Interview with THAT GIRL: Suzie Brown

Suzie Brown, a singer, songwriter, mother, and cardiologist, is about to release her third album with her husband, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter Scot Sax. Despite studying medicine for nearly half her life, Suzie has always had great affinity for music; from listening to Whitney Houston tapes in her room and memorizing the words to taking the risk and joining an a cappella group during her studies at Dartmouth. But it wasn’t until she was left heartbroken by the end of a relationship whilst at University of Pennsylvania did Suzie take plunge and picked up a pen and a guitar to write her first song. Seven months and several songs later, she sold out one of Philadelphia’s best live venues. And the rest they say is history…

Credit: Stacie
Credit: Stacie Huckeba

1) Your new album ‘Our Album Doesn’t Like You Either’, a collaboration with your husband, musician Scot Sax, is sonically very different from your previous albums. Was this a conscious decision to incorporate more elements of country and bluegrass into your music? Or was it just the nature of living in Nashville where these elements seeped into the music?

It’s a little bit of a lot of things but mostly living in Nashville and combining forces with Scot, who has a rock background and has been deep into blues lately. Country/Blues/Bluegrass was a nice middle ground for our styles.

2) I read in an interview that you recorded ‘Almost There’ live as you felt the imperfections of recording this way “make you feel things” that a more controlled recording environment doesn’t allow. Did you approach ‘Our Album Doesn’t Like You Either’ in the same way or do you find each album calls for its’ own distinct way of working?

We sure did. The album was recorded live in 3 days with good friends and a lotta laughs.

3) When making ‘Our Album Doesn’t Like You Either’, what subject matter did you draw from for inspiration?

Life! Love, heartache, frustration, and this time unlike other times, pregnancy.

4) Your new album is a collaboration with your husband, musician Scot Sax. Did you find that you couldn’t be as personal in your songwriting, or maybe even as honest in comparison to your solo material?

Scot is my best friend in the world, and I generally wear my heart on my sleeve, so anything I would write about in a song is stuff we would’ve talked about anyways. I’m very lucky that way!

5) What is your songwriting process like?

I generally start with an experience I want to write about, or a specific lyric idea, and work from there. One very fun part of living in Nashville is co-writing, i.e. writing with other people. I rarely did that before moving here.  It can be very freeing.  One person comes with a lyric idea and the other(s) comes with a melody idea or vice versa, or you start from scratch and see what happens! Two of the songs on this album were ones I wrote with other Nashville writers.

6) Who are your biggest inspirations, both musically and non-musically?

Musically…there are so many! Old Bonnie Raitt, Patty Griffin, Kathleen Edwards, Gillian Welch, Brandi Carlile. And I’ve been really digging on Kacey Musgraves lately – I love how she incorporates so much humor into her songs and doesn’t take herself too seriously. Non-musically – Scot and my daughter Josephine have to be top on that list!

7) You play guitar, and I understand for this album you also play bass. What made you decide to add another instrument to your repertoire and did you teach yourself?

Scot and I officially combined our musical worlds this year. We realized the only way we could continue to tour is if we toured together as a family. Scot is a multi-instrumentalist and in addition to being an outstanding guitar player, he plays foot percussion during our shows. With me on the bass, we’re kinda like a full band with just two people. And yep, am teaching myself!

8) Out of all the songs you’ve written and recorded, which one(s) means the most to you?

That’s a hard one because it changes depending on what I’m going through. One of the ones I’m most proud of is “Song For Amy”’ from my ‘Heartstrings’ album, which I wrote about a good friend who died. That came from such a deep, deep place, and I think really painted the picture of what I was feeling. I’m not always able to capture my experience that well.

9) Whilst I was doing my research for this interview, the concepts of perfection and imperfection seemed to be very much a part of your journey, particularly when you first started writing songs and making music. I AM THAT GIRL is very much about embracing our imperfections and taking ownership of them. Can you talk about how perfection/imperfection has played a role in your life and career, and whether they mean different things to you as you’ve gotten older?

What a HUGE question! Well, my fear of imperfection stopped me from even trying to write songs until I was in my mid 30’s – what a waste!

The beauty of getting older for me has been coming to terms with my imperfections, and accepting what I can and can’t do. I think we continue to come to terms with ourselves throughout our lives. 

Music has been a wonderful and ‘safe’ place for me to be vulnerable and imperfect. Particularly when I started out, I could express things in a song that I would never have said in conversation. I learned fairly quickly that when you allow people to see your vulnerable side, you feel less alone and more at peace.

10) What advice would you give to both women and men who are wanting to break-free of what is expected of them and forge their own path in the world?  

Keep your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds!

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