Suzy Bogguss will perform on CMT’s Grand Ole Opry Live on June 28 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Suzy Bogguss grew up in a small Illinois city with a father who loved country music and a mother who adored the spirit of big bands. So it’s only natural that Bogguss combines those two elements for Swing, although the new album leans more toward Norah Jones than George Jones.
“It is kind of a twist, at least for my mom,” Bogguss tells CMT.com. “She was thrown off-guard by the fiddle.”
All the same, Swing is nothing but a pleasure to listen to, with its relaxed vibe and lighthearted lyrics. With jazzy melodies that glide right by, even teetotalers might be dusting off the martini shaker, which is fine by Bogguss.
“I think it’s great for cocktail parties,” she says. “I like that kind of music when I’m cooking dinner or working out around the pool … doing busy work. I like things that go by that are easy to listen to and aren’t too heavy lyrically. These songs are all more fun and are tongue-in-cheek. There’s nothing on here that’s really gonna bring you down.”
Bogguss earned a favorable reputation in the early 1990s as a wonderfully pure soprano with an ear for smart material. She sidestepped Music Row’s tunesmiths in favor of left-of-center writers like John Hiatt (“Drive South”), Nanci Griffith and Tom Russell (“Outbound Plane”), Ian Tyson (“Someday Soon”) and Cheryl Wheeler (“Aces”). In recognition of her potential, the CMA honored her with the Horizon Award in 1992.
Unfortunately, at the pinnacle of her success, Capitol Records endured a massive personnel shake-up, which ultimately left Bogguss — as well as John Berry, Deana Carter, Billy Dean and others — without label support. After a few more albums were met with disappointing sales, Bogguss left the scene to raise her son, Ben, with her husband, Doug Crider.
In conversation, she seems all right with the way things have turned out. Asked which hits she still loves to sing in concert, Bogguss answers quickly.
“‘Timber,’” she says. “That one’s my favorite.”
“Oh wait, that was Patty Loveless!” she adds and cracks up.
Bogguss was inspired to record Swing after an unusual dream: She was backstage and discovered a run in her nylons. So, Ray Benson offered her a ride on his bus — which was completely empty — and they swerved through the hills of San Francisco looking for a department store.
Then she woke up.
“So I got up and wrote a little note to myself,” she says. “I have a bulletin board in my closet, so if I come up with something for a good song or whatever, I can write it down. That was kind of how it came. I just wrote down ‘Asleep at the Wheel — swing album’ and went back to sleep.”
The next day, she called Benson, who she met in 1984. They arranged to collaborate in Benson’s studio in Austin, Texas, along with past and present members of Asleep at the Wheel. She unearthed a batch of fresh songs from Nashville jazz vocalist April Barrows, as well as Paul Kramer, a longtime member of her band with a surprising penchant for writing such songs.
Of course, there are also a few standards, such as “Comes Love,” “Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me” and “Straighten Up and Fly Right.” Along with Crider and Kramer, Bogguss also co-wrote “It’s Always New to Me,” a song which would sound perfect in a piano bar. With both old and new, Bogguss honed her chops — without her guitar for the first time — in the elegant candlelit Café 123 in downtown Nashville.
“The people who were up close to the stage really got the best acoustics, and therefore they really were intense,” she says. “The back of the bar had people talking like a cocktail party. It had a really relaxed feel to it where the music was really accessible, and if the people wanted to get close, they could really get into it and watch some amazing playing by my band. Or they could just enjoy it as background music for a really cool night out.”