Published Apr 18, 2011It has been four years since the release of the Juno-nominated Short Stories, the 2007 album by acclaimed roots music songstress Oh Susanna (aka Suzie Ungerleider). She now returns to the fray with the April 19 release of her fifth album, Soon the Birds, via Outside Music. Ungerleider acknowledges the gap between albums is long, but that's par for the course with Oh Susanna.
"It usually takes me a while to get back into writing after I've recorded something. I get lazy, then I panic and start writing, and then it usually takes about a year to get the songs," Ungerleider tells Exclaim!
Also, becoming a mother led to some delays, as well as necessitated a change in her songwriting approach. "I joke around that I have my kindergarten block of time, with two hours to start a song," says Ungerleider. "I can begin something in that little window, then work on it in my mind throughout the rest of the day."
She enlisted noted Toronto producer David Travers-Smith (Wailin' Jennys, Harry Manx and Kevin Breit) to produce, engineer and mix Soon the Birds with sessions taking place at Travers-Smith's own studio Found Sound, Escarpment Sound and Blue Rodeo's Woodshed studio.
Duetting with Oh Susanna on "Lucky Ones" is Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy, and the pair are no strangers to singing together. "That was fun. We've been singing together for the last few years on different things, on his records and live," says Ungerleider. "When I wrote that song I completely thought of him. I love pretending we are in a relationship together that is going bad. That is what that song is about."
Soon the Birds is released in Europe today (April 18) on the Netherlands-based label Continental Record Services, with a fall tour in Europe being a possibility. "We're trying to figure out distribution in the U.S., but you can get it on iTunes there," says Ungerleider.
The album on iTunes also includes a bonus track, "1941," arranged by the legendary Van Dyke Parks (Beach Boys, Harry Nilsson, Rufus Wainwright). Longtime friends, Ungerleider and Parks first collaborated on the recent Mississippi Sheiks tribute album. "He sent us the arrangement and then David recorded it all here. It was very brilliant, unusual and very much him," she says.
Oh Susanna is now getting set for summer dates with Hawksley Workman, Justin Rutledge and Matthew Barber. "It has been a while since I've done a tour where I've had to play every day, and I'm scared about it [laughs]. I do a lot of stuff on my own. I'm going to do the Hawksley gigs with Burke Carroll, who'll play pedal steel. I'll try to get him to do our June Western Canada tour with Matt, and maybe one other instrument. It won't be a full band, but I quite like doing different things. I like to change it and not have it exactly how it is on the record."
Oh Susanna will celebrate the release of Soon the Birds with a show at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern on Tuesday (April 19). You can see all her scheduled tour dates below.
4/19 Toronto, ON - Horseshoe Tavern
4/21 Toronto, ON - TIFF Bell Lightbox
4/26 Kitchener, ON - Centre in the Square *
4/27 Oakville, ON - Centre for the Performing Arts *
4/28 North Bay, ON - Capitol Centre *
4/29 Guelph, ON - River Run Centre *
4/30 Meaford, ON - Meaford Hall *
5/5 London, ON - Aeolian Hall ^
5/28 Kingston, ON - Chalmers Church ^
* with Hawksley Workman
^ with Justin Rutledge