• 2015 – Canadian Folk Music Nomination for Solo Artist of the Year
ABOUT OH SUSANNA
Suzie Ungerleider began performing as Oh Susanna in the mid-1990s, crafting a persona that matched the timeless qualities of her music, sounds that drew from the deep well of early 20th Century folk, country and blues, yet rooted in her finely-honed storytelling skills. This Canadian songstress has a voice that can pierce a heart of stone. Her superbly crafted songs often tell stories of troubled souls who rebel against their circumstances to attain a quiet dignity. These are tales of longing and love, of small town joys and pains, of our simple feelings and strong passions. These are tales that look into our beautifully flawed human hearts.
Born in Massachusetts and raised in Vancouver, Suzie first recorded a cassette of seven songs for a couple hundred bucks, making 50 copies and catching the attention of the music industry before Alt-Country even had a name. The positive reaction she received inspired Suzie to quit her day job as a library clerk and take her chances in Toronto. Soon after, she recorded her internationally acclaimed debut album Johnstown with assistance from Bazil Donovan (Blue Rodeo), Peter Moore (Cowboy Junkies) and Bob Egan (Wilco/Blue Rodeo).
The follow-up, Sleepy Little Sailor, firmly established her reputation within what was then known as Alt-Country circles, and her third, eponymously titled album from 2003 found Suzie expanding her sound in an exciting roots rock direction. After pausing to start a family, she returned in 2007 with the stunning collection, Short Stories, bolstered by a top-notch band anchored by a rhythm section comprised of her husband Cam Giroux (Weeping Tile) and Bazil Donovan (Blue Rodeo), along with a crew of string-bending virtuosos including Luke Doucet, Kevin Fox, Joey Wright and Burke Carroll. This group reconvened for 2011’s Soon The Birds, which brilliantly blended the stark beauty of her early work with fleshed-out ensemble arrangements.
Looking back at how her career developed, Suzie says that she definitely had a narrow focus at the beginning, drawing on American influences such as Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, Tom Waits, and field recordings of traditional balladry which she maintains was necessary for her to find her voice. However, Suzie now says, “In order to grow and feel inspired, I have to open up my field of vision. The drawback is that people still want to define you somehow. At the same time, whatever music I make will always have similar themes of people at the crossroads, trying to cope with the situations they’re in.”
In that respect, Namedropper is vintage Oh Susanna, in spite of the songs coming from other sources. Interpreting those words with her unique combination of grit and subtlety has made them her own, while also providing ample proof that Canada’s songwriting tradition is in safe hands with this generation of artists. Being a member of that community has even moved Suzie to pursue her Canadian citizenship, and now that she’s healthy, she fully expects to have new material ready to record in the not too distant future.
Namedropper: Someone who tries to impress others by casually mentioning the names of
illustrious people she knows or may have met.
Namedropper: Oh Susanna’s new album: A killer collection of songs written for her by some
of Canada’s best songwriters.
This project is about friendship. Through music we want to express our admiration, gratitude, and respect for our fellow Canadian songwriters. They kick us in the ass. They break our hearts. They inspire. We have been making records of our own songs for over 15 years. Our music has made us part of an amazingly talented and generous community. Now it is time to show off our friends’ talents by recording their songs. We have been given songs by Ron Sexsmith, Royal Wood, Jim Cuddy, Joel Plaskett, Luke Doucet, Jay Harris, Rueben deGroot, Melissa McClelland, Amelia Curran, Old Man Luedecke, Keri Latimer of Nathan, and The Good Lovelies.
These artists have generously given us their time and talent to write songs specifically for this project, all of which have never been recorded before. Diamonds in the rough that we have been given to polish and make shine. We aim to do them proud!
Oh Susanna and Jim Bryson
Namedropper marks a place in Oh Susanna’s journey…one where she has proven herself as songwriter and is now paying tribute to her comrades. Many times Oh Susanna, aka Suzie Ungerleider, has been a lone woman on stage, singing songs about personal journeys and crossroads. But this singing of songs, this sharing of stories, has brought her friendship and connection into a community of fellow misfits and renegades.
“When I first started singing and performing, I was completely alone onstage. The characters in my songs reflected that loneliness. But music has brought me so much connection: to myself and to other people. It even brought me to my husband. So music, which was an expression of loneliness and individual struggle, has brought me out of loneliness and made me a part of a community. So it made sense to make a record that was symbolic of that transition from loneliness to communion.”
“Namedropper is an album that pays tributes to her many friends in the close singer-songwriter community. Initially, Suzie imagined it would be simply an ordinary covers record. But when she approached her old friend Jim Bryson to produce the album, he hatched a new idea. He decided they should ask artists to write brand new songs specifically for the album. Suzie agreed and much to their delight, their friends were more than happy to oblige.
It made perfect sense that the catalyst for this new approach was Jim Bryson, Suzie’s chief collaborator on Namedropper. Being old friends, Suzie instinctively knew he would want to explore different musical possibilities with her relatively straightforward concept. “Jim is always subverting,” she says. “That’s not my tendency as a musician, I’m usually more classic in my approach but I wanted to be brought into this other space and that’s why I asked him to work with me on this record. I also wanted to sing other people’s songs in order to do music in a way I hadn’t done before. Jim thought that made total sense, but he immediately had the idea of asking people we knew to write something new for me.”
Jim explains, “Suzie pitched me on doing a record of covers from people she knew, but I just heard ‘covers’ and immediately thought, ‘That sounds okay, but I’m not sure.’ Then on the spot I suggested having people write the songs. It was honestly just a random thought I vocalized, and dang me if it didn’t work out great!”
Suzie continues, “We were able to jump onto the songs when they were still in a fragile, untested state. Then we watched them become three-dimensional and I got to inhabit the character of the song. I got to be an actor bringing the script to life while Jim got to be the director of this movie.”
“I like to think that Suzie and I have a mutual crush,” Jim concludes. “Professionally, it’s like a marriage of sorts. We respect each other and maybe push each other’s buttons a bit because of the familiarity. Honestly, her voice always stops me dead in my tracks.”
The process of making Namedropper went smoothly from its beginnings in 2012 up to its near-completion in the spring of 2013. It was then that Suzie received the difficult news that she had breast cancer. Her initial reaction was actually a sense of guilt that her ensuing treatment would put the brakes on what had become a highly anticipated musical project for her, her collaborators and fans. But the love and support from fans and friends only intensified over the next year as Suzie recovered. That support and anticipation now culminates with Suzie and her label, Sonic Unyon, proudly releasing Namedropper on October 7, 2014.
Namedropper Track List
1. Oregon (Jim Bryson)
2. Into My Arms (Joel Plaskett)
3. Goodnight (Royal Wood)
4. Cottonseed (Keri Latimer)
5. Wait Until The Sun Comes Up (Ron Sexsmith)
6. Mozart For The Cat (Melissa McClelland)
7. Provincial Parks (Old Man Luedecke)
8. Letterbomb (Luke Doucet)
9. Loved You More (Amelia Curran)
10. 1955 (Jay Harris)
11. Savings And Loan (Rueben deGroot)
12. This Guy (The Good Lovelies)
13. Dying Light (Jim Cuddy)
14. I Love The Way She Dresses (Ron Sexsmith/Angaleena Presley)