MUSIC – Suzie gears up for Glasgow gig

SHE refuses to wince away from subjects as dark as poverty and abandonment – and Oh Susannah's songs are deeply rooted in the stories of people.

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Oh Susanna, aka Suzie Ungerleiger, will be performing in Glasgow on her first UK tour
Oh Susanna, aka Suzie Ungerleiger, will be performing in Glasgow on her first UK tour

Lines such as "Eight mouths open crying to be fed, 16 hands, a single loaf of bread", sung in the clear and haunting voice of the Canadian singer, evoke pictures of cold worlds and hungry families.

Oh Susanna, aka Suzie Ungerleiger, is bringing her latest album to Glasgow Art Club next Thursday.

She will perform tracks from Soon the Birds, which was released last year, as well as tracks from her previous five records.

And she is looking forward to returning to the city, where she says she always has a good time.

"Mostly because of the people – they are kindred spirits – people who love language and laugh at dark things."

The songs by the 43-year-old, each with its own story and character, touch on subjects including fear, hunger and profound sadness.

Suzie said: "My songs are usually stories about people dealing with something intense in their lives: love, passion, death, abandonment, poverty, solace, adolescence, home.

"Sounds pretty grim, doesn't it? But really I think there is a beauty to watching these stories unfold and seeing how the people in them often triumph over adversity."

The Vancouver-based singer/songwriter uses her voice to lead the listener on a journey through the story of each song.

This is her first UK tour with Soon the Birds, which features musicians from the who's who of Canadian roots music.

Created over a year with producer David Travers-Smith, Soon the Birds, saw Suzie approach a new way of recording.

With a small child to take care of, gone were the days of pulling all nighters in the studio and living with the band.

For this album she created the songs in layers, rather than playing with a band.

"I sort of returned to when I made my first album Johnstown.

"I would walk over to the studio and work as a team with the producer laying things down like a layer cake and seeing what kind of treat emerged.

"That is a much longer process than just playing the songs with a band.

"Other musicians would come in and play along with the sketch of the song – usually me and my guitar and occasionally some bass and drums.

"So it took a while to hear the album and songs emerge."

But Suzie, who will perform solo in the UK, says she is very proud of the record, which she describes as sounding "beautiful".

"I also feel like I am curious about these songs and am still curious about them.

"If I look back and wonder how I did it then it means I was successful in creating a world that exists independently from me."

Starting out in 1995, Suzie launched her career with no previous experience, so getting on stage for the first time and singing for people was a huge achievement.

She said: "I was scared to death because it meant putting myself on the line and because I had never had the guts to admit that this was what I wanted to do.

"Other than that I don't think there is one big achievement that I can isolate.

"It is a cliché but doing this is a journey, living is a cumulative experience- I am amazed that I have written about 50 songs that I am really proud of and other people connect with."

Keen to leave her work to the listener to interpret, Suzie rarely listens to albums after she has made them.

She said: "When I have written and recorded the songs I am then much more focused on performing them and making them come alive while I am standing in front of an audience.

"The live performance is how I connect with the music over and over again.

"It is a ritual and a challenge to figure out how to communicate the music to people while you are breathing the same air as them."

n Tickets to see Oh Susannah at Glasgow Art Club are £12, call 0141 2485210 or 0141 204 5151 or visit www.fallenangelsclub.com.

MATTY SUTTON

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