Susan Catteneo is a songwriter, musician, and professor at Berklee College of Music who just so happens to be in the midst of releasing a new album. A more darkly painted and introspective work than she has been previously been known for, this record marks a new adventure in the singer-songwriters career. An adventure I am excited to watch unfold.
I caught up with Susan for a few Q's and A's about the record and the slew of exciting shows she has on the horizon in a new feature called "Catching Up With"...
1) So you are releasing a new album, tell us about it, whens the release, whos on it, where did you record? All that goodness?
SC: The new album is called Haunted Heart and it’s release date is January 21st. It’s definitely a more darker, Americana sound than my previous work, and I was fortunate enough to work with some amazing musicians on this project. My producer was Lorne Entress (Lori McKenna, Mark Erelli) and the band was amazing – it included Marco Giovino on drums (Robert Plant, Buddy Miller), Kenny White on keys (Peter Wolf, Shawn Colvin) and the rest of the band was the cream of the crop of top New England musicians including Kevin Barry (Ray Lamontagne, Roseanne Cash), Richard Gates (Katie Curtis) and Lyle Brewer (Ryan Montbleau). I was also lucky enough to have Stu Kimball, Jimmy Ryan and Duke Levine to come in to play as well. We recorded most of the instrumental tracks with Chris Rival at his Middleville studio in North Reading and we did most of the vocals with Andy Pinkham at Mortal Music in Charlestown.
2) I know you have done some time in Nashville writing. With that sometimes comes the "pop country" stigma, but I know this record for you has moved in a different direction with some darker undertones and emotions. What instigated/inspired that writing?
SC: Two and a half years ago, I saved someone’s life. While the experience had a happy outcome, it was an incredibly traumatic event for me. Up to that point, I had been writing mainstream country music, but after this event happened, I had to write from a more personal and intimate place. The songs are darker than my other work because this experience “marked” me for while. At times over the past few years, I have felt “caught in a haunted heart”, and that informed the album and also the title track. This album was transformative for me as an artist because for the first time ever, I wrote all the songs for myself.
3) You've done a lot of collaborating with local favorites as well. To date, who has been at the top of the "must write/play/collaborate" with list?
SC: You are right, I have been blessed to work with some great people. At the top for me as a co-writer has to be my Berklee colleague and best friend, Scarlet Keys. There’s just something amazing that happens between us when we write together. And on this album, the song we wrote and sang together, Memory of the Light is one of my favorite tracks. And I love the musicians I’ve been playing with: talents like Jimmy Ryan, Jim Henry, Andrew Jones, Richard Gates, Steve Mayone, and Stu Kimball just to name a few. Not only are they amazing players, but they’re good people and they remind me why I love what I do. It’s all about making music with people you enjoy being with. In terms of new collaborations, I would love the opportunity to write with Lori McKenna.
4) As a songwriting professor, I have to ask your input on this...what makes a "good song"?
SC: Hmm – that is a great question, because I think I might have answered it differently a few years ago. Before this album, I probably would have told you a good song has to have a strong hook and a great melody and story. While I still believe that all that makes a memorable song, I think that I’ve evolved into feeling that a good song is one that connects to other people, because of its honesty and heart. People respond to and recognize when a song is the real deal. Maybe I sound a little touchy feely here, but I think listeners can like a song a lot because of it’s complexity and craft, but love a song when that craft is supported by an inner connection to something real.
5) And finally, any last thoughts or plugs that you want to get out there?
SC: I have some wonderful shows coming up!! This Saturday November 16, I’m doing a joint show with the incomparable Jimmy Ryan at the Bull Run in Shirley, MA. Then, on Thursday November 21, I have my official local release party at Club Passim in Cambridge. And then, on December 7th, I’m at the River Club Music Hall in Scituate.
YOu can check Susan out online at http://susancattaneo.com/
And be sure to catch her out live!