I was first introduced to Suede’s sultry sounds a decade ago. Every Sunday morning, I would pour a cup of coffee, sit down with the weekly crossword puzzle, and play one of her many CDs. Although my coffee was void of any alcohol, the drunk, happy feeling I got while listening to her music was intoxicating.

Imagine a cross between Adele, Diana Krall and Bette Midler and you’ll be approaching some idea of Suede’s powerful presence, musical talents, and well honed skills, let alone her immense joy in entertaining. Pop/Jazz/Blues phenom Suede plays piano, guitar and trumpet, but voice is her first instrument and entertaining is clearly her first love.

She is a consummate entertainer and song stylist among the likes of Tony Bennett and company – the classic singer’s singer. She sings original material and pop, blues and jazz standards like nobody you’ve ever heard while jammin’ with some iteration of her fabulous combo – solo to trio and beyond. From astounding a cappella, incredibly intimate ballads, and smokin’ trumpet solos, to “bring down the house” belting blues, Suede delivers it all with her own unique blend of warmth, wit and musical artistry.

Today, when someone asks me who my favorite musician is, my first answer is always “Suede!” Suede has been a regular part of my life. While I’ve only seen her a handful of times in concert, she is always listed in my “recently played” selection on iTunes, she’s relaxed me through my most anxiety-ridden moments, and she creates the perfect atmosphere for romantic evenings at home.

So, it comes as no surprise that when news spread that Suede was coming to town for a March 11th benefit concert at King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in St Petersburg, I couldn’t share my excitement fast enough. And when she offered to do an interview for an article on OUTCOAST, I jumped at the chance to speak with my musical icon.

To my delight, the Suede I have gotten to know over the past ten years was the same Suede who greeted me on the phone earlier this week. She was funny, kind, and determined to leave a mark on this world through her gift. We talked about her time in Baltimore, what her tour schedule looks like, and how her voice makes words come alive.

Suede
Suede returns to St Petersburg, Florida for a benefit concert on March 11th from 4-6PM at King of Peace MCC. (Photo by Brad Fowler)

I was excited to learn that you lived in Baltimore in the 80’s! I went to school out that way. Do you have any favorite memories from your time there?

The Baltimore/DC/VA corridor is where I started my career – Fells Point, Annapolis, DC, Alexandria, etc. I went to senior high school outside of Annapolis after my family moved there from Minnesota. I used to do street performing in high school at the city dock for some cash. I would sit in with my trumpet at Buzzy’s Pizza Parlor with a Dixieland band of musicians from the Naval Academy. The actual pursuit of my childhood dreams all began then!

Eventually, I lived in walking distance of Memorial Stadium on 33rd St in Baltimore, right on the Johns Hopkins campus. I did street performing at Harborplace in B’more and played ALL the clubs in and around town. I see that as my master’s studies in the music biz. If you can make it work on the street, you’ve got a great leg up taking it on the road!

When was the last time you performed in St Pete? What draws you back to this area?

I don’t recall offhand the date or year I was last there, but it’s been WAY too long and I’m overdue for a return! I’ve always loved the area, the people, the weather (usually – I’ve witnessed some wicked intense thunder storms!) Kathie & Renee, the two producing this upcoming event, first brought me to town. I respect longtime relationships like that. When we booked the Melissa Etheridge Cruise, I reached out to see if they’d bring me back.

I can’t wait to see you perform at King of Peace MCC on March 11th! You said you have performed at King of Peace MCC previously. What excites you most about returning to this space?

The first time I was there was JUST around the time when they’d gotten the church, I believe. I remember the beautiful space, acoustics, a great piano, and a fantastic, enthusiastic, HAPPY crowd! Who wouldn’t want to come back?!?

I know you live on Cape Cod year round, but how many weeks out of the year are you touring vs performing locally?

Yes, beautiful Cape Cod is my full-time home now. Touring varies, of course. I don’t play on Cape much, really – mostly off Cape. I do about seven or eight concerts locally in a year – and lots of benefits. I do as many benefits for great local organizations as I can, especially in this day and age of critical funding being yanked from those same causes. Don’t get me started.

Out of all of the cities in which you’ve performed, do you have a favorite city that you keep going back to? Why?

You know, I don’t think I have one favorite, in particular. There are things I like about them all and they’re all different – some for a great venue, some for great music fans, and some are in beautiful locations. I love St Pete for different reasons than I love, for example, New Hope, PA or New York City or San Francisco. The goods news is I get to experience them all!

You mentioned you’ve considered a move down south. What’s it going to take to make it happen?

Well, if I ever consider retiring, St Pete would be in the running. I MUST be near water, I have a lot of friends who’ve moved there or are close by, I know the community is great, the weather certainly is great — although, I gotta say, I’m a diehard New England gal and I do love the seasons up nawth here.

I understand that part of the funds raised by King of Peace MCC during this benefit event will go to Girls Inc. What excites you about helping to raise funds for this organization?

I’m thrilled to support both King of Peace MCC and Girls Inc. King of Peace does great community outreach and care, without judgement, with true compassion, for ALL — something I’ve always felt strongly about and, again, esp in this day and age. As for Girls Inc., I understand what’s available for girls in girl only space and I believe in it 100% – the space to ‘be’, grow, and support other girls without the distraction, competition, and just general societal vibe of mixed gender space. In this day and age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, we’re at a prime opportunity to REALLY support girls in ways we never have before, perhaps. I’m thrilled to know about Girls Inc. and send some all important cash their way for the continuation of their great work, too.

Following your trip to St Pete, you are heading to Ft Lauderdale for the Melissa Etheridge cruise! How many nights will you perform while on the ship? What excites you the most about being a part of this cruise?

We’ll do our show twice, for the different dinner seatings. Other than that, I’ve been asked (and accepted) to host things like karoake and such. That’s actually great fun for me so I’m looking forward to it. But look at the line-up! GREAT music all week, and jamming will ensue, no doubt! Aside from that, I’ve been invited to headline with Melissa Etheridge, Sarah McLachlan etc — mainstage, baby. I can’t wait… AND, one of the ports in the itinerary is San Juan, Puerto Rico where those who are interested can give a day of service to the people who are STILL recovering from hurricane Maria’s devastation. I’m thrilled about the music and connection with the musicians all week, but particularly glad I’ll be able to chip in a tiny bit of help for the people who, four months later, are still so in need of so much.

What is your dream gig?

I am happy to report that I’ve accomplished many of them… wow.

One I still have on the list is to play the Newport Jazz Festival. I’ve also had a fantasy for years now of touring with Wynona and k.d. lang. Can you imagine the three of us singing together????? Yow. Ok. And maybe we’d invite Adele too…. We could call it “The Four Altos”!

You defined yourself as a song stylist versus a song writer. In your words, what does this mean?

Well, I’m not a songwriter, per se – like many musical artists are these days. I do write music – instrumental music, improvisational, new age-y, actually. And although I play piano, guitar and trumpet, I absolutely consider voice my first instrument and use it as such. To me, a song stylist is a vocal artist who “plays” their voice and interprets songs written by others — makes a song their own. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Streisand, Michael Buble, are all song stylists — our art, our very intentional craft, is bringing a song alive. It is a craft, to learn how to phrase, enunciate, whether to sing a consonant or not at a particular part of a lyric, etc. It means understanding nuance, knowing exactly when to phrase, timing — not so different than, say, being an actor instead of a playwright — if that makes sense. Lots of people can read lines. Some can also write them. An actor, an artist, can bring those words to life for an audience. That’s what a stylist does.

When and where can we look for your next album?

Oh, I’m trying to get it out this year. I’ve got most of the tunes ready and will be doing most of them in St Pete. I’ve got the studio picked out. It’s a matter of time to focus on putting the pieces together and, of course, funding! As usual, it’s a very pricey undertaking. But it IS coming! The best thing to do is to ‘like’ the Facebook page and join my email list so you’ll get first notice of shows, new CD, all things Suede. Facebook.com/SuedeWave


To purchase tickets to Suede’s upcoming concert on March 11th from 4-6PM, click here. Proceeds will benefit both King of Peace MCC and Girls, Inc.

King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church is a place of radical welcome and joy committed to using their spiritual gifts to establish, foster, and sustain a culture of love, appreciation, trust, and growth.

Girls Inc. of Pinellas is a before and after school, spring break and summer camp enrichment program for Girls ages 5 – 17. Their mission is to inspire ALL girls to be Strong, Smart & Bold!  They are an affiliate of a national organization and we have been serving girls in Pinellas since 1961. To find out more about Girls Inc, their programs, or ways to be involved, check them out at www.girlsinc-pinellas.org  or give Kathie Michael a call at 727-544-6230 ext 112.