Interview: Nineties sensation Suzy Bogguss discusess her compilation album, the UK, women of country in the nineties and the radio struggles, her long career and much more

Nineties sensation Suzy Bogguss has had quite the impressive career. Suzy Bogguss is more than an American country music singer-songwriter as has dabbled with various different genres over the years such as Swing, Jazz, Folk and more.

Her discography includes two self produced albums, 12 studio albums, two compilation albums, one live album, two holiday albums, and a collaborative album with Chet Atkins.

In June Suzy’s Label Capitol released a compilation album which includes all her hits and more to celebrate her phenomenal career titled Aces: The Definitive Capitol Collection. We caught up with Suzy to discuss the new release as well as her last UK trip as part of the Transatlantic Sessions last February.

Enjoy!

Listen to Aces: The Definitive Capitol Collection here

Purchase Aces: The Definitive Capitol Collection here

Hi Suzy, how are you?

Wonderful thank you!

Last time you were here in the UK it was for the Transatlantic Sessions. How were were they?

It was great, it was so fun and I met so many wonderful people. Jerry Douglas put it together with Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham and the group of players were stellar. A bunch of them play with Mark Knoffler. We brought a few people over from the states, some that I knew well and some that I didn’t. You are almost at music camp for the week and a half that that thing goes on. It’s like ten days of blabbing on the bus with each other and showing new tunes and singing songs, playing songs, giving each other notes on where we came from and how we got there, it was just a blast.

What were audiences like?

They were wonderful and already cultivated. They knew what to expect and this event has been going on for years now. I came in as the green one and didn’t know what to do exactly because I knew I was part of the American side of the equation so I thought “Well gosh I’m so eclectic”. I didn’t know what songs to choose because I figured that a good part of the audience weren’t going to know my music. Some people know me as a country singer but I’m much more of a eclectic singer but I have a strong base in folk as well so I thought “Man, what can I bring to this that nobody else is going to be doing? Julie Fowlis is doing this amazing Celtic, Gaelic stuff so what can I do?” So I decided to yodel haha. I decided to put a little cowboy medley in there – so I brought some of that aspect in there and just buried the country and cowboy and folk all together.

That’s pretty cool and not many people can yodel.

Well, if you’re trying to make an impression and you’re standing in front of a lot of people at one time, you’ve got one shot to stand out. So if there’s something I can do that is like a little parlour trick then that’s the thing that will stick in their heads and the next time that they hear me sing something they are gonna go what? But she was a cowboy? Haha.

You recently released Aces: The Definitive Capitol Collection…

Yeah! The label put together a compilation of fifty songs and that kind of floored me when I started thinking in terms of how long I have been doing this. The collection is from about 1994/1995 and I think, “Gosh! I have been doing this a long time, I guess I’ve sung a lot of songs.”  It’s been kind of fun just looking at the list of songs and remembering all sort of associations whether it’s a song that I wrote and who I wrote it with or some of the songs that I covered. I think about the time that I met this person and how now we have got this long thread of history together and friendship. It’s kind of mushy.
When I think of the songs individually, I feel it will be pretty special

The album is a cross of genres then as is, as you say your entire career history?

Yes. A lot of my albums really incorporate a lot of styles. There’s an Elton John song on there that I recorded with Chet Atkins. I used to mess around with some jazzier numbers so there’s a bit of that on there. I think there is quite a bit of the folk influence and probably some country rock influence in there too. In the nineties we were so free to experiment and mingle our different influences that we captured through the years into a song which had serious rock guitar or a dobro or something more earthy or on the organic side of country or folk music.

What I love about the cd is it is an old school double cd, one of those ones that are so big they never fit into cd racks.

Oh yeah haha. Well I feel like Tom Petty or something haha it’s like a boxed set.

It is haha. They don’t make them like that now, it’s all in one case so I am loving this

Isn’t that funny? There are some of us that really like that thing. It’s  moving so much to being on your computer and device now so those of us who just like to pick up something and read it and hold it, there is some of us left.

I picked out the picture, that was a lot of fun. I had all these photos that had been approved but never been used, so I went through them. It was the worst of times and the best of times because I had so much fun going through old pictures but in order to get to them I had to clean my closet in my office and that was holy hell haha. It took days.

It must have been so to take a trip down memory lane though?

Yes and seriously I said to myself; “If you get some time off next winter or something, get back in there and put them in some sort of chronological order.” My mum has kept a scrap book for me every year since I started recording for Capitol and that’s been a wonderful time. I signed with them in 1987 or something like that. She has kept these for me all that time and I don’t even have time to look through just what she has collected. But just to know that it’s there is kind of cool and I know there are some scattered things that I will stick in with the rest of those things.

You mentioned working with Chet Atkins who you worked with quite a lot – what is it about both your creativity that works so well together?

The first thing that happened with Chet and I is that our sense of humour locked together. First time I met him was on a live tv show and you have so many good ones other here where it’s authentically people interacting and it’s not just like this person comes on and then goes off. People actually sit on the couch together and that’s what happens. This was back in the day when there was more of that – sit on the couch together and show a little bit of your honest personality and not what your plugging at the moment. So we just kind of liked each others personalities. I was performing at Dollywood theme park at that point so I didn’t live in Nashville right then. I actually got my my deal with Capitol whilst I was performing at Dollywood so I made my first 45 rpm and when I moved back to Nashville I took it over to Chet’s office and we had a toast to me having a record deal and a record and from that point on I started to really understand who he was because I thought of him as very renowned guitar player and I was so green that I didn’t even realise how many artists he had mentored and given the the stepping stone up the ladder through the years whilst he was producing records at RCA. I was oblivious to that side of the road because I had mostly been booking myself in to ski resorts and worrying about what is the next level of listening room that I can get into so that I can play for more people. The whole record business was new to me and really between hanging out with him and his friends, I really got quite an education on how the music business worked up to that point and how I could sit into it.

As you say back then it was very different, especially on the country music side of things. When you listen to country radio now there seems to be a bit of a struggle for female artists to be played which wasn’t as bad back then as it is now or was it? What was it like back in the nineties?

When I first started there was a lot more of the “good ole boy” network going on. The first was releasing singles. The promotion people who worked to get it played on radio, they would often have about 12 guys in a particular period of time that were working the record and if there was another girl there, often I would get turned down on a independent promotion because there was already a girl. If Patty Loveless had a record out at the same time, they would say, I can’t take you because I already have Patty on this record and it was funny because it pitted us against each other and the funniest part of it was was that we had no part of it, we just had no part of it. We became friends anyway, all of us, even though constantly it was a struggle to try to get started. We got in there and the audience decided they like to listen to a lot of girls singing, especially ones that had their own personality and their own influences that came through in their style and everything and it opened it for us in nineties in a huge way and there were so many of us and we are all buddies still.

You know its great. I have been on tour with two females this year (Pam Tillis and Terri Clark) and we couldn’t be tighter, we love each other. The competition comes from the business side of things. I am sympathetic to what is going on now because it plays into it, they have to do what they have to do but it doesn’t have to interfere with our personal lives.

No and it has made the women in country very much stick together and support each other which is great.

Yes and I remember even back in the day that if there was an opportunity that came up that I couldn’t do I would just say try Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, whoever because of that same reason. We knew that we would get that same respect and friendship back.

Do you listen to much modern country at all?

I don’t listen to radio that much because I am travelling a lot and I choose my material a lot by what I can get on the internet or I what I have personally purchased. There are a lot of artists that I see in the limelight now that I try to at least listen to so I can be Inspired, it’s interesting to me to see how trends are going and what the subject matter is and what the sounds of records is. Im always wanting to go learn something new and it has been interesting to me to watch Miranda Lambert because I have felt like she is like Alison Krauss and a very select group of gals in our genre that have kind of decided to paint their own road and do it the way they would be comfortable and most genuine doing it. So I loved that right off of that, she was taking songwriter friends with her on the road and helping to enlighten her following to stuff that she liked. It’s sort of Oprah Winfrey “I like these books, you will probably like these books” it’s kind of like a referral and I always thought that was kind of cool thing and I feel like there is more of that coming with Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark and a much more open minded viewpoint with a real authentic reverence of music that moved them and captivated them when they were young. That’s what country music means for me, they are stories. It’s a storyboard and usually it has some kind of melodic connection that magnifies that message you are getting in the story. You get the music to even give that much more emotion, when that stuff is lacking when it becomes just clatter I just disconnect, that doesn’t move me. But when a melody is taking me some place, a guitar crying at me or even if an electric guitar is wailing in something, it’s only making those words just a little more emphatic, then I am all in.

I agree.

Are you working in new music?

I am. I have been doing it a long time and I have tried a lot of projects because I have had these wonderful people come into my life and I sort of tend to say: “Hey, you wanna make a project together, that will be fun? ” I did an album of swing music with Ray Benson. I did an acoustic record which was more acoustic jazz with a fella from New York that I met through another project and I did a folk album recently because I had been travelling round with a radio personality in the states that is very well known for his folk things, Garrison Keillor is his name. Then I did an album of all Merle Haggard songs so I have had all these thematic things recently and I kind of felt that my fan base, the people that talk to me on facebook and at the shows were saying “What are you thinking about right now?” Just asking where I was at so I have been putting together new songs that I am getting ready to cut and I am hoping that people still care. I will never stop dancing with the ones that brought me because I have been to too many concerts as a fan myself where the person doesn’t want to sing any of the old songs that were on the radio and then I am broken hearted . So I don’t do that to my folks. I give them as many hits as possible and if they shout out something that I can still get through it without making a mess of it then I will play it.

That’s the beauty of playing in the UK. You can play whatever you want; Old, new, you could have written the song half an hour ago.

That’s the best. It’s so true and also they do their history so much that when I get into deep water and I can’t remember the words to a song, somebody in the audience will haha so they bail me out.

I do hope you will be coming back soon?

I will. When I left in February I was tearful and my agent was there and I said “please please” I have booked myself solid for 2018 but I will be back in 2019 for sure and hopefully I will get to run all over the place, it will be fun.

Yes do, you are always welcome here.

Thank you!

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