Suzanne Santo of HONEYHONEY

Early Show

Suzanne Santo of HONEYHONEY

Brian Dunne

Wed, August 23, 2017

Doors: 6:30 pm

Mercury Lounge

New York, NY

$12.00 - $15.00

This event is 21 and over

Suzanne Santo of HONEYHONEY - (Set time: 7:30 PM)
Suzanne Santo of HONEYHONEY
Caught halfway between the dark swoon of pop-noir, the raw rasp of soul music, and the honest punch of Americana, Suzanne Santo's Ruby Red tells the story of a singer, songwriter, and mul-ti-instrumentalist who, more than 10 years into an acclaimed career, is turning a new corner.

Produced by multi-platinum Grammy nominee Butch Walker (whose Los Angeles recording stu-dio gives the album its name), Ruby Red marks Santo's first release as a solo artist. For the past decade, she's spent most of her time fronting the Americana duo HONEYHONEY, whittling her banjo, violin, and vocal chops into sharp shape along the way. Here, she takes a break from that longtime gig to explore something different, creating a moody, sexually-charged album filled with organic instruments, distorted fiddle, Walker's powerful electric guitar, and Santo's most stunning vocal performances to date.

"I think I started writing songs for this record long before I realized that I was writing songs for this record,” said Santo. “I’ve identified with a collaboration for so long that the thought of taking a leap into the depths of my own music and having no idea what that would look like, definitely came as a shock. I was getting lazy and not finishing the tasks at hand like I really wanted, deep down, to be able to do. Writing this record was bewitching in a way.”

Before they collaborated on Ruby Red, Santo made multiple appearances on Butch Walker's eighth album, Stay Gold. She joined him on the road, too, singing harmonies and playing violin, guitar, and banjo during a nationwide tour in 2016. During breaks in her touring schedule, she be-gan diving into a different type of songwriting, looking to diverse albums by Erykah Badu, David Bowie, Townes Van Zandt, and the Alabama Shakes for inspiration. For years, she'd always been somebody else's bandmate. This was a time to explore her own identity. To write her own music. To ignore genres and defy expectations. To determine what, exactly, she wanted to say. . .and find out the best way to deliver it.

“Once Butch acquiesced to producing the record, I had an ‘oh shit!’ moment where I realized that I needed to really show up,” continued Santo. “I had to have songs that were finished, let alone good enough. I couldn’t stop and I wrote all day every day to finish the songs I’d started years ago as well as the few that presented themselves in the 4th quarter. I took long walks in my neighborhood and listened to demos on my cell phone and worked out lyrics. I would also wake up in the middle of the night with new ideas and would get up and write them down or record them. It felt like the songs were seeping through the cracks of my mind and out of my mouth, without much of my consent. I think art is a channel, connected to something much greater than we are and I feel honored when it picks me from time to time."

Ruby Red is an album about love, life, and lust in the modern world. Moody and melody-driven, its 11 songs range from "Handshake" — the record's epic opening track, equal parts Southern-gothic anthem and slow-burning soul ballad — to the driving "Ghost in my Bed," which pairs an explosive chorus with layers of mandolin, fiddle, and piano. Meanwhile, tracks like "Better Than That" focus on little more than Santo's voice: an electrifying, elastic instrument that's capable of both vulnerability and ferocity.

Santo and Walker recorded Ruby Red quickly, pulling long hours in Walker's bright, sunlit studio in Southern California. The instrumental tracks were captured live, with help from guests like pe-dal steel player Dr. Stephen Patt — Santo's primary care physician, as well as a former member of the Edgar Winter Group — and drummer Mark Stepro. Santo kept the guest list small, though, splitting the bulk of the instrumental duties with Walker.

"It was incredible to work with Butch. He facilitates a great time and an artistic environment that orbits solely around what’s best for the song, which is so rare in a business full of egos. Butch and this environment liberated and enabled me to work in a way that I never knew I was capable of."

Although Ruby Red marks the start of something new, it doesn't signify the end of Santo's long run with HONEYHONEY. Santo will join bandmate Ben Jaffe in the television series The Guest Book, whose episodes feature the two musicians in acting and musical roles. The show premi-eres on TBS during the latter half of 2017, adding another bullet point to the acting career Santo launched years before HONEYHONEY's formation.

Santo's story is still unfolding. This is the newest chapter, bringing with it a track list that doubles down on the songwriter's strengths and stretches her limits. There will be more chapters to ex-plore. More colorful stories to tell. But for now, Suzanne Santo's future is looking Ruby Red.

"This record is so fucking sexy, I can't deal,” said Walker. “Proud to have been in the room when these songs were going down. Put it on and turn out the lights."
Brian Dunne - (Set time: 6:30 PM)
Brian Dunne
Bug Fixes & Performance Improvements began as a joke, between drinks number 6 and 7 (7&8? numbers unconfirmed) at a bar down the street from my apartment in Brooklyn, NY. Upon further research (Google), I could not believe there was not an album or book that bore this title so, I set out to write one. 300 songs, 2 years, and 1 near nervous breakdown later, here it lies.

In 2015 I released "Songs From The Hive," a love letter to the music of The Band and Bob Dylan, a tip of the cap (wide brimmed, brown, with a feather) to my folky heroes. And then I hit the road. I played for anybody and everybody, played everywhere anyone would take me; living rooms, cafes, clubhouses, big theaters, small theaters, movie theaters, listening rooms, college cafeterias, etc. Boasting nearly 300 shows in the year and a half that followed, I ended up finding myself in some surprisingly cool circumstances-- and some uncool ones (statute of limitations does not yet allow for me to reveal details). But what I found most liberating was that being a relative unknown had it's perks-- I was beholden to nothing. No one was expecting anything of me, except my cat, and he doesn't give a shit what goes on my record.

So it was with this in mind that I set out to write the next project. Equipped with the title only, I needed just to come up with things that I liked. Should be easy.

As it turns out, I don't like anything. Also, according to the finest head doctors of New York City, I am clinically insane. And while having a conversation with my good pal Liz Longley, who sings with me on track 5 of this here record, she said very simply "well, write about that." And there it was.

Not that this record turned out to be anything like that. Everything takes on a life of it's own, I suppose. But it was the inspiration behind the lead track, "Tell Me Something,” and the others came to me following that one. "Taxi" is a song about the pursuit of something invisible and intangible, and the risk that comes with it. "You Got Me Good" is a song about being a sucker that I wrote so I could sing it at the top of my lungs. “We Don’t Talk About It” is a reflection on how we treat the people we’re closest to, and “Chelsea Hotel” deals with the crutches we lean when our lives are too difficult to withstand. But the record didn’t really take shape until I came up with “Don’t Give Up On Me” one afternoon, sitting at my living room table. It seemed to sum up my mission statement for the whole record. It’s about the devotion to maintaining your idealism as the world makes you more cynical. It’s about putting your chips back on the table after you’ve suffered a big loss. And if you have to lose again, lose in a big way. I love that idea.

With my friend Andrew Sarlo (Big Thief, Nick Hakim, lover of burritos) at the helm, we hit the studio with a great band and tried to flesh out the musical sounds I was hearing in my head (and the other noises). After many pre-production meetings with me rambling about if Lindsay Buckingham had fronted the E Street Band, or Jim Croce on speed or something, we came up with a sound and a vibe that is the trademark of this record. If I tell you anymore, I’ll give it all away. Bill Graham said “always leave em wanting more”. I don’t do that very often. New paragraph.

I hope you like it. I’m incredibly proud of it. I’m gonna go take a nap.

Brian Dunne, Brooklyn, February 2017
Venue Information:
Mercury Lounge
217 E Houston St.
New York, NY, 10002
http://mercuryloungenyc.com