Enjoy a refreshingly one of a kind pirate adventure with Suzanne Schmid. “Throw the Captain Out to Sea” is a kids song that not just for kids. Suzanne writes from the soul to share inspirations and tickle the imagination.
1. How long have you been writing/performing music? What other styles of music do you like to perform/write? Do you perform in festivals, open mics or with other groups?
I feel that I have always been a songwriter. I grew up in the 80s in Upstate, NY with limited television and just a few radio stations. My siblings and I often came up with silly songs while we played. We were the kind of kids who were always singing or rhyming, and we still do this today – especially my brother and I. I would even make up rhymes and songs while walking around the neighborhood with the family dog. Often the songs were songs about or for the dog, and the rhythm matched the rhythm of my feet as they hit the pavement. That habit continued into my early adulthood.
However, I officially started writing music in 2012, after watching this great performance of Laurelyn Dossett’s, “The Gathering,” at Meymandi Hall in Raleigh (Laurelyn is a very accomplished singer-songwriter from Greensboro, NC). I was captivated by something Laurelyn had said on stage about her process for writing this beautiful winter-themed song-cycle. She mentioned how excited she was to receive, in the mail, her music transcribed for orchestra even though she couldn’t really read the music. After the show, I asked Laurelyn how someone could write such beautiful music without being able to read music. She looked at me with a puzzled look and said, “you just strum the guitar and find the chords,” or something to that effect. Later I realized what a silly question that was. People have composed music throughout history without requiring music theory classes. Duh! Anyway, I have always wanted to “write” music … I just didn’t know how to start despite the fact that I do know how to read music, having grown up playing violin in the school orchestra. I took that brief conversation with Laurelyn as a kick in the pants to stop making excuses and to figure out how to get the melodies and words out of my head and onto paper. A few months later I found a guitar teacher in town named Eric Haugen and he helped me on the path to songwriting.
I don’t have much experience performing in front of people. I have performed a few times over the years for various groups, but mainly as part of a music camp performance experience. I have performed some children’s songs for my son’s elementary school classroom. I would like to start performing more this year, but it does require a lot of time to plan, schedule, form a band and rehearse. Since I work full-time and have a full-time family, there isn’t much time. I do like to join local jams when I have time. I like getting together with the students and staff from the PickNBow camp in Durham. Chapel Hill guitarist, Danny Gotham, has organized this camp for the last several years. After the 2014 camp we decided to keep the fun going, and we get together as often as we can. Getting comfortable with Open Mics is a big goal for the rest of 2016. I just attended an Open Mic workshop held by singer-songwriter, Jon Shain, this weekend and I took a bunch of notes on what I need to do to prepare. So I am ready to go. I am going to visit some Open Mics out of town where I don’t know anyone and then work up to ones in town where I do know people. In August my family and I are going to road-trip and hit some Open Mics I have heard about from my singer-songwriter friends. I am hoping that by September I will no longer be an Open Mic Novice.
This year I am working on a full length album, “The Field Hand,” with Jon Shain as producer. The Field Hand will contain 9 original songs and 1 cover. We have finished recording, and it will be out later in the year and will be aimed at the adult market. It is mostly a folk album, with some forays into Reggae, Old Time, and Rock. I have a lot of guest performers on this CD, and I can’t wait to receive the final mixes from engineer (and bass player), FJ Ventre (Good Luck Studios). I will release it on itunes, Amazon, CDBaby … (the usual places)
I had this plan to put out “Throw the Captain out to Sea” with an illustrated book of the same name. However, since I started The Field Hand project, my resources (time and money) have been pretty stretched so the book has been placed on the back burner. I recorded “Throw the Captain out to Sea” at Nightsound Studios in Carrboro. I had worked with Meghan Puryear, an engineer at Nightsound, to record a demo for “Slept all Night” (which was recently re-recorded at Good Luck Studios for “The Field Hand” CD). I knew my teacher, Eric Haugen would provide all the guitar tracks and I had already planned to ask Gabriel Pelli (of the Old Ceremony/Onyx Club Boys) to play fiddle on the song. Around that time I saw that Billy Jonas of the Billy Jonas Band (a family-themed band) was fundraising for his CD, Build it Back Again. My family loves Billy’s music and we see his band whenever it is nearby. I contacted Billy to negotiate an arrangement through his Indiegogo page. I was pretty floored when he agreed to record vocal and percussion on the song. In fact he told me he was in town and offered to meet me that week! However, being new to recording, Eric recommended that we lay the guitar tracks first and we later arranged for the engineer to transfer the guitar tracks to Billy who has a studio in Asheville. I was pretty surprised to receive 9 vocal and percussion tracks back from Billy and his band-mate, Sherman Hoover! I was only expecting 2 tracks. They put so much work into this song and I couldn’t believe how great their parts sounded together.
4. Any fun/interesting stories while performing or recording the song that you can share?
After the guitar tracks and my scratch vocals were recorded, Meghan sent me the rough tracks. At the very end of the mix was the sound of someone moving a squeaky chair and clearing his throat. Perhaps it was the pirate captain, with something else to say? No, it was just Eric, of course, but it sounded so funny and appropriate. My kids would play it over and over again just to hear the funny sound at the end. I was almost sorry that Meghan cut it off before we sent it for mastering, but Billy and Sherman’s pirate-y ‘Arrrr..’ sounds that you hear at the end of the song totally make up for it
5. Speed round:
-Favorite pirate movies?
I have to admit that I haven’t seen too many – I like the Johnny Depp Pirate of the Caribbean movies.
-Favorite pirate cartoon?
-Favorite place to sail?
I don’t sail too often, but I’d love to sail near the coast of North Carolina, of course. I was born in the Caribbean – in Jamaica, so I would love to sail there as well. But it would have to be on a big pirate ship of course!
**For sea-fairing pirates that can’t consume rum, finish the final favorite drink:
Yo ho ho and a bottle of Orange juice … to prevent scurvy.
If you enjoyed the interview and the YouTube video, check out the studio mix at CDBaby. It’s a real treat for the ears!!