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Susy Blue

Susan Hull aka Susy Blue was cocooned as a classically trained flautist before realising that her personality wasn’t entirely suited to the shackles of classical music. Crossing the floor into classical music’s mortal enemy, improvisational jazz, Hull found herself writing songs full of light and flight that were embedded in gypsy/jazz and cabaret folk. They’re free, fun, on the fringe and yet nestled in pop overtones. With a reworked set taking shape for her spot at Darebin Music Feast, Hull is a bundle of nervous yet charming energy in conversation.

“Unfortunately I have a day job, which is slightly depressing,” Hull says laughing as she discusses the structure of an ordinary Susy Blue day. “Well the job itself isn’t depressing, it’s music-related, I’m teaching music, but it’s not playing full time. I’m saving up for recording. I’ve been arranging scores and stuff for this Darebin gig as well.”

 

Fortunately Hull has received both an Australian Youth Council Buzz Grant and the Darebin Music Feast’s Songwriter’s Award acting as boosts to both her finances and her confidence. “It feels like the universe is going ‘Okay, it’s alright, you just keep going’, and I realise I shouldn’t give up just yet,” she says. “I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of whinging from artists about the struggle. I don’t know if it’s still the case but I went to uni with a fairly successful artist who, even when they were signed to Sony, still didn’t have much money. I think in Australia it’s a bit harder.”

 

While it seems that playing live is a solid way to earn a living as a musician, sometimes playing too often can be as detrimental as not playing enough. “You could do gigs at least every week in Melbourne but I’m all for not playing too much,” she says. “I don’t want to drag my band through the mud because they’re all amazing musicians and I really respect them so I don’t want to make them play a gig every week and get paid $30 or something. I’m going for the more is less idea this year and playing gigs that are really nice and that we really enjoy.”

 

While the Susy Blue project is a Hull creation, her band has taken on a greater level of importance to her. “I write all of the words and the chords and with the other instrumentation I just give them the charts and the feel and they play their own ideas,” she says. “I don’t play their instruments so I’m not going to tell them how to play their parts. If it’s a specific instrument like a clarinet or in the case with the Darebin gig where I have a string section, I will score out their entire part. I’m kind of a benevolent dictator.”

 

The dictatorship is undergoing a change for the Darebin Feast set as some members of her band are unavailable and she is bringing in a string section - a decision that is sure to further the light and quirky sound that is Susy Blue.

 

The type of music an artist plays all too often boxes in their personality. Some assume heavy musicians are devil-worshipping kitten killers while the personality of Hull is describe with the same adjectives as her music – with the two seemingly inseparable. “I actually really kill kittens,” she laughs. “But seriously, it’s so hard for someone to objectively comment on their personality. I’m sure there’s things that I’m not aware of, but hopefully I’m vaguely aware of what I’m like. I think people would probably agree with some of those things of being light and playful and carefree. But there’s definitely another side to me where the scales tip. I’m a Libra, and in winter particularly, like anyone, I can be quite melancholic. I like philosophy and being serious and I think people probably wouldn’t see that side of me.”

 

With a sound that seems so aligned with an international audience, Hull discusses her hopes for overseas touring and her plans for an album release. “I would love to go to Europe,” she says. “I get mixed feelings from people who go over there. At the moment I have two friends in Paris and I wanna go but I think it’ll be a matter of transitioning into a solo artist. I love my band and I love having a band and I don’t know if they could all come. That’s the thing really, I would have to change and work on getting a different set together. I want to go to America as well so I’m weighing up where I want to go to more. With recording, we’ve already recorded the drums and I’ve been recording the rest at home; I really want to release it soon. So often, when you put an album out the songs have been around for two or more years and you feel like you don’t want to promote them because they’re so old. But hopefully I’ll put out a single this year and the album early next year. From there, well, I dunno,” she says trailing off.

 

BY KRISSI WEISS

SUSY BLUE joins the Darebin Music Feast brigade at the Northcote Town Hall on Friday September 21.