Q&A with Suzy Bogguss
Jim Malec’s December 13 Rough Mixes piece focusing on Suzy Bogguss was based on the following interview in which the CMA Horizon Award winner also discussed everything from jewelry making to her shifting musical styles over the years to her thoughts on why radio programmers haven’t really embraced her music since her 1993 hit, “Hey Cinderella.”
Westword: You studied metalsmithing at Illinois State University. Have you made anything interesting lately?
Suzy Bogguss: I have not really been active with my metalsmithing for a while. Just recently, I got the urge to make some necklaces, and I am waiting until after the holidays to research where I can find all of the things I'll need to get started. I am looking forward to using some of the beautiful beads that are available these days.
After college you became a bit of a troubadour, traveling around the country convincing club owners to let you play. Is there anything you miss about those days?
I actually have been missing it a bit. That's why I am doing a few solo dates scattered about my tour schedule. It feels good sometimes to just take it back to the singer and the song.
Your last mainstream hit was "Hey Cinderella." Why do you think your recent music failed to catch on at radio?
The radio business is very complicated. I don't pretend to know that much about it, except that I know that I have to do the music that is interesting to me and can't predict where the trends might take a particular format. I always remember my fans when I am working on a project, but it can't dictate where my heart is leading me with regards to exploring music. I know, as a fan myself, that songs can really transport you to a place and feeling. I try to make sure that I convey those feelings from when I recorded a certain song so that the communication is the same as the first time.
Do you still consider yourself a practitioner of country music?
I love country music. I play The Grand Ole Opry every couple of months, and I keep it country there. I have had such an opportunity to try different styles. My friend Robert Earl Keen told me once that I shouldn't apologize for being a singer. It’s what I always wanted to be. I did not have aspirations to be a "country star." I always wanted to tell a story, and that is what led me to Nashville: great songs.
What does the title Sweet Danger mean? Is your music dangerous?
The title comes from a streak of mischief that I have. I have many times put myself in a situation that I am not sure of the way out. It charges me up to be challenged by the consequences of my impulsiveness. I have another side of me that is totally Suzy Homemaker, and I want to keep my senses sharp so I don't get lazy.
You explored jazz on Swing, but Sweet Danger is still a very different sound. Why did you decide to make this record?
I know that a lot of people hear jazz influences on the new CD. My co-producer, Jason Miles, is a pro in that world. I think of the music here as a fresh approach to the ‘70s singer-songwriter records, like Carole King and James Taylor. I was ready to write for this CD, and the first few songs we produced led me to these melodies.
Now that you've conquered country, folk, swing and jazz, what's next on the agenda? A Suzy Bogguss bluegrass album? Big & Rich has had some success with country-rap…
What do you call "No Good Way To Go?" Someone said it is slam poetry [laughter]. I would never say that I have conquered any of those styles, only grazed the surface and mixed them up with my own influences to come up with whatever sound from whichever project. All I know is I love to do it.
What can people expect at a Suzy Bogguss show?
I like to play all sorts of situations, from solo to full symphony dates with an eighty-piece orchestra. I think I am most a home with my guitar and a four-piece band. You can always count on me being pretty spontaneous. I said on stage the other night, "We'd like to do something we've never done before," and my bassist blurted out, "like follow the set list?"