Sept 7, 2023–The first thing you notice when listening to Suzy Bogguss do a song like Night Rider’s Lament is the bluesy tinge to her strong clear voice.
Now I grew up in a small town in the Midwest just 75 miles from the small town in the Midwest where she grew up. And I can state unequivocally there were no clubs where you could listen blues or jazz or swing. Where did that come from?
“My folks had a few records,” she said with a laugh. “Only about 16 in all. But my mom was into the big band era and she would sing Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, and Jo Stafford, who had the same quality with Blues in the Night. There was Ray Charles’ I Can’t Stop Loving You. There was a little bit of swing element in Ray’s music.”
One genre mom didn’t love was country. Her dad had to listen to that stuff on 8 tracks he kept in his car. But mom’s attitude all changed after her Suzy scored six Top Ten hits, a platinum and three gold albums, and was named Top New Female Vocalist from the Academy of Country Music.
“Oh yeah,” Bogguss said. “Once she met Alan Jackson and Vince Gill, she turned into a country fan right away, telling them, oh, I’ve always loved country music. Um, mom, what about when you used to hide it in the car?”
The beauty of Bogguss’ clear voice is that it is suited to all genres. She considers it “a gift,” but one she keeps in shape with her busy concert schedule.
“I don’t take time off really,” she said. “There are muscles in there, and when you sing all the time like Ray Price and Tony Bennett, it keeps your voice in shape.”
One thing I’ve learned from interviewing music legends is how much credit they give to “the song.” Selecting the right piece is as important as singing it well, if not more so.
For Bogguss, it’s all about the story. That’s what brought her to Nashville, because country music always comes back to the story of the song. Other styles just don’t fit.
“A guy in New York City tried to pitch me some material, and there’s like eight words in the song–Cruisin’ cruisin’ cruisin’ down the road. I was like I can’t sing a song that doesn’t tell a story. I’m not Sade! I’m not Enya! I need to tell the story.”
Song selection is something she learned through her years in the business.
“There are certain songs that no matter how hard you want to sing, and you love the song so much, but sometimes you just can’t get yourself into the right place to make it feel right.”
While covering John Hiatt’s Drive South she tweaked the melody for the bridge so she could make it her own.
“I wanted to sing that so badly. But you don’t want to cover a song and have it sound exactly like that person. You don’t want to cover it and sound like you never are convincing when you sing it, or not telling the story from a true standpoint. For me that is the most important thing. If I want to sing a song with a great melody, but if the words don’t fit, then I don’t have any business singing it. I’m not conveying anything; I’m not communicating. That’s my whole deal. I want to communicate.”
That is why, even after three decades on the road, Bogguss still loves being on stage.
“I like being on the road, playing live,” she said. “I get a lot out of it. I’m selfish in a way. I get a ton out of people clapping. Maybe I’m just a ham. I feel completely energized when playing a live show. I totally enjoy touring.”
The Illinois native who now lives in Nashville and looks forward to her return trips to Texas
She describes her live show as very spontaneous, with lots of banter with the audience. Bogguss is not afraid to try to play a particular song request, if she thinks she can get through it “without screwing it up.” That is the mark of a fearless performer.
“Come out if you like great music,” she said. “You’ll probably laugh, becomes sometimes stuff comes out of my mouth that shouldn’t.”
Even so, you can be sure it will be in a clear, lovely voice.
Suzy Bogguss will perform on Sun – Oct 22, 2023, at 4:00pm at The Rockbox Theater in Fredericksburg. For tickets: https://www.rockboxtheater.com/shows.html