Tuesday, October 7, 2008
BGG Chats with Newcomer Suai
You may not know her name yet, but that will soon change. Suai (pronounced "sway") is a hot new Universal/Motown artist who is sure to set the airwaves on fire with her unique sound. Having already made an appearance on BET's hit show, Baldwin Hills, as well as being one of the esteemed artists featured on the "Yes We Can: Voices of a Grassroots Movement" CD for Barack Obama, this Detroit native is ready to take the music world by storm.
Check out my Q&A with this talented new singer:
BGG: Is Suai your birth name? If so, what does it mean?
Suai: My parents didn’t know this when they named me, but later found out that it means “beautiful” in Thai. When I was a little girl, my mother and I came up with an acronym for it, “Smart, Unique, Assertive, Individual.” So yes, that’s my real name.
BGG: Who are some of the artists you’ve opened for so far?
Suai: Last summer I opened for T-Pain and it was a lot of fun. I had a band, a dancer and my background dancers. A lot of my friends were in the front row so it felt like all of these people were there to see me! (laughing)
Brian McKnight was my first professional opening back in 2004. I’ve been signed for 3 years to Universal.
BGG: A lot of people think that many artists’ success comes overnight, but that’s not the case.
Suai: No, it’s a process. Some people get in there and have an album out quicker than 3 years, but for us we wanted to take our time and do it right, as opposed to just putting out anything.
BGG: Hailing from the Motor City, who is your favorite old-school Motown artist?
Suai: I love the Temptations. They were just so fly to me! I’m a female so you’d probably think that it would be somebody like Diana Ross, but the Temptations… I feel like everyone patterns themselves after them. You know the matching suits and their moves were so smooth.
BGG: Tell me how you got signed to Universal/Motown?
Suai: I actually got signed in 2005, but I first came here (New York) in 2004. I auditioned with several different labels, but I got a lot of no’s at first. That gave me a thick skin. It was so hard to hear “no” so many times. I was out here to audition for another label and we ran into this guy who knew Sylvia Rhone (the President of Universal/Motown). He called her and she told him to come on up. I was toting my heavy guitar all around New York I think I was 18 or 19 at the time. I played two songs on my guitar and then we found a piano on another floor and I played two songs on there. She was like, “I love it, I get it, let’s do it!”
BGG: So Sylvia Rhone was the one who signed you?
Suai: Yes, it’s crazy and everybody knows it! It’s pressure, but I try not to think about it and just bring it. I’m known as “Sylvia Rhone’s artist” so they know that she’s put out greatness so they expect me to be great, fly and sell millions. It’s pressure but I’m just trying to do me.
BGG: So what’s the music landscape like in Detroit?
Suai: It’s live...meaning instrumentation. There are a lot of independent artists trying to stake their claim in the city. I like the fact that there are so many types of music for everybody. We have a bit of a rock & roll history too. So there’s a little bit of everything. Somewhere I fit in there! There’s a nice little neo-soul movement going on there too now.
BGG: What can listeners expect to hear from your debut release?
Suai: Yay! That’s my favorite question! (laughing) It’s my favorite question because I am very proud of the fact it’s not one genre. It’s at least 4 of 5 that I can hear; someone else might hear something else! I’ve got hip-hop soul, R&B, pop, alternative…there’s something for everybody. Even if it wasn’t me, it’s an album that I’d always play. I’m so excited!
BGG: What producers have you worked with?
Suai: Sylvia Rhone, Bryan-Michael Cox, Polow the Don, Carvin & Ivan, Linda Perry, Nephew, etc. Having being signed for 3 years you can imagine that I’ve worked with a lot of producers some of the biggest and the best, as well as some new up-and-coming ones too.
BGG: Do you know what’s going to be your first single?
Suai: We’re still deciding, but I know I’d like for “Come Out, Come Out” to be the first single. It’s a song that I wrote at home by myself and I co-produced it too; so it’s special to me because it’s showcasing me as a writer, producer and musician because I’m playing keys on it too. I would love to have that as a first single to let people know that I’m not just a voice and a fly outfit! (laughing)
Check out a snippet of her performing here:
BGG: I hear you mention a lot of instruments, how many do you play?
Suai: I play piano, guitar, I’ve studied cello and flute. But I perform on piano mostly and every now and then I pick up the guitar. I’m going to buy a cello one day!! (laughing)
BGG: Who are some of your music role models?
Suai: Growing up I was listening to Brandy! I met her and I did the whole fan thing. I went up to her and said, “Can I have a hug?” (laughing) I’m an 80s/90s baby so people like Jodeci, Guy, K-Ci & JoJo, Next, Blackstreet…you know all of those. From ages 15-17 I was a self-professed jazz head so I was listening to Ella (Fitzgerald) and Billie (Holiday) who are two of my favorite artists. My mom wanted me to be exposed to a lot of different kinds of music.
BGG: How is your music and overall style different from other young R&B female artists?
Suai: I think what’s going to separate me from the pack is that I’m a stage rat. I love to be on stage. I’ve expressed to my label that I want to be on the road 9 to 10 months out of the year. I want to work this album! I don’t care if they’re small club dates or opening for somebody at a stadium, I just want to be out there. I just love to be on the road! Being on stage is it for me. I believe that my passion for the stage is definitely going to help separate me from other artists.
BGG: Years from now, down the road, what would you like to be known for?
Suai: I would want people to know that I was great. I'd love to have the opportunity to open a performing arts boarding school in Detroit. I just feel like performing arts is a universal language. It was given to me and I really appreciate it.
Be on the lookout for her debut CD in the coming months. For more information, check out her website, www.suaionline.com.
Do you remember when some of your favorite artists first started?
For those of you who are in the NYC area, she will be performing tonight at Tillman's at 11pm.