|ROCKWIRED INTERVIEWS SUSANNAH BLINKOFF
JUST PRETENDINGThe album 'LET'S PRETEND' is a debut of sorts for singer songwriter SUSANNAH BLINKOFF. Within the past ten years, she has released two EPs and and a full length LP (2005's 'HAPPY TODAY') under the band moniker CAMP SUSANNAH. Working with producer and songwriter RICH JACQUES, SUSANNAH and her earnest pop sensibiliities shine brightest on the pleasantly rocking 'MY TIME NOW', the subtle groove of 'GOOD TO BE HERE', and the plucky 'I GOT LUCKY'. BLINKOFF's songwriting chops seem practically effortless on 'LET'S PRETEND'. One would assume that her confessional brand of pop craftsmanship owes to the likes of CARLY SIMON or CAROLE KING, however the inspiration is a little closer to home. "I was sort of born into it." confesses BLINKOFF "My mother is a songwriter and in the seventies she was a singer-songwriter who was signed to ELECTRA"
SUSANNAH BLINKOFF TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT HER LATEST CD 'LET'S PRETEND'
WORKING WITH PRODUCER RICH JACQUES
AND COMING INTO HER OWN
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
While the transition from being the child of singer-songwriter to being a singer-songwritertook a little longer than one might expect, the results are solid. 'LET'S PRETEND' is worth a few spins.
ROCKWIRED spoke with SUSANNAH BLINKOFF over the phone. Here is how it went.
LET'S PRETEND is a great CD. Now that it's out there, how do you feel about it?
I feel really good about it. I felt really good about it even before it got out. I really tried to focus on making an album that I would like. I like everything that I've done before this album as well, but I think on previous releases I was always kind of aware of the music business and wondering if any of the songs were going to have any kind of success. I always had that in the back of my mind. On this album I really consciously decided to shut those thoughts out and not only make music that I personally enjoy, but to give a performance of myself and to give of myself more honestly to this CD than I had ever done before. I really feel that goal was accomplished. Recently, I've been hearing peoples responses to this album , whether they are blogging on some site or whether they are reviewers who have been listening to the CD and I've just been really thrilled and it's very touching to me that my music would speak to people in an emotional and personal way. It makes me feel great.
Who did you work with in putting this CD together?
I just worked with one guy. He was a one-stop shop amazing guy who is an amazingly talented singer-songwriter. His name is RICH JACQUES and he has had a lot of different kinds of success. In the nineties, he was in a band called BROWNIE MARY out of Minneapolis and they had some success and a record deal. He's just a great guy and he had produced a couple of other singer-songwriter friends of mine. One of my friends had said that he and I would be a good match. We met, not really knowing each other at all and decided to give it a try. We did a couple of songs together and it was such a great experience that I said to him 'I wanna do an album. Do you wanna do it?' He was really into it and we did it. Just the two of us. I took the burden off of myself this time. I'm not a great player. I play piano a bit but not wonderfully and I decided on this album to not worry about that and just sing. He played everything pretty much.
Do you think you'd work with him again?
Talk about what drew you to music.
I was sort of born into it. My mother (CAROL HALL) is a songwriter and in the seventies she was a singer-songwriter who was signed to ELECTRA along with artists like CARLY SIMON. She was the opening act for DON MCLEAN on his AMERICAN PIE tour . When I was younger, I used to go see her on the weekends and she was always the opening act for LOGGINS AND MESSINA and KRIS KRISTOFERSON. She did a bit of touring when I was a kid but she was home a lot also and she was always writing songs. She is a wonderfully disciplined person. She wrote jingles, she wrote for SESAME STREET, FREE TO BE YOU AND ME, and has continued to write for Broadway. Her biggest, longest running hit was THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS, which she wrote the music and lyrics for. My whole childhood was spent backstage at those kinds of shows or in the recording studio, watching her work. Music was something that was just always around. Every dinner party that my mother ever threw, everyone would end up playing their songs. Oddly enough, I felt kind of intimidated by it all. I grew up thinking that this was her thing and I'm going to do something different. So I acted for a very long time and came to music kind of late, but when I came back to it, I couldn't deny it anymore.
How did it come back into your life?
I had sung a lot as a kid and when I went to college, I took up smoking cigarettes and I said 'I smoke, so I can't sing'. I didn't sing for about ten years and when I quit I thought, what could I do to substitute this bad habit of mine, so I went back to singing. Once I started working with vocal coaches, I would wake up in the middle of the night, hearing lyrics in my head and it just started coming out.
Explain the creative process for you - specifically with this CD.
There are always diferent processes but with RICH, for me, it was a very new experience. Sometimes when we got together, we had these regular work times that were pretty early in the day because I'm a mom. I have kid in school so we would meet from 10 to 3 or 10 to 2. There were time constraints due to picking up my kid from school. It wasn't like we were burning the midnight oil. We'd get together and at times when we didn't know what we were going to write, we meditated for twenty of thirty mintues. After that, whatever came through, we sort of trusted was coming from a clean place because we had been so relaxed and let our subconcious imaginations have free reign. A lot of times, I'd bring in an old lyric that I hadn't finished and other songs were songs that I had completely finished and I'd give them to RICH and we'd work out a new arragnement of them or a different take on them. I'm not someone who writes a hundred songs a year. I'm kind of a slow tortoise in that way, but I do craft my songs. I work really hard on that and I rewrite and I rework quite a bit. Sometimes the songs came from that place.
Of the songs that you wrote on this album, which ones sort of stand out for you at the moment and why?
I like that you said at the moment because it is an 'at the moment' kind of a thing. I always feel like 'SOPHIE'S CHOICE' when people say 'which song is your favorite' because you do feel like a mother and they are all your babies. These songs all came from real places inside my heart. Today, I would say that I like 'MY TIME NOW' a lot. I like that it's rockin and that it's an energizing anthem and I wrote it thinking about what it is that I would want to say over and over again if I had to sing a song. If I'm touring and I have a hit song, what would I want to repeat over and over. For me, the song is a positve kind of affirmation. It's about being ready to be more and give more. I really like that one a lot right now.
The album has two covers on it.
'VIENNA' and 'TEXAS GIRL AT THE FUNERAL OF HER FATHER' are both written by BILLY JOEL and RANDY NEWMAN respectively and 'THE STORM IS PASSING OVER' is an original arrangement that RICH and I did but that song is 100 years old. It's an African American spiritiual.
Why those three songs?
There was a time where I hadn't written any songs in a while and I was feeling like the well was dry, creatively. So I thought what if I just sang some other peoples songs. Which ones would I want to sing and 'VIENNA' was at the top of the list. I've loved that song since I was in high school. It always resonated with me. It had a lot to do with resisting the urge to think about the future and to not rush things. The song for me is about living in the now. I don't know if that was BILLY JOEL's intention, but the song touches that place in me. I wanted to sing that song now becuase I've had it inside of me for so long. Now I think I can sing that song to my adolescent self from a more adult place. The RANDY NEWMAN song came to me because I knew that song for many years. Back when I was in high school, I got a job working on an Off-Broadway musical. I was assisting the stage manager and I got high school credit for it . It was a musical review of all RANDY NEWMAN songs and one of my jobs involved xeroxing the sheet music everytime they put songs in and out of the show. So I ended up learning fifty RANDY NEWMAN songs and 'TEXAS...' spoke to me. I just related to that song in a lot of different ways and so I wanted to sing it.
What would you like a person to come away with after they've heard LET'S PRETEND?
I think I'd like for a listener to have taken an emotional journey and to have felt energized and inspired by one song and have gotten quite and sad on another one. It's an emotional journey that has had some highs and lows. I would have liked for someone to relate to these songs in that way, but then to kind of end on a feeling of being inspired.