California, jazz singer, songwriter, Sue Hart, has just released her new jazz cd, "Private Book", July, 2002. Sue says "there's a lot of heart put into this album, excuse the pun, but it's true. Everyone who worked on ""Private Book"" gave 110 percent", which features the smooth jazz single, "You Already Know" on her new Orange County- based jazz music label, SatTat Records. Sue is joined by an ensemble of talented friends, James Shattuck, Jim Quealy, Richard Bredice, Karen Hammack, and Jim Martin all of whom have brought their songwriting, musicianship, and production skills to the new release
An interview with Sue Hart
Q. Where did you grow up?
A. I grew up in sunny Newport Beach, California.
Q. When did you first become interested in singing?
A. I remember singing when I was 5 years old. I was singing something opera like and I remember my grandmother saying what a beautiful voice I had. It made me really happy that she liked the way I sang. I have always been very focused on the voice. Growing up and listening to whatever artist I was into at the time, whether it be jazz, folk, rock, I totally tuned into the voice, the instruments were always way in the background. I now listen to everything, but I think thats the way it works for artists, whatever instrument you're into is what you focus on when you are learning your craft.
Q. What were your early influences?
A. When I was young growing up in Newport Beach, almost every night my parents would play their jazz records. I basically was lulled to sleep hearing the great jazz singers, Billie Holiday, Elle Fitzgerald, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn, Anita O'day, and Peggy Lee just to name a few. Something that these artists all have in common, besides being the greatest jazz singers that ever lived, is the beautiful quality of their voices. They had a very pleasing, listenable sound. You can listen to them forever without ever tiring of them. It really impacted my taste in music. Today I like listening to artist with that same pleasing, very listenable beautiful sound.
Q. When did you start singing professionally?
A. In my teen years I played folk guitar and sang folk songs. I was too shy to perform in front of people, I just played by myself. When I graduated high school I knew I wanted to be a singer. I needed experience, so I hung out in clubs where musicians played. After getting to know them better I asked them if they'd let me sit in with them. They were so kind because I was really green. But it really helped me get the experience of singing with a live band and singing in front of people. It was very scary for me, but I had to do it.
After gaining more confidence I auditioned for this house band that played cover tunes. They hired me and I ended up singing with them 5 nights a week for 3 years. That is where I gained a lot of experience. It was time to move on and I auditioned for a popular original rock group. They accepted me and I ended up singing with that band for a couple years. They were excellent musicians and I learned tremendously from them. It's also when I began writing music. We played 5-6 nights a week, sometimes 3 weeks straight without a break. We played college concerts, opened for major acts and played all along the coast of California rocking the house everywhere we played. It was fun, exhilarating and exhausting.
My next venture was singing lead with a jazz band at the Ritz Carlton. Going back to the wonderful old standards. This was another great learning experience. I fell in love all over again with the songs I used to listen to as a child. This time I got to sing them. It was fun building my repertoire of songs. It got me listening to jazz singers and jazz musicians studying their different styles. This is where I feel most at home.
Q. You've just released a new cd "Private Book" Where did the title come from?
A. Well, Private Book is actually the title of one the songs on the album. I thought it would be a good name because the whole feeling and flavor of the album is very personal.
Q. There's also an interesting story to recording your cd. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
A. To make a long story short, my husband/producer, James, and I decided to do something crazy and fun. We bought a 35-foot motorhome with slides (the rooms expand) stored all of our furniture and stuff and went on the road. Before we left we had recorded the basic tracks for the cd and planned on recording vocal tracks whenever we would stop in a place we liked. We ended up recording the vocal tracks in several different states.
Q. Interesting. What kind of equipment did you use?
A. We recorded the basic tracks and vocals on Cubase, with a Mac G3. I used a Neumann TLM 103 mic (an excellent vocal mic). the acoustics were great because the ceiling and flooring of the motorhome were carpeted. We kept the studio under the bed that lifts up with hydraulic shocks. A band member came up with the name, Get Smart Studio. When we got back from our road trip we went to Woodland/Bredice Studios and transferred the recordings to ProTools, added guitars and some vocal touchups. The cd turned out great. I'm very happy with the sound. It's pretty cool that we recorded vocals in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Duluth; Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, Santa Fe, New Mexico and of course, California.
Q. Who is Jim Quealy and how did he come about being the songwriter for your cd?
A. He is a local singer-songwriter and friend of ours. I have always been a great fan of his songwriting. I first started out recording an album of standards. In the beginning of the project we asked Quealy if he had a song that would fit into the style of what we were doing. He submitted Summer, I loved the song so much that I asked him if he would submit another song. I loved that one too and asked him to keep the songs coming. So I ended up with a cd of 10 Jim Quealy songs.
Q. You call yourself a singer-songwriter. How come you don't have any of your own songs on the cd?
I've writen quite a few songs , more in the folk, pop, rock genre, but as it turned out James (producer) and I were so thrilled with Quealy's songs and I had so much fun singing them, we decided to keep that theme throughout the album. These songs have never been recorded by anyone except "All the Love I Need" was recorded by Jim on his first album so I was able to put my own style and artistic touch to them, I almost feel like they're my songs(I know they're not Q). You know a great song when it works in different genres. All of these tunes were just given to us with just acoustic guitar and vocals, some even in folk style. We're beginning to work on a new jazz cd with some original songs I have written.
Q. What artists do you listen to?
A. I have these artists on regular rotation in my cd player: Shirley Horn, Diana Krall, Holly Cole, Casandra Wilson, Natalie Merchant, Shawn Colvin, Gillian Welch and a friend of mine, Beth Fitchet Wood. I heard Norah Jones on mp3.com and I really like her sound. My favorite all time singer though is Elle Fitzgerald. No one's ever been able to top her.
Q. What are your future plans?
A. Do some gigging locally (LA area), and promote the new cd, and possibly a European tour , that's something I'd like to experience.