50 over 50 interviewees – Suzi Woods – Vocalist and Songwriter

  1.   Tell us more about yourself.  What do you do and how long you’ve been working in this industry?

I am a vocalist and a songwriter who has been involved in music since 1987.

I began as a backing singer in a fantastic local band doing original numbers. From there, I was asked to sing local radio jingles which then led to one of the DJs liking my music and asking to manage me.

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He put me together with a talented guitarist/songwriter Vic Saul and we formed a partnership called ‘Building Rome’. In our first year, we were picked up by Jools Holland and invited to accompany him and his band on a complete UK tour. Subsequently, we recorded our first EP at his studio.

Even without a record deal, we pressed 1000 CDs. We ended up on Radio 1 and 2, and had our first live television on BBC1’s ‘Daytime Live’. However, this taught us a huge lesson in how important it was to have everything buttoned up first, i.e. record deal first, then distribution. I still have a few hundred copies in my attic!

  1.  Who did you want to be when you were a kid?

I wanted to be every leading lady in those MGM musicals that they showed on TV every Saturday afternoon.

To the jeers of my 3 brothers, I would weep unashamedly at the tear-jerkers and would soar with the rousing finales of every classic movie that I was allowed to see. I still imagine that I’m Doris, Judy or Marilyn.  🙂

  1.  What was your ‘punch in the stomach’ or when did you first realise that this is going to become your career?

I knew from the age of 6 that I wanted to sing. Whenever we visited my wonderful and much missed Grandad, he would encourage and help me pick out old tunes on the piano.

We then moved from Shropshire to Berkshire and I tentatively asked my strapped-for-cash parents if I would be able to go to Stage school now (considering that we were practically going to be living in London). I was 10 and got the answer I was expecting.

Later we moved to Malta and I was lucky enough to be picked as principal girl for the island’s only pantomime. Over 2 years it was performed for more than 10 days at the fabulous Manoel Theatre in Valletta. That was when the dream to sing and perform really took hold.

  1.  What were the 3 biggest obstacles in pursuit of your career?

It’s hard not to sound a little sorry for myself but I believe the following to be the truth:

1) No blame intended, but lack of family support. We were a relatively large family (5 kids) with very limited means, travelling a lot with my Dad’s job, so my passion was outside their understanding and experience.

2) Perhaps as a result of the above, I had no grounding/training in my chosen career and learning from mistakes is a slow and costly way to proceed. It also meant that I had (and still have) zero business contacts who could have potentially helped me.

3) Lack of self-belief, or self-sabotage.

  1.  Where do you find inspiration?

For writing? That’s easy. In my life experiences, in the mood of a moment, the beauty of a sunset, the sound of the sea, the rhythm of my walking – anything that touches the senses.

For attempting to pursue a career in music? The greats such as Ella, Nina and Louis Armstrong, who had absolutely nothing but their talent, yet who overcame poverty, bigotry and political turmoil to rise to the top.

Today, I find inspiration in the young, talented acoustic acts that play, write and perform just because there’s a need in them to do so.

  1. What challenges do you face in this industry as a ‘50+ artist’?

The ‘industry’ has undergone seismic changes since the ‘90s and in my opinion, has become fairly “youth” obsessed. While the invention of the internet has meant that more artists, such as myself, would appear to be more in control of their destinies, in truth it has become an over-subscribed free-for-all. Never has a Unique Selling Point been more important than now and I’m still looking for mine – maybe being a stubborn 50-something singer/songwriter is it. Although I suspect I am not unique in this.

Age-ism is a toughie too. In my heart, I believe it’s all over the bar the shouting…. it’s just that I refuse to stop shouting!

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  1.  What advice would you give to someone who is about to start their career but is being told that it’s “too late”?

Ha! Do you know that I was told this when I was 25?! It was an A&R man who came to one of our ‘Building Rome’ gigs and asked my age! Self-defeating and IDIOTICALLY, I believed him when he told me that I was too old!

So my advice to anyone starting out in this business is: DO NOT LISTEN TO ANYONE BUT YOUR OWN CONVICTION, listen to the passion that has pushed you this far and run with all your might towards your goal. I listened to my inner doubt and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. So throw off the baggage of inner and outer negativity, and just run.

  1.  Do you have any idols and if so, who and why?

Leaving aside the lead vocalist in the first band I sang for and who tragically passed away a year and a half ago (God bless you Jim Hickman), my first would be Cole Porter. I adore his writing, both lyrical and melodic. I’m sad that we seem to be living in a more prosaic world where the poetry and wit of his music are quite often greeted with a groan of boredom or even embarrassment. As a not-very-prolific songwriter myself, I marvel at the range and scope of his compositions, I would LOVE to have met him.

Vocally, there are so many.  I love the raw sometimes brutal honesty of Nina Simone, the dexterity and fluidity of Ella, the sexiness of Elvis, also our very own Sir Tom Jones (someone else who I would love to meet) and Sammy Davis Junior who, in my opinion, was light years ahead of his Rat Pack compadres. Jessie J and Beverley Knight are both phenomenal Brit singers.

And purely as a human being, Sir David Attenborough who, even at 90 and with a voice barely above a whisper, commands and conveys his passion for our beleaguered Earth.

  1.  What’s your Life Motto?

I have a few:

“Treat others as you would wish to be treated”;

“Live every day as if it’s your last”;

“Feel the fear and do it anyway”;

“Stop complaining” – I’m not very good at that one! 🙂

  1.  You’re a new addition to the crayon box.  What colour would you be and why?

Orange is my favourite colour. It’s made up of the sunniness of yellow and the passion of red, and together they describe sunrises and sunsets: a beautiful treat from nature that I frequently try to capture in my songs.

However, this doesn’t describe me very accurately, if I’m being honest.  I would more likely be a shade of blue… the exact opposite of orange: less optimistic, more reserved. Yep sadly, I think I’m probably a shade of blue… maybe a purple.

Want to know more about Suzi or catch her at a gig? Then follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.

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