Suzy Wilson Pushes Boundaries and Breaks the Rules
Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
Melodic metal vocalist/songwriter Suzy Wilson, who currently lives in Houston, Texas, started pursuing music seriously about seven years ago. She released her debut EP ‘The Best Revenge’ on March 3rd, 2015, is working on follow-up material, and is helping a friend with a heart-warming project involving hand-written notes from his late wife.
Suzy has been participating in Rock and Roll Fantasy camp and shared the stage with members of Cheap Trick, Simon Kirke, Joe Vitale, Vinny Appice, and Rudy Sarzo, and has upcoming RRFC scheduled performances with Paul Stanley and members of Judas Priest. Suzy is also very involved with Cruefest Hollywood, an annual event in memory of Skylar Neil, Vince Neil’s daughter who lost her battle with cancer at age four.
Suzy is very appreciative and supportive of others in the music community and thankful for the support that her friends and family have given her. Please visit Suzy Wilson online, check out her debut EP ‘The Best Revenge,’ and come to one of her upcoming RRFC performances if you’re in the Los Angeles area!
METAL BABE MAYHEM: What got you interested in being a vocalist/songwriter in the first place?
SUZY WILSON: Well I think I probably starting singing before I could talk. I’ve always been a singer.Growing up in a small town in Mississippi, (1,150 people) there weren’t many opportunities… But any time, anywhere, if they would let me, I sang.
In 1980, when I first moved to Houston, I started talking about auditioning to sing with a band, but my family was less than supportive. So I figured they were trying to tell me something, so I pretty much stopped singing except to my son when he was little. He is an amazing singer but he had never heard me sing in public. So when he was in high school, he wanted me to sing so he could hear me.
I knew a musician who had a studio in his house, so for Christmas that year, he got a CD of me singing along with some karaoke tracks as his gift.
As for writing, I have made a living as a writer for most of my life working in Public Relations and Advertising. But I didn’t really have the opportunity to write songs until about seven years ago. While working on that covers CD for my son, that person said, “You’re a singer and you’re a writer, why don’t you write songs?” And that is pretty much where it started.
MBM: Who are your biggest musical influences?
SUZY: That’s a really hard question. There are so many. When I was a little girl, one of my friends had an older brother who loved hard rock. So I grew up listening to really dark, heavy music. Bands like The Doors, Deep Purple, Steppenwolf, Cream, The Who, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, and Frank Zappa… But the writer in me also loves all the singer/songwriters. One of my all time favorites is Leon Russell. I also love Dan Fogelberg, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Joan Baez, James Taylor, Jackson Browne… Also I’m very influenced by a lot of newer bands like Adelitas Way, Sick Puppies, Halestorm, Shinedown, SIXX:AM and Murder FM.
MBM: How would you describe your musical style to someone who has never heard you?
SUZY: I would call it melodic metal. Some songwriter friends, when they first heard my songs and recovered from their shock, said that I sounded like Joan Baez meets Judas Priest. Simon Kirke (Free/Bad Company) said I sound like “Joni Mitchell meets Metallica.” I think I sound like me. Rock & Roll is about pushing the boundaries and breaking rules. It’s about taking what influences you and turning it into something that represents you. Most people, even people who know me are really surprised when they first hear the EP. I don’t know what they were expecting, but apparently it wasn’t metal.
MBM: Tell me about your EP, ‘The Best Revenge’ (released March 3rd, 2015).
SUZY: I started working on it around 2009. The very first song I ever wrote was the song that is first on the EP, “Wishing.” Like some of the songs on the EP, it is an autobiographical song. Over the years, I worked with various people and studios and things kept evolving. A lot of it was very frustrating because I hadn’t found the right people to work with yet. At one point, I was ready to just give up because I had spent countless hours and more money than I want to think about and had basically nothing to show for it. At that point, Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp announced their first ever Songwriters’ Camp, which gave me the encouragement to keep working.
MBM: Oh wow. What’s your songwriting process like?
SUZY: It varies. Sometimes I write lyrics and then work with musicians to get the music the way I want it. Others, I have written lyrics to go with existing music. The song “Fun Part Yet” was originally written to some existing blues music. The person I was working with had written and recorded the music for someone else and they decided not to do that song. So I wrote that song to go with that music, but over time it evolved into something else. But I always write with others because writing music isn’t one of my strengths. However, most of the time, I do have an idea of what I want the music to be.
Sometimes, I use different techniques to come up with lyrics. Sometimes, thoughts just pop into my head and I go with those. Right now I’m working on a different project, where I’ve been asked to turn someone else’s writing into a song.
MBM: Can you tell us anything else about that project?
SUZY: When I was at that first Songwriters’ Camp, several people were beginners and so we helped them take things they had written and turn them into a song. There was one song that we were working on and everyone was looking at each other and no one wanted to ask the question. But someone finally did ask and it was a true story. That gentleman’s wife had cancer and only a few more months to live and the song was from him to her. It was a very moving song. He and I are still good friends. I often send him messages about things that I see that he has written that would make a good song. We both did the most recent Songwriters’ Camp together again. He handed me a piece of paper with about a half page of text. It was the message that his wife left to be read after her passing. I am very honored that he asked me to take that and a few other pieces of her writing and turn them into a song as well. It’s a very different experience for me, and a challenge because I only want to use her words in the song. He also performed his song for the first time ever at that Camp.
MBM: Wow. That’s amazing. I can’t wait to hear the final song. Where do you typically get your inspiration from?
SUZY: Everywhere. Things I’m reading. People watching. People I know. Nature. Other musicians. Or ideas just pop into my head. I always have a pad of paper & a pencil with me. Or I make notes in my phone. If I’m having trouble, there are a couple of different writing exercises that I use to kick start things.
MBM: What type of writing exercises do you use?
SUZY: One is to take a book, magazine, even junk emails, really whatever you have handy, and spend ten minutes just writing down as many three-word phrases as you can. Then once the time is up, you go through what you have and see if you can tell a story from that. Sometimes you just get a phrase that sets the process in motion. Sometimes, you can write almost a whole song just from those phrases.
MBM: Wow. That’s really interesting. You collaborated with several other musicians on your EP. Who did you collaborate with and what did they add?
SUZY: On what became the EP, I worked with a group of friends who are musicians. We had a lot of fun working together. One of the things I was really excited about was that my son, who is an amazing singer/songwriter himself, sang backing vocals on one song.
Most of the other guys on the EP are musician friends who at least at that time were all from Dallas. That would be Andy, Jason, and Taylor Yohn, Dewey Haggard, Chris Ellington, and Taylor Dennis. They would come down and stay at my house. Then we would work on music for a few days here and there. Dave Coronado is the only other Houstonian involved. He is totally insane, but in a really good way. I love working in the studio with him. It’s one of those things about finding a person who is the same sort of crazy as you are. He is a really talented musician and singer. Dave really cares about how things sound and about capturing your best. He was constantly telling me that I was a really good singer and I could do a better take. He would actually listen to my vision. I can’t thank him enough for helping me pull everything together.
MBM: It’s great to have someone to work with who understands your vision.
SUZY: I have to also mention the absolutely fantastic Steven Talbott, who came up with the artwork for the EP and my website. When we were talking about what I wanted, I said that I wanted something that looked like one thing at first glance and then something totally different when you look at it further. People look at me and expect one thing, but once they get to know me, I’m not at all what they first expected. A lot of people seem to expect my music to be something other than what it is. I think that he did such a great job making my vision come to life. I really love his artwork, period, but this is my absolute favorite.
MBM: Steven Talbott is amazing and has helped with Metal Babe Mayhem art as well! I love that concept and how he made it a reality. You’ve participated in the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp a few times and have some really exciting shows coming up. How has this experience been?
SUZY: Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp is one of the most amazing experiences in my life. It’s really hard toput into words just how life changing it has been. It is one time in music, where everyone is there working together. No competition, no egos. It’s the most supportive environment ever. You work eight plus hours a day with your rock star mentor, who could be Simon Kirke, Joe Vitale, Vinny Appice, or Rudy Sarzo… The staff are all so wonderful.
I made some really amazing friends, and got a lot of positive feedback and support. They are all thanked on my EP because without their support I’m not sure I would have ever finished it. My counselor for that particular Camp was Joe Vitale. He is so talented and such a wonderful person and just a great mentor. I have been back to two more Songwriters’ Camps and both have been wonderful experiences.
During another Songwriters’ Camp I got to perform a Cheap Trick song with Robin Zander, Rick Neilsen, and Tom Peterson of Cheap Trick, Simon Kirke, and Joe Vitale. Also, I performed a version of one of my songs at the HOB Vegas with Simon Kirke and some songs we wrote at Camp at both Lucky Strike and The Whisky with Louise Goffin.
I have two trips booked this year to perform with the RRFC to perform at The Whisky in June with Paul Stanley and in August with four members of Judas Priest.
MBM: Wow. That’s amazing. What would you say have been your biggest highlights so far?
SUZY: One of the biggest highlights has to be David Fishof of RRFC getting up at Camp and telling everyone there all about my EP. Also, a friend told me David played my EP for him at his house. Getting to perform with Robin Zander is also a big highlight. He is just an amazing singer. I not only got to perform with him and the other guys from Cheap Trick, but we had conversation about the song we sang. It is something I will remember forever.
MBM: What last words do you have for our readers?
SUZY: Support your friends. Regardless of what they are doing,
work, hobbies, dreams, be there for them. When I was younger,
I didn’t have that support so I walked away from my dreams.
So when I see people starting a band, or a new business or any endeavor,
I give them as much of my support as I can
because I know what it’s like to not have that support.
Follow your dreams, don’t give up, and don’t let situations or
people keep you 3from doing what you know you were meant to do.
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