is, some people might call it God, some might think it comes from Angels, I just think that music is energy and it flows around the universe and that if we’re lucky, and we’re calm and quiet, we might hear it and allow it to flow through us into our world.  Every song I sing I sing with the Angels.  Every album I have recorded or plan is inspired by a higher power.  I don’t know who the angels are, they don’t speak to me, I don’t see them, but when I am creating music I feel their loving, ecstatic presence and they send the music through me while I am performing it, writing it, or recording it.  So the music comes through me and a little bit from me, but it is not just about me, it is something much bigger than me and it always will be.  Perhaps music and that energy comes through to bring us joy, peace, healing, or to teach us the meaning of our lives.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Our US/EU Jazz-Blues Association Festivals 2023 with performances by international stars: Photos

Note: You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals in Europe and Boston, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and ma83ke new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here.

Artist of the Week #0048 - Susie Blue — When The Horn Blows

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