Angela: I'm hoping I have Susan Werner on the phone.
Susan: You do.
Angela: Good morning
Susan: Good morning Angela,
Angela: I guess it's afternoon!
Susan: Yeah, it happened, it happened again.
Angela: Well you were up late last night.
Susan: We were doing the work.
Angela: Yes. I've been listening to your stuff, for quite awhile now
and I saw you last night live. You have a real great stage
Susan: Thanks, it's really fun to do. I think having been a performer, really early age, like age four, age five.
Angela: That helps.
Susan: Your well, it makes it easy. It's like it's that thing you know you can do.
Angela: So, you were joking about opera, did you really do opera?
Susan: I really did opera, yeah.
Angela: I can tell with some of your set, although goofing around at
the end, that kind of patty Larkin, Martin Sexton feel -you
play around with your voice there and I thought "Man I bet she did Opera!"
Susan: I really did opera.
Angela: I can hear that. You've got jazz feelings in there and everything. I bet you've done a bit of everything.
Susan: I have done a lot of different things. I was doing opera
very seriously I moved to Philadelphia to study with a voice
teacher that's what I would to do what I grew up. And then I grew up and realized that maybe that wasn't when it was going
to do when those change moments when you realize that you're not going to be Leontene Price. I deal with that. Most
people make a decision at age six months that they're not going to be a star on stage at the Met. For some of us it takes a
little longer like to realize we're not quite gonna make it.
Angela: Well I think you probably could have made it because
you have a fabulous voice, but I'm glad you didn't because
you are some guitarist and we wouldn't hear that if you were in Opera.
Susan: Well the nice thing about doing this business too, in terms
of the acoustic circuit is that you get to write your own
material the main complaint of classical musicians I know is that they played the same stuff.
Angela: And it's not theirs.
Susan: And it's not theirs, and over and over it's the same routine.
Even if it's a brilliant routine, it is still a routine. And
everybody on the circuit is making up stuff as they go along in making up new songs, you try and make yourself play
better, or sing higher or lower or something. And that kind of challenge isn't available to people in the classical world I've
really come to enjoy that so many classical people have come to me and said that, they see that difference and they envy
Angela: it sort of limiting creativity going into the classical.
Susan: It's just a routine. You master a routine and that's what
to do - night after night. You do these arias, it's brilliant. All
us are amazed they can do it! "You hit that high E flat. How can you do it?" But once you can do it then you just keep doing
it. You know.
Angela: Over and over.
Susan: Over and over and over.
Angela: Who do you admire, in writing or in the guitarist world?
Susan: Somebody that I am flipping out over this year and would
have flipped out if I'd known about him earlier - is James
McMurtry. Boy he's a brilliant writer. A song like "Level Land" That's just amazing stuff.
Angela: I wish I had that I could just go right into it after we talked. I don't have it handy.
Susan: And he's with Sugar Hill now, he's not with Columbia. Columbia
felt like "he's really brilliant but he's too acoustic or
he's too folky, his details are too sharp we can't bear to support him."
Angela: There are a lot of people who are unknown and shouldn't be.
Susan: yeah a thing they just felt that they couldn't support him anymore.
He's on Sugar Hill. He might benefit in fact if you
guys played him. He is great. I think your audience would really enjoy him.
Angela: I'm sure they would. Anybody you wish would cover one of your tunes? (She laughs) Here is your chance!
Susan: I don't know. Cover my tunes?
Angela: Maybe sing a duet with? Let's see. I interviewed
Patty Larkin… who'd she say? …it was so interesting…escapes
Susan: Having done at tour with Richard Tompson I'd really like to do a duet.
Angela: Oh, that was it! It was Richard Tompson.
Susan: Oh really?
Angela: Yeah, that was it.
Susan: He's pretty widely admired.
Angela: Yeah, I guess so.
Susan: I mean the guy -besides being a great musician - he's just
a very very smart guy. He is also just a really winning
guy. Personally. So it would be fun to work with him. And it would be successful to work with him. Yeah, he'd be great. I'd
really like to do a duet, if I could find the right song, I'd like to do a duet with Marty Sexton at some point.
Angela: I would love to hear that.
Susan: Yeah, that would be fun. I've just got to find the right song.
Angela: Someone leaned over to me during the show last night and
said, "Man she is like a female Sexton, don't you
think?" You do a lot of the same, playing with your voices and performance stance, there is something there. It would be
neat to see you guys together. The song I just played a couple of cuts ago was a Greg Simon tune ("The Great Out There")
actually. I wanted to ask you one of the questions you ask in the song "Who will you be when you are finally who you are?"
Who do you imagine being/doing in 5 years, 10 years, what would you love?
Susan: I can talk about this in a funny way. About 3 years ago
I realized I am who I wanted to be when I was a kid. That was
a funny moment.
Angela: So you are there?
Susan: Yeah. When I was a little kid, I kind of dreamed about
playing guitar and singing songs somehow. I had some
picture of it. About three years ago I realized I really was it. I was that thing. That's a funny moment to realize you are what
you wanted to be. Now to go on from here? I think I'm looking for my own signature in terms of writing a really distinctive
way of approaching words or of approaching the song.
Angela: When you have a chance, when I hear you brand new, and
I've heard a lot of stuff over 20 years, the old way
would have taken it a certain place and you don't take it there. You don't repeat a lot. You have a new way of saying
something, you end something a little differently. I wish I had some quotes right at my fingers. You definitely…I don't
know...you're doing some writing classes or something. Or do you have a good group of people that you meet with, give
each other a hard time and push each other?
Susan: There is a community of writers in Philadelphia. I'm taking
a short story class now and that is really challenging. It
sounds like your listeners are pretty plugged into the acoustic circuit in terms of Gorka and all these folks. Something I said
to Patty Larkin last time I saw her was that I really admire that she, I thought, really found her own signature. She writes in a
way that is really idiosyncratic to her. You hear a song, and she really has a way of turning a song around. It really sounds
like her. And I think, I feel I have the seeds of that. And I just want to keep over the next years working on that.
Angela: Well I first heard you, just sitting in a parking lot, a couple of years ago on World Cafe I think.
Susan: Oh yeah.
Angela: I thought that maybe I had your CD and I went home to
listen to it. You had your own sound then, and you are
developing it. When I was listening that night, I couldn't get out of the car and to join the people I was going to meet. I just
sat and listened and listened - "Angie's sitting out there in her car out there, what is she doing?"- and couldn't turn off World
Cafe. It was a very powerful sounding interview and voice of a woman who knew where she was going.
Susan: It's been a fun time since then. Since the
"Last Of the Good Straight Girls" album. With the support of a major label
company it created a national career. I'm really grateful for that.
Angela: So tell us about tonight.
Susan: Oh, tonight, yeah, I'm playing the Bottom Line with Janis Ian.
Angela: Oh, yeah, playing the Bottom Line with Janis Ian (as if this happens everyday)
Susan: Yeah (laughing) she makes a fabulous show. Somebody
said that she really stole the show at Falcon Ridge this
Angela: Yeah she did. I was there. She really
really did. I always liked her. She was always fabulous and
fabulous. I think it eluded me how good she is on guitar though until Falcon Ridge.
Susan: I think that's right. When I saw her a year ago, my jaw
was open the whole time. I thought, "Oh my god" Everything
is right. Her writing is brilliant. The details cut you 'til you bleed. Right on the money. And then she sings with such intensity
and focus that you don't miss it. You know, you are not waiting for commercials you are right there the whole time with her
'cause she's there the whole time. Then she is up and down the fret board, it's like "Holy God" She really puts on a
wonderful show. Maybe the best show on this circuit. She is amazing.
Angela: She played with Cheryl Wheeler, Greg Brown and David Wilcox.
Angela: The four of them played and what a night! We didn't
want them to stop. But Janis was tops.
So for people visiting and on their way back to the city, Bottom Line, tonight. You can catch Susan, you can catch Janis Ian.
Thanks for calling in!
Susan: You're very welcome.
Angela: We are going right to...well I've chosen "Still Believe" unless you'd like to chose something else.
Susan: No that's sweet. That's a good one.
Angela: Positive. I like it. So thanks a lot. Here's Susan
Werner and her tune Still Believe.