Hello world and good people of earth, pleasure we meet like this again. There was a major announcement made yesterday that NARM (National Association of Recording Merchandisers) and its digital industry hub digitalmusic.org will collectively be known as the Music Business Association (MusicBiz.org), to fully encompass everyone involved in music commerce in the United States. This is very exciting news as I have always been about power in numbers and the opportunity to unite could be really powerful & beneficial. Today I am so excited to have a musician whose vocals and sound make me want to relax and take in my day. Russell Suereth has put out a 6 song EP that is so appealing and gives you a glimpse into Russell’s life & journey. Join me today as Russell Suereth sepaks on everything from how he got into music, the new EP ‘Small Steps’, the US defense policy, and so much more!
Stoli: Where are we talking from today and can you believe that summer is coming to a close for 2013?
I’m in Northern New Jersey, which is where I live. I’m originally from Massachusetts, but I’ve been living here in New Jersey for more than 20 years.
Yes, it’s crazy. Summer zoomed by this year, though I’m pretending it’s still here. I’m heading to Cape Cod for a long weekend soon in Woods Hole, where they have a nice harbor and a wonderful bakery. I’m really looking forward to it.
Stoli: Did you get to travel at all this summer and if so where?
Yes, I did spend a week in Ireland in June. I stayed on Inishmore, which is one of the Aran Islands off the western Irish coast. It’s all small coastal roads, miles of stone walls, and rather desolate. I love it there.
Stoli: Offer readers a brief background on your history and music and when it became more than a hobby?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was nine, when I took guitar lessons from a guy who had been a professional wrestler. He needed a hearing aid due to a wrestling injury, and he would always say that the sport was real — nothing fake about it. I guess it’s changed since then.
Like many musicians, I had a band with a few neighborhood kids in my garage. I must have been all of eleven at the time, but I remember writing songs and really liking it, although I can’t imagine what they were like.
I’ve played guitar off and on as an adult. I became serious with it, meaning practicing and playing several hours a day, about eight years ago. I was getting frustrated with it though, because I was writing music, but it was just instrumental stuff without any real direction.
Then I really became serious and decided to write songs with vocals and learn keyboards. That opened it up for me, especially the keyboards, because the layout of the keys helped me understand where I wanted to go with the song, and with the chord structure. That started about five years ago, and since then I’ve been putting in 40 to 50 hours per week just on that.
Stoli: I am loving your new EP, ‘Small Steps.’ How long were you writing/recording and where did you record the album?
Wow, thanks, I appreciate that. I had been working on those songs, the instruments, the vocals, etc., for about three years. It’s hard to tell exactly, because I have a few other songs that I’ve been working on as well, so it’s all kind of a blur.
I also recorded and mixed these myself in my studio, which is a lot of work. I guess it’s an extension of my garage back when I was a kid.
Stoli: The reviews for the album have been very positive. Do you ever get nervous how your music will be received and how do good reviews feel?
Yes, they’ve been great and I’ve been very happy. I wasn’t expecting good reviews. I was just hoping that someone would acknowledge that I was creating and recording music. So, I guess I can say that I wasn’t nervous about getting a bad review, I was just nervous about getting no reviews.
Stoli: I love how the CD looks like a vinyl record. How did that neat idea come to be?
The idea came during the mastering phase of the project. Carl Rowatti from Trutone Mastering Labs did the mastering. In addition to having a great studio, he’s THE master of vinyl. I didn’t press these songs to vinyl, but I liked the retro idea, so I used CDs with a vinyl look. My CD cover has somewhat of a retro style too, and so do my social media sites. So it all seemed to tie together.
Stoli: You are quoted as saying, “When I look at these songs now, they seem to have taken the shape of the life I live.” Please explain that more and how does this album define your current life situation?
Right – what I was trying to say was that the songs have contrast, with some new types of sounds and a firm foundation. In a way that does reflect my life. For instance, my music is an interesting contrast against the other things I’m creating, whether those things are music videos, or something that I’m writing. I’m also currently working on some new things like a sci-fi show that’s out on YouTube. And I feel that I have a firm foundation with my family, who are very supportive of everything I do.
Stoli: I love the song “Mister Dumpty.” “River Of Life.” What inspired that song and what does it mean to you?
I wrote that song during the conflict in Libya a few years ago. The lyrics focus on situations of repression, but it’s not just wars where this happens. Repression happens everywhere: at schools, in towns, and even in the workplace. I wrote the song to say that we don’t have to put up with it, and that it really is up to us to change it.
The music video for this song focuses on the atrocities of genocide. The idea comes from a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. several years ago. I went as a chaperone for a youth group. A Holocaust survivor by the name of Saul came along to help the kids with the learning experience. Going with Saul made it very personal, and I felt compelled to help keep the awareness alive.
Stoli: What is life like for you away from music. Do you have a family, work/school, etc and how do you balance?
I have a great wife and three children: two boys and a girl. It really is a wonderful family and I’m very lucky. That balance thing is a tricky question, because I’m not sure how I do it. I am sure that I need more sleep though. A lot more.
Stoli: It looks like the US might go to war in Syria. Do you think it’s time for the government to focus on the people here that are hurting too?
Basically, I think we should scale back our defense budget, and use that money here at home and for other programs. I would like to see the United States as a superpower in health, education, or technologies, instead of being a military superpower. I think that would be better for the country and the planet.
Stoli: What kind of mood & setting must you be in to create music?
For me it’s not really a specific mood or setting. I go through several phases of the creative process, like an initial idea phase, a developing phase, an editing phase, etc. Sometimes I need to be in different settings and frames of mind to be able to see different aspects properly.
Sometimes it’s nebulous, and hard to explain, like the initial idea phase. I’m a visual person, so in that initial phase I sometimes visualize a shape that has dimensions, and colors, and some other attributes that are hard to describe with words, then I just try to create sounds and feelings that express that image.
Stoli: Who are two artists that you listen to and admire their music?
My interests change, but lately I’ve been listening to Junior Kimbrough. He was a Mississippi hill country bluesman who developed his own hypnotic style of music. His track Meet Me in the City is fantastic.
I’ve also been listening to the later Radiohead tracks, starting from the Kid A album and its great title track. I really like the recent Staircase track too.
Stoli: What is coming up for Russell Suereth and where are you and the new EP @ online?
Well, I’m working on another EP, and going through that creative process again. I hope the result will be something accessible, and is something people will like and remember. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
I’m pretty happy about the level of my online presence right now. My Small Steps EP is on iTunes and Amazon MP3. You can also find my music on my web site at http://russellsuereth.com.
And I’m really excited about my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/rsuereth which not only has my music videos, but my sci-fi show as well. I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Russell-Suereth/390398147735328 and Twitter at http://twitter.com/RussellSuereth.
Thanks for the opportunity today, Stoli.