Story by John Chambrone
TAMPA—Calling from her home in Wellfleet, Massachusetts on a rare day off, a very excited Suede had some news to share. It has been five years since her last studio release, On the Day we Met, and her fans have been anxiously awaiting new material. The wait is close to being over. Promising that a new CD is “in the works,” Suede agrees it is long overdue.
The year has seen some changes for team Suede. David Pearl, her chief arranger, collaborator and pianist has moved on. The two have worked together for over twenty years, but Pearl decided to pursue some things on his own and Suede is very proud of him.
Pearl has been replace by pianist extraordinaire, Janice Friedman, and Suede says the two are planning on heading into the studio soon, with a more-than-likely spring 2007 CD release. Until then, they will continue touring, and have scheduled not one, but two upcoming Tampa Bay performances. On October 6 Suede will perform at the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival’s Gala Night at the Tampa Museum of Art. She will return to the Bay area February 23 and 24, 2007, where she will be headlining Winter Pride! Suede says she is very excited to be here for two of the area’s biggest gay events.
A day at the beach is her favorite way to spend a day off, so when she comes to town Suede plans on taking advantage of the Suncoast’s beautiful beaches. Being close to the beach is one thing she loves about living in Wellfleet, and she tries to make it out there as much as she can — when she isn’t busy in the office.
A driven individual, Suede admits to not being very good at actually taking a day off. It is that drive that has provided her with the career that she so adores. Without that drive, she says she seriously doubts she could have been doing what she loves for the past twenty-five years. “I have been fortunate enough and privileged enough to have made my entire living with my music and performance, in spite of not being able to get signed by any major record label in the industry. I jumped in and was committed to doing this.” After continual rejection by record labels, the entertainer decided that she was smart enough and determined enough to do it on her own. “It is ironic to see the number of major stars at this point who are going independent now, after years of being with the big labels, having to give up so much artistic control. I am very fortunate that I have been able to do it on my own, and have complete artistic control.” It would have been great to have the financial support of a label handing her a million dollars and being set up with folks to get the album done in six weeks. Suede called it “challenging,” but also said that she wouldn’t trade it for a minute.
Suede is famous for recording songs of other artists and making them her own. Her signature tune is one such cover, “Miss Celie’s Blues,” from The Color Purple. Another favorite is, “Remember Who You Are,” which she says is “really empowering,” with its simple, yet profound message. “We all feel that as we are moving through our lives, as wonderful as they may be, we always run into these things that cause us stress and make us forget who we are and what it is we have to c o n t r i b u t e . Even if you are able to slow down and go ‘wait a minute I am who I am and that is who I am going to be in this moment, then I will contribute my best.’” That song has been getting some attention lately. Aside from being on an HRC compilation CD, “Remember Who You Are” caught the attention of daytime television and was recently featured on an episode of The Young and The Restless. “It is a great song and I am thrilled that it is getting exposure and getting out into the world in a big way.”
Another project that is getting a lot of exposure lately is her DVD, Suede Live at Sculler’s Jazz Club. Recorded at the nationally renowned jazz club in Boston, the DVD has been shown on PBS stations across the country. The executiveproducer of the DVD also served as Suede’s manager for a while, and she went on a crusade to have the special aired on television. PBS was interested , and it has aired on a regular basis as a part of their fund drives for thirty different affiliate stations. “I am thrilled about this because it is raising money for PBS, which I am behind 100 percent. It is great because it is the individual station managers that get to choose whether they are going to air it or not so, statistically speaking, to have 30 stations so far, pick it up, we are told that is pretty phenomenal. That is particularly thrilling.”
Suede is one of those singers who you either love — or you haven’t heard yet. Tampa got a taste of her talent ten years ago when she was touring with the gay singing group, The Flirtations. The group performed at the Tampa Theatre for part of the GALA V chorus festival in 1996. Although they disbanded shortly after, Suede still keeps in touch with the guys. When she is home, she sees Jon Arterton quite often since they only live fifteen minutes apart. Arterton married his partner a year ago and they put together a musical in Provincetown called Just Married, that deals with the history of marriage and everything that is going on with it right now. “Jon is doing great stuff. Jimmy (Rutland) is down in Atlanta doing music. We are not in touch as much — the distance thing makes it difficult — but as far as I know he is also doing well; we are all good.”
For those unfamiliar with her sound, Suede’s style is difficult to categorize. “I usually end up saying I am a popular-jazz-blues singer and entertainer, absolutely entertainer. There are so many jazz singers who sort of stand up on stage and do a Miles Davis sort of a thing. It is very individual and consumed and you are having your moment with the music, but I am also absolutely an entertainer along the lines of like the classics like Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Dean Martin. Having fun with the show is a major, major piece of my craft of the work that I do.” With her new accompanist on board, Suede can’t wait to hit the road again. Calling it a “Grand Evening,” she encourages everyone to come out and support the Film Festival. She will be performing a lot of her new material that will end up on her new CD as well as songs from her DVD. “I am thrilled to be a part of the Film Festival and am really looking forward to coming back for Winter Pride.” FMI www.suedewave.com.
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