Somewhere between pop, jazz and blues is Suede, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and song stylist who blends three genres with tunes backed by the support of some powerful pipes and a diva’s stage presence.
Maybe it was the childhood influence of different styles of music – Mom with the lady blues singers and Dad with Dixieland favorites. Maybe it was trips to Annapolis to see jazz singer Ethel Ennis and hearing her early encouragement. Whatever the reason, Suede turned down a comfortable corporate job some 30 years ago to pursue her childhood dream, and from those early days of seven-night-a-week bar gigs has developed a devoted fan following and a multi-album catalog featuring unique takes on standards mingling with Suede’s original works.
In what seems a logical extension of the genre-blending performer’s career, Suede will be taking the stage with comedienne Vickie Shaw at the Birchmere Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. for a night Suede says – admitting to the cliché – is sure to make ‘em laugh and make ‘em cry.
The News-Press spoke to Suede before her performance about her particular brand of music, its influences, and bringing it all together.
LP: How do you weave your original songs together with the standards on your albums and sets?
S: What’s always called to me and my style, one of the things my fans have loyally appreciated, is that the style of music I do is so varied and so wide-ranging, and having such a great love of great lyrics, certainly that transfers to a great love of the great standards. I’ve always done a combination of stuff, with contemporary writers who get my style and can write for me as well. I’ll never stop doing the standards though. I first and foremost consider myself a song stylist. That in itself is an art form, and that’s always how I’ve approached my work.
LP: How did performing with Vickie Shaw come about?
S: Vickie and I are friends from way back. We met many years ago, when we were both playing the same festival, and we just immediately hit it off. She’s hysterical. She could read the phone book and people would be falling down laughing in tears.
LP: Do comedy and music work together?
S: In my case, for what I do musically, it works really well. It doesn’t always work well, and it has to bet he right combination of comic and musician. We have a very simlar overall style. It wouldn’t work for me to do a show with a comic whose style is really trashy comedy, but Vickie is a total class act, and irreverent, and hysterical. There’s a lot of comedy to my show as well, and a lot of audience participation. It’s very funny, so it works well with a comic. It’s a really good mix, especially the two of us together.
LP: How does playing multiple instruments inform your music?
S: I play trumpet on quite a few of the tunes we do, and guitar – not in a lot of them, but I do play guitar on a bunch of the tunes, I play piano as well. I can tell you for sure, when it comes to the scat singing I do, the fact that I’m a trumpet player has a huge influence on what I hear to scat because I really scat more like a horn player than a singer. It’s the same with the fusion of styles that I do. The fact that I play all these instruments influences what I’m able to do as a singer. You hear different things, your ear works in a different way when you’re a trumpet player, too.
LP: What are your plans for the future musically?
S: I’m a long way from done. There are a lot of ways that I’m just starting out. We’ll play some new tunes at the Birchmere that will be on the next CD, which I hope to get out within the year., and I’m continuing to tour.
• For more information about Suede, visit suedewave.com.