Musicscan: First of all, congratulations to the new album, which at this point probably doesn’t feel all that new to you anymore. I hope it is still ok if we talk about it a little bit. I was wondering what you are looking for in a song that you cover? Are there certain aesthetics or qualities that you are looking for in a song?
Susanna: I am looking for something that gives me a kick that could be many different things such as the groove, the melody, the vocals, the playing. The reason why I like something in a version of a song doesn’t necessarily affect my version of it in the end, but it is important that I find the song and the version somehow interesting and therefore would want to do it myself.
Musicscan: Please tell me a little bit about the creative process for this album. Did you approach it any differently than your previous efforts?
Susanna: The work with this album kind of evolved from playing live with Helge Sten (guitar) and Paal Hausken (drums), we started out with the songs that I wrote for the album “Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos”, but I have always liked working with other people’s songs so it felt natural to include other songs in the set. So we collected songs and I worked out a core to build on, or we did that work together, finding the arrangement is very important to me - it is a process to go through, me and the song together.
Musicscan: What is the particular fascination for you personally of interpreting a song that somebody else wrote? Do you somehow feel more secure when playing songs by other people?
Susanna: It is kind of common to sing other people’s songs; when you grow up, in school, in church, when you are learning to sing. I have also listened to jazz music from an early age on, and it is part of the tradition to take a song and make it your own, transform it, tell your own story through someone else’s song. That fascinates me and to have it become a part of my musicality. I don’t see it as more secure, I try to treat both cover songs and my songs the same way and it matters to me equally to find the core of the song in both aspects.
Musicscan: How did the collaboration with Will Oldham come about? What was it like working with him?
Susanna: Will contacted me a while ago to say that he likes my music, this was after the release of “Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos”. His music has been dear to me for a long time, and it felt natural to discuss a possible collaboration. He has been playing a couple of my songs in his live set also, “Stay” and “People Living.” It happened spontaneously when I worked with “Flower of Evil”, Helge and I got the idea for Will’s voice on “Jailbreak” and “Without you”, and luckily he wanted to do it. Will is an amazing guy, pure pleasure and an honour to work with.
Musicscan: How do you keep yourself busy when you are not involved in music? What are some of your other passions in life?
Susanna: Well, I would have to say that the music takes most of my time. Passions in my life besides that are people, films/TV-series and books. It feels important to live as present as possible, but that is an ongoing process.
Musicscan: Can you live off of your music? If not, what do you do in order to make ends meet?
Susanna: Yes, I am able to live off of my music. It takes a lot of effort and energy, it is not recommended for other reasons than the joy of music. I feel privileged to get to do what my heart desires, though.
Musicscan: I read that the slowness of your interpretations is by no means intended as statements against the ephemerality and rush of current times?
Susanna: That is true. Making statements with my music is not what I am after. But it may represent an idea of a wish for a room or a place to be which contains other values then the most obvious ones in the western way of modern life today.
Musicscan: I believe you grew up with a strong religious background in your family. Does religion also influence your music today? In how far do you think religion has shaped you as a musician and a person?
Susanna: I would say that religion has probably influenced me too much, it feels like a struggle to leave behind some of the beliefs I grew up with. So I guess this will always influence my music, either through my songs or cover songs.
Musicscan: When did you start singing and who are some of your biggest artistic influences as far as vocal performance is concerned?
Susanna: I started singing at the same time as speaking. Through a children’s choir, piano and singing lessons music was a big part of my childhood. I would say that artists such as Chet Baker, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake have been important to me- but I am and have been listening to lots of different types of music throughout the years so it is always hard to pinpoint a few.
Musicscan: How would you describe the Norwegian music scene? Is there a strong crossover of genres and musicians or do people mostly stick to their separate scenes?
Susanna: The Norwegian Music scene is a young scene in a European timeline, and there is definitely a strong crossover of genres and musicians- it is in my opinion part of the reason why we may sound a bit different up here in the north.
Musicscan: What do you want people to take away from a Susanna show?
Susanna: I want people to find some peace being inside the music, peace to think some new thoughts, feel something that means something in their life, dream a new dream. I want to move people with my music- but I don’t have any preferences on exactly how.
Musicscan: What is the difference between art and entertainment in your opinion?
Susanna: There are many differences I think, but one of the most important things to me is that while entertainment is just scratching the surface, art goes all the way through. Entertainment’s main purpose is to make you feel good in a superficial way, whereas art dares to deal with a broader part of life.
Musicscan: Does art have responsibilities?
Susanna: Art has the responsibility of sincerity I think, an honesty towards the work of whatever the artist is doing.
Musicscan: Do you think there are still genuinely new sounds to be discovered or can modern music basically be said to be a recombination of already existing forms and elements?
Susanna: There are definitely new sounds to be discovered I think, but I am more concerned about what it contains than inventing something completely new every time.
Musicscan: What can we expect from Susanna in the near future? Any new releases, tours, collaborations planned?
Susanna: I am doing support (with my trio) for Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy on his European tour, starting April 20th in the Royal Festival Hall in London. We (Will and I) have recorded a 7” single with two duets on it, which will be on sale on the tour. These days, I am finishing a new album with the Magical Orchestra, which is going to be released in August (September in Germany). It is new original material from us and a couple of cover versions in a very electronic sounding suit. I will continue playing with my trio as well because I really love that.