Interview with Suzanne Cook
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I’ve loved music ever since I was a child. I had a difficult childhood and music helped me to escape to a safer place and to express myself. This seems to be a familiar story for a lot of people who end up in the arts. I felt the need to be involved in music. So, I became a singer. I was comfortable singing and being on a stage. It felt like home. It’s hard to imagine a different life, but if I had to choose, maybe I could have been an athlete, as I love to run. But I have no regrets pursuing my passion as an artist.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Like I said, I love to run. I’m so lucky to live close to Hampstead Heath and Regents Park. It’s a way for me to center myself and clear my thoughts. This may be when ideas come to me about life or the lyrics for a song. I also meditate. Silencing the voices and finding that inner peace is part of my creative writing process.
How long have you been making music?
I started in primary school, singing in the school’s musical plays. Later, I attended the Italia Conti performing arts stage school. I joined my first band – a folk-rock outfit called Hero’s Welcome – when I was in my early twenties, and I’ve been making music ever since. I’m currently working with some great musicians, both in London and New York. We’ve nearly finished recording an album with our producer, Mark Plati, who worked with and produced David Bowie, Prince, and The Cure – some of my favorite artists.
Where are you based and how did that influence your music
I come from a rough area in South London. It made me sort of edgy, and I think that comes through in the music. When I lived there, I was exposed to a lot of reggae and lovers rock music. I think the soulful voices of singers like Janet Kaye and Carroll Thompson influenced my style of singing. I wrote a song in the style of lover’s rock called Lost Without You. Perhaps we’ll record that on the next album. Now, I live in North London, not far from Camden Town, where there’s a vibrant music scene. I’ve played most of the venues on the Camden circuit.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
My most memorable show was performing at the Biella Festival of New Music in Italy. The venue was fantastic: Teatro Sociale Villani, the old opera house on the main piazza. It was great fun. The hosts and organizers were so kind and generous. Originally, I was going to perform to a backing track, but a young Italian band, also appearing at the festival, learnt my material and performed with me. I returned the favor and learned one of their songs and sang it in Italian – not a language I know. I was told by the locals that I did well with the pronunciation. Singing at a festival in Italy in a beautiful theatre was magical. I fell in love with the country, the culture, and its people.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
I prefer to perform at art centers or theatres where the audience is seated – playing in ‘black box’ music venues, not so much. I’d love to perform at The Royal Albert Hall someday.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I’d like to share the stage with Lucinda Williams, Ron Sexsmith, Rufus Wainwright, Crowded House, and Elvis Costello.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
A lot of people say this, and I agree: “follow your own heart”. Don’t listen to advice – particularly those voices telling you that music is hard, or to give it up and get a proper job. The success of your art can’t be measured in cash, and I still can’t say what ‘making it’ means.
To my younger self I’d say: be more focused; don’t get so distracted. Believe in yourself and stop looking for outside affirmation.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
A song I wrote called ‘Only You Can Save Me’. It’s about the refugee crisis. I was inspired to write about this cause as I used to volunteer at a youth center. We worked with some young people who were fleeing war, trying to find a better life. I was struck by their strength. Think about it: to leave everything you’ve ever known behind, to take a life-or-death chance on that remotest possibility of finding safety for oneself and one’s family in another, unfamiliar country. That’s bravery, and I wanted to honor those people and give them a voice.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Perhaps the most recent songs have a fresher feeling about them in my head. One of my favorite songs to perform, to be released soon, is called Waking Dream. It’s darker and more rootsy compared with some of my other work. The most requested song? I don’t think there is one. I find people like different songs in the set. I suppose it depends on the demographic.
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
There is no set process. It’s difficult to predict when the muse might come or how it might come to me.
I never force things or feel pressured to write. I don’t set aside a time or space for it. When I begin, I usually start with the title, and I write about something that I am going through at the time, something that moves me, or sometimes I’m inspired to write about my past experiences. Seeing a great performance by someone else can be a motivator.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
The basic message is one of love or consolation. Letting people know that they are not alone in this human condition. We all go through much of the same stuff. You know: a problem shared. I often get messages from listeners who hear their own story in the songs. Because I’ve ‘opened up’ about my life, those people feel comfortable about sharing their personal experiences with me. In this way, we feel more connected.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I would love to play in Canada and the USA in 2023. My executive producer lives in New York, and I have a Canadian publicist. Which brings me to the release of the album: Waking Dream. It’s arriving track by track on Spotify and all the usual places. Sometime next year there may be a physical release.
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
I am on most social media networks, but the best starting point might be my website: www.suzannecookmusic.com where you can find all the latest blogs, news and links to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on.