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Character traits define you. Credibility and honesty will help distinguish you from the competition. How?

Posted: February 16, 2023

Excellent character traits often define each of us. Whether they it is good or bad, your character will define you for a lifetime. If you continue down a particular path of bad character traits, it can damage your “credibility”. Even if you decide to change, your previous actions are unforgettable. Honestly, it takes a while for someone to see you differently. We have all been there at some point in our life. We may have been young and stupid, or just oblivious of how people view us. Though, there does exist individuals that just “get it”. They get the importance of having an excellent character from an early age onward. Traits as being warm, friendly, clean, honest, loyal, and dependable will help distinguish you from others. Especially for those that look to stand out from the competition.

In a market that is flooded by competing artists, it is imperative that you allow character to define who you are. If you are going to cast a shadow of talent, then your character should mean everything to you. The word character is defined by the Webster – Merriam dictionary as one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual. If you created a poll and asked people to define the word character, you would probably get many incorrect answers. Such as, “character” is a person’s nationality, or ethnicity. It is their culture or upbringing. Well, in a way, they aren’t completely wrong. Just misguided or misinformed. Nationality or ethnicity can define your upbringing, but it will not give you character. Character makes you different than everyone else. It set’s you apart. In many ways, it gives you the advantage over others.

Excellent artists of character can be found in any genre. Especially in the Americana genre. Which is where we found today’s guest. Her name is Suzanne Santo.

 

ABOUT SUZANNE SANTO

Suzanne Santo has never been afraid to blur the lines. A tireless creator, she's built her sound in the grey area between Americana, Southern-gothic soul, and forward-thinking rock & roll. It's a sound that nods to her past — a childhood spent in the Rust Belt; a decade logged as a member of the L.A.-based duo HoneyHoney; the acclaimed solo album, Ruby Red, that launched a new phase of her career in 2017; and the world tour that took her from Greece to Glastonbury as a member of Hozier's band — while still exploring new territory. With Yard Sale, Santo boldly moves forward, staking her claim once again as an Americana innovator. It's an album inspired by the past, written by an artist whose only interested in the here-and-now. And for Suzanne Santo, the here-and-now sounds pretty good.

Yard Sale, her second release as a solo artist, finds Santo in transition. She began writing the album while touring the globe with Hozier — a gig that utilized her strengths not only as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, but as a road warrior, too. "We never stopped," she says of the year-long trek, which often found her pulling double-duty as Hozier's opening act and bandmate. "Looking back, I can recognize how much of a game-changer it was. It raised my musicianship to a new level. It truly reshaped my career."

Songs like "Fall For That" were written between band rehearsals, with Santo holing herself up in a farmhouse on the rural Irish coast. Others were finished during bus rides, backstage writing sessions, and hotel stays. Grateful for the experience but eager to return to her solo career, she finished her run with Hozier, joining the band for one final gig — a milestone performance at Glastonbury, with 60,000 fans watching — before flying home to Los Angeles. Within three days, she was back in the studio, working with producer John Spiker on the most compelling album of her career.

Santo didn't remain in Los Angeles for very long. Things had changed since she released 2017's Ruby Red, an album produced by Butch Walker and hailed by Rolling Stone for its "expansion of her Americana roots." She'd split up with her longtime partner. Her old band, HoneyHoney, was on hiatus. Feeling lonely in her own home, Santo infused songs like "Common Sense" and "Idiot" with achingly gorgeous melodies and woozy melancholia. She then got the hell out, moving to Austin — a city whose fingerprints are all over Yard Sale, thanks to appearances by hometown heroes like Shakey Graves and Gary Clark Jr. — and falling in love all over again. Throughout it all, Santo continued writing songs, filling Yard Sale with the ups and downs of a life largely spent on the run.

"I moved so much, both emotionally and physically, while making this record," she says. "I dropped my band, joined a world tour, came back home, went through a heartbreak, moved across the country, and fell in love with someone else. I just kept marching forward. Throughout that experience, there was this emotional unpacking of sorts. A shedding of baggage. I've gotten good at knowing what I need to keep holding onto and what I don't."

If yard sales represent a homeowner's purging of old possessions in order to clear up some much-needed room, then Yard Sale marks the moment where Suzanne Santo makes peace with her past and embraces a better, bolder present. Musically, she's at the top of her game, writing her own string arrangements and singing each song an agile, acrobatic voice. On "Since I've Had Your Love," she bridges the gap between indie-rock and neo-soul, punctuating the song's middle stretch with a cinematic violin solo. She mixes gospel influences with a deconstructed R&B beat on "Over and Over Again," recounts some hard-learned lessons with the folk-rock anthem "Mercy," and drapes "Bad Beast" with layers of spacey, atmospheric electric guitar. Shakey Graves contributes to "Afraid of Heights," a rainy-day ballad driven forward by a metronomic drum pattern, and Gary Clark Jr. punctuates the guitar-driven "Fall For That" with fiery fretwork.

 

"This is like one of those yard sales where there's something for everybody," Santo says. "You want a crockpot or a racquetball paddle? A duvet cover? I've got it." On a more serious note, she adds, "But I've also gotten into the emotional concept of what a yard sale really is, too. This record is about the things I've left behind and the things I've holding onto. I was broken up with while writing the record. I fell in love again while writing the record. And I learned to fearlessly follow my gut, in all places of my life, while making this record."

You can't blame Suzanne Santo from looking back once in a while. Raised in Parma, OH, she was scouted as a model and actress at 14 years old, spent her summer vacations working in locations like Tokyo, and later moved to New York City, where she attended the Professional Children's School alongside classmates like Jack Antonoff and Scarlett Johansson. Moving to Los Angeles in her late teens, she formed HoneyHoney and released three albums with the duo, working with top-shelf Americana labels like Lost Highway and Rounder Records along the way. Working with Butch Walker on 2017's Ruby Red resulted in an offer to join Walker's touring band, followed one year later by a similar request from Hozier.

"It's a rollercoaster, and I've been strapped in pretty good," she says. "I've been riding it out."

Suzanne Sant’s Bio describes her well, indeed. However, there is something to her bio that can be contributed to her character. What is it, and what is the source of her character traits, we will find out. Direct your attention to our question and answer session with Suzanne Santo.

 

INTERVIEW WITH SUZANNE SANTO AND GUITAR THRILLS MAGAZINE

GT: We have worked in the music industry for many years. We have witnessed different character traits. Artists that we will support through thick and thin. Just because their character defined their business practices. They were honest and forthright with all their business decisions. Loyalty and accountability were common traits for these rare gems. However, there are some, that made you wish you never worked in the music industry. Needless to say, we will save that for an article from the editor. It is important that we focus our guest today. Suzanne Santo. Her music is undeniably mesmerizing. To get this stage of her career, she must excellent character.

 

GT: Hello Suzanne. It is great to sit down and interview you today. What do you think about our topic? How important is character in your line of work?

Suzanne: I believe character is a pretty important element for most things, however not everyone’s character is expressed through their music, as it can be performance art or something of an objective creation. Folks can still have a successful career artistically speaking, even if we know very little about the artist. Ie, some folks have alter egos/personas and what not and it’s really about the art/music and not about the musician on a personal level. It all really depends on the style and genre of music one’s work exists in.

 

GT: Do you believe that it can make or break your potential? Are fans willing to forgive an artist despite their character and credibility?

Suzanne: Yes, of course someone’s bad or good character could make or break their potential. It really depends on the offense or noble act that would posture someone in the position of judgement. We live in a world where people’s lives and choices are encouraged to be displayed on social media and most of the time, I really don’t want to see any of it. It often feels forced and inauthentic because being a musician today means that you HAVE to participate in social media in order to progress. Artists are letting people into their lives in ways that they shouldn’t or that become performative in order to stay relevant. It becomes difficult to discern what is someone’s actual “character” and what is someone’s online persona. I can’t really judge someone’s character unless they’re sitting across from me and having a real life conversation. With that said, being someone who feels the pressure to be active on social media for my career, I “authentically” post photos and videos but am fully aware that I am Suzanne and not a reflection of my Instagram account or the attention garnered from it.

 

GT: We recognize that we all cannot be perfect and hold to a set of rules and or guidelines. At times we will all make decisions that are not becoming. However, it is how we bounce back, and rectify the situation that matters. Can you recall when your good character wasn’t as tasteful ad it is today? Can you provide us details? What was your forgettable moment, and how did you resolve it?

Suzanne: I believe one’s character is a byproduct of their values and I’ve always had strong values around honesty, loyalty and courage. I don’t really have a “coming to Jesus” moment where I felt that I used to be bad and am now good or had some egregious mistake I needed to reconcile with. I will say that in my younger days, I don’t feel that I was the best listener and remember when I recognized that social blemish in my late twenties. I really made a point to lasso that part of my personality and became a better friend, daughter and sister.

 

GT: The important thing is where you are today. What you have accomplished and how you are perceived by those that you work with. Including your fans, who love your music. When all is said, and done what are some things you would liked to be remembered for?

Suzanne: It’s tough to hone in on my attachment to a public perception of me. I’m a recovering “people pleaser” which has brought many a hard time and poor choices in who I’ve kept company with. At this point in my life, I’ve worked really hard not to care too much about what the general public thinks of me and have reserved that regard for my family and inner circle. I will say, if there were something I truly wanted to be remembered for in conjunction with my music it would be by my heart and my Spirit, which is kind of synonymous with my music.

 

GT: Very nice. Those are real and heartfelt comments. I appreciate your honesty and candid remarks. There is no doubt, that you will always be compared with the great artists of our day, and those artists that have inspired you.

 

GT: In your bio you mentioned Americana and Southern Gothic Soul best describers your style. Though you are influenced by the Blues, such ad Gary Clark. Why not, just stick to what is acceptable by mainstream fans. Do you think calling yourself a blues artist would stick with your fans?

Suzanne: Nahh, I’m not a blues artist. It’s so hard to put my music into any box, really, and that’s not intentional. I just play what I want to play and some days that’s folk, blues, pop or soul even. I honestly wish my music were easier to pin down! I’ve had this issue since the jump, lol!

 

GT: I love it. I dig your sound, I believe it is mix of blues with an industrial sound to it. It what makes you stick out from other artists that are either Blues or Americana.

 

GT: Is there an artist that you have not performed with, that you would love to make happen?

Suzanne: Honesty? Kendrick Lamar! I love him so much and I think his art and voice are so important. Who knows, maybe we’ll jam one day.

 

GT: What about venues. Is there a venue that you would like to perform at?

Suzanne: Red Rocks!! Oh man, that would be a “I can’t get through this set without crying” kind of gig.

 

GT: Are there specific accessories that are must haves? Like Pedals, and strings? Also what is the best combination in your opinion of Guitar and Amp? Why do you say so?

Suzanne: I play out of a Princeton or a Deluxe Fender amp. I play an Eastman SB59.. it’s an INCREDIBLE guitar. I love it so much. My main squeezes on the pedal board are a Strymon Flint Reverb and Tremelo, JHS Ruby Red ( nod to Butch Walker), a gold Archer boost, JHS Spring Reverb and lately a Keeley Caverns delay reverb.

 

GT: That is awesome feedback and a great interview. I have a feeling that I will be looking to have you back soon. There are more questions that I would love for you to comment on. We look forward to hearing from you again. Also for are readers, Suzanne Santo will be featured in the next issue of Guitar Thrills Magazine. Make sure you read it online, or print. I guarantee you will love how it all comes together.

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