Out jazz singer Suede combines standards, trumpet and comedy for Fort Worth show
STEVEN LINDSEY | Contributing Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
With Julie Bonk.
Youth Orchestra Hall, 4401 Trail Lake Drive, Fort Worth.
Nov. 6. 8 p.m. $20–$40.
When jazz singer Suede hits the stage in Fort Worth next weekend, the audience will be in for a show where just about anything can happen. After all, what other lesbian do you know that can quickly shift from singing a beautiful ballad, to crooning a sassy jazz number to breaking out with a raucous trumpet solo? (Yes, trumpet.) Throw in some comedy and you get a pretty good idea of what this singular sensation is all about.
Simply put, Suede delivers a show as unique as her name.
“Suede is actually my middle name. It found me when I was in third grade. My last name is one of those that starts with a small ‘de’ and the rest of it is one of those where you want to cry out, ‘May I buy a vowel please?’” she laughs. “I haven’t used my last name in forever. My given first name is Suzanne, which got shortened to Sue. It got too close to the small ‘de’ at the beginning of my last name on a reading paper in third grade and my teacher started calling me Suede and I’ve been going by that ever since.”
She even had the foresight to copyright it, which came in handy in the early ’90s when Sony tried to bring a band over from England called Suede.
“We asked them nicely to stop using my trademarked name, but they sort of looked at me like, ‘What is she really going to do? We’re Sony Corporation,’” she says deepening her voice into a threatening tone. “We ended up suing them and won the case, but it took two years. So yes, there’s a great deal of integrity and importance with this little name of mine.”
After nearly 30 years in show business, she has had the good fortune to make music a full-time career — “No waiting tables, no giving guitar lessons. Just touring and performing,” she says. “It’s such a cliché but I absolutely owe it to my fans. They keep showing up and bringing new people and I’m just astounded by their loyalty.”
Suede started her own record label 26 years ago and released her latest of four solo albums, Dangerous Mood, to celebrate her 25th anniversary of performing professionally.
“Since I was a little kid, I had a dream of performing with a big band and I just went for it. It was an insane project. I recorded it in Tony Bennett’s studio and it was just amazing,” she says.
Many of those songs will be in her show. And just because she’s gay, don’t expect it to be a totally queer affair.
“I have a mainstream jazz following, but I’ve also been an out lesbian performer since the beginning of my career. That was a choice of mine long before it became a good boost for a career like those coming out late in the game today. Having done this for so long, it absolutely was not safe, let alone a good career move, when I made that choice. It was kind of interesting because that certainly had an impact with me trying to get mainstream gigs.”
Ironically, it was the gay community that stereotyped her.
“They’d say, ‘Oh she’s a lesbian folk singer and we know what that means.’ And that’s just not true. I’m a popular jazz singer — always have been. So I really didn’t fit any place, but my fans kept showing up and none of them cared about categorization.”
The formula of jazz meets pop meets big, bawdy trumpet solos, however strange it may sound, has worked and she’s so confident people will love it, she’s got a money-back guarantee.
“I’ll even go so far as to say, take the chance. No questions asked, if you want your money back at the end of it, I’ll personally give it back. I really think you’ll love it because it’s just a whole lot of fun,” she says with a laugh.
And I tend to think she’s telling the truth.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010