Posted On 22 Aug 2017
Suzanne Santo is one-half of the Americana/rock duo HoneyHoney. She recently released her debut solo album called Ruby Red.
Produced by multi-platinum Grammy nominee Butch Walker, this collection marks Santo’s first release as a solo artist and tells the story of a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who, more than 10 years into an acclaimed career, is turning a new corner.
Ruby Red is caught halfway between the dark swoon of pop-noir, the raw rasp of soul music, and the honest punch of Americana. It’s an album about love, life, and lust in the modern world. A moody, fierce, melody-driven 11-song offering, Ruby Red ranges from Southern-gothic anthems to slow-burning soul ballads to explosive rockers, all anchored around Santo’s voice: an electrifying, elastic instrument that’s capable of both vulnerability and ferocity. Santo, whose expertise also includes violin, guitar, and banjo, split the bulk of the instrumental duties with Walker.
Learn more about Suzanne in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What are some words you would use to describe 2016?
Lovely, terrible, ball crushing, activating and magical.
How has 2017 been treating you so far? Musically, did you approach this year any differently then you did last year?
2017 has been a little more ball crushing than 2016, however it has also had some wonderful aspects on the career and self growth front. The strict lessons of life can really give you the kick in the pants to get stuff done, let me tell ya. Musically, I’m releasing my first solo record, so this is a good deal different than what I’m used to, having been in a band for the past 11 years. I’m stoked.
Where does this interview find you today?
My tiny office nook in my Silverlake apt.
Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it?
Yes, Erykah Badu “Mama’s Gun”
What kind of music do you listen to when you are working?
If I’m firing off emails or doing fun things like my taxes, I prefer to listen to Radiohead. If I’m writing songs, I don’t listen to any music, because that would be distracting.
What music gets you instantly out of a bad mood?
Queen’s ” Don’t Stop Me Now”. Works EVERY time.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
Yes, my mom was walking me in my stroller. I was probably 3 years old and I was belting Simply Red’s ” Holding Back The Years” at the top of my lungs, most specifically the incorrect lyric of ” I keeeeeep holdin’ onnnnn”. I find this to be very ironic at this juncture and have also never mentioned this to anyone.
If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing? Or could you really not see yourself doing anything else?
There’s a good chance I could or would have been living in Cleveland selling pizza and spaghetti at my family’s Italian restaurant.
I also think I would’ve been a therapist. I love and am fascinated by people and all of the stuff going on inside of our brains.
I always like to ask artists about where they came from and how that city or town has influenced them as an artist now. So how do you think your hometown has shaped who you are as an actor/musician and the art that you create?
Oh man, I’m from the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. I love the history of this town and the rusty obstacles that have shaped it’s personality. The people of Cleveland are true believers and tenaciously forge ahead, however daunting the road may be. I would love for nothing more than to achieve my career goals and be able to move home and be a part of the creative community that is truly taking off there. I LOVE Cleveland, from the bottom of my heart.
Let’s talk about your forthcoming solo debut album, “Ruby Red.” What was it like putting this collection together and alone?
It was lonely sometimes and also liberating.
Did you find the entire process very different on your own and not as the duo HoneyHoney?
It wasn’t much different in the song writing process, because Ben Jaffe ( the other half of HONEYHONEY) and I would often put songs together that we wrote separately. Taking myself out of the comfort zone of a partnership was pretty intense but gave me a different understanding of what I’m capable of and that feels pretty good.
What was the inspiration for these songs?
Love and life… the usual.
How long have you been wanting to put out your own solo work?
I think there’s always been a part of me that wanted to try a project on my own, just to expand in a different way. I still love and appreciate playing in HONEYHONEY. It’s such a special band.
Can you explain how your already released single, “Ghost In My Bed” came to be? How did it go from being just an idea in your head to a full-fledged song? How do you think it prepares listeners for your full album?
I guess it came to be when I was in a fairly dark place and felt like I was haunted. As most things go, I figured out that it was from my own doing. This song, like most of the songs on the record is about accountability and recognizing my responsibility to my demons and making sure I’m aware of who/what they are and how to manage them.
Who are some of your very favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
I love so many! Geez… Well we can start with Erykah Badu because she’s a force and a woman who writes from a raw and sometimes unattractive angle and I admire that so much. It’s good to be comfortably with our less favorable sides. I also love Townes Van Zandt, Davie Bowie, Gillian Welch, Radiohead, Killer Mike and Billie Holiday. How’s that for variety??
What do you hope is the message of your music?
Hmm.. I can’t think of just “one” message other than I’m going to keep telling stories that are true to me and I hope they resonate with folks in ways that they need.
What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
In terms of hope, I think it’s important to be inspired by our surroundings and considering the fact that our world is pretty bananas right now, I hope that people find comfort in my music and know that it has nothing but love to give to them.
What do you have planned for this summer? Will you have any time to play out live at all?
Man, I’d love to get some fly fishing time in sometime soon! Other than that, I just want some quality time with my friends and family as much as possible. I’ll be playing in NYC on 8/23 at Mercury Lounge and have some other dates in September and a tour with HONEYHONEY as well as opening for Willie Watson in October. Check those dates out on my website!
What advice would you give to someone just getting started on this music path? Or even to someone young that is thinking of becoming a musician one day?
I think the only advise I can give is to keep exploring and figure out what exactly music means to you and you’ll figure out how to express it from there. Above anything though, make sure you’re having a damn great time.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
Yeah, let’s hang out guys! I’ll be touring this record quite a bit and I’d sure love to see you out there on the road. Thanks for reading this and for your support! RAWK