Susie Wilkins gets us good with new EP
When Susie Wilkins entered the studio to begin work on her new EP, there was a consistent theme of getting away from her previous album, 2011’s Anywhere But Here.
“I’m really proud of it, but part of it being such a solitary process made it very introspective,” she said. “There were a lot of ballads on there and it was a little sad, and I wanted to cheer up a bit, I guess, on this record. I wanted to wake people up.”
Oh, she did.
Just listen to the title track, “She Got Me Good,” and you will feel the energy of an almost hard rock track ripping through the speakers. The Londoner has toured with Joe Jackson in the past. Is Metallica next?
“I like to stay eclectic,” she laughs.
But all joking aside, the song sets a mood immediately, and it’s precisely the one she wanted to set.
“I don’t know if I wrote it with the intention of being heavy,” Wilkins said. “I love rock and roll with energy, I love Led Zeppelin, and that’s sort of where my heart lies. And when I play live, I’m always way heavier than I’ve sounded previously on record. I was trying to get a little bit closer to how I actually sound with this.
“But it’s funny because the other three songs on the EP were three songs I spent months and months writing, and I worked on making them perfect,” she continues. “And then ‘She Got Me Good,’ I wrote in about five minutes in the recording studio. (Laughs) And funnily enough, it’s the track that everyone likes the best.”
It may be a favorite, but it’s not the end of the good stuff. In fact, it wouldn’t be out of line to suggest that this EP is her strongest effort to date, and considering the quality of her past work, that’s saying something. But why only four songs?
“I usually work in albums,” she said. “That’s how I think and that’s how I write, but because this time around I wanted to do things properly, go in the studio and bring in some great musicians, it was a budgetary decision more than anything else, really. We wanted to get these four songs down, see what happens with that, and then hopefully, if we can get a little traction off the EP, then I can finish the record. That’s the vague plan with it, really.”
Again, it was a response to Anywhere But Here, which was largely done by Wilkins on her own. This time, she wanted to put a band together, and she did, with guitarist Jimmy Green, bassist Kevin Jefferies, and drummer Geoff Holroyde joining her in the studio to go back to basics.
“I thought this time, I just want to go into the studio, get somebody else to engineer me and get the guys in and just play it all together at the same time in a nice, old school kind of way,” she said.
It’s not the cheapest way to get a project done, hence an EP and not a full album, but Wilkins enjoyed the process, one in which she let the interplay of the group dictate where the songs went.
“I took quite a lot of my ideas and half-ideas into the rehearsal room with the musicians, and we played them out,” she said. “Quite often if you’re a solo artist, you record little demos and do stuff yourself, and it doesn’t always translate when you play it with a band. And because I really wanted it to have the energy of a band recording, it (song selection for the EP) had a lot to do with it being the songs that really worked being played by a rock and roll band.”
Now it’s time for the world to hear it and Wilkins to perhaps pay a visit to what she describes as her “spiritual home” in a musical sense, the United States.
“It’s the home of rock and roll, it’s the home of blues, the home of soul, the home of all the music that I love and I still feel there’s a real active live scene going on, particularly in New York,” she said. “I want to be there and I’m working on it.”
For some, the thought of leaving home to pursue a career in another country is a daunting prospect, but Wilkins is used to such upheavals, having grown up in Hong Kong after moving from Plymouth, England as a child. She would later return to England, but those formative years shaped the way she feels about moving.
“I’ve been in London a long time now and I still don’t feel like I’ve quite adjusted to it, really,” she said. “The thing about Hong Kong is that it’s a great, international city so, in that respect, I feel like I could happily live in any city in the world. You’ll speak to a lot of expat kids and none of us feel like we truly belong anywhere. Which is kind of fine. I could happily pack up and leave and go live in New York or LA. As long as it’s in a city, I’m fine.
“Culturally, because Hong Kong is a small place, the music scene when I was there was awesome and it was manageable because it was small,” Wilkins continues. “I was able to do really well there and then it’s kind of a shock coming to a large, sprawling metropolis like London, where nobody really knows who the hell you are. (Laughs) In that respect, Manhattan, in vibe, is much more similar to Hong Kong. London is a strange place to be a musician, I think.”
But wherever she goes, music goes with her, and as far as Wilkins is concerned, that’s all she needs.
“I would say that music is the thing that has always got me through,” she said. “I had tough times when I was living in Hong Kong, so music got me through. It was definitely hard when I moved to London, adjusting to trying to be a musician here, not having any money, and not having any money in London is not any fun at all. So music has been the thing that has kept me sane through everything. I guess that’s why I keep doing it after all these years. And it’s the audience. I think any musician would say that to you. It’s the buzz from playing to people and people loving your music. That’s the thing that keeps me going.”
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