“I don’t mind being hard to find/I don’t care if I’m out there.” - Suzanna Choffel, “Race Car”
Suzanna Choffel is many things: a rising star, an undeniable musical force and a unique voice (a “honeyed husk,” as it’s been posited) who feels equally at home singing in a dimly-lit, smoky club as she does front and center in front of (literally) millions. So, lyrical protestations aside, Choffel is no hidden gem. She’s already making her mark. Granted, she’s hard to pin down.
Consider her critical praise — she’s “Feist meets Erykah Badu with a hint of Tex-Mex seasoning.” She’s “equal parts Beat poetry, smoky soul grooves and indie-pop eccentricity.” She’s “graceful” and yet, as Rolling Stone asserts, possessing “all the vibe in the world.”
Easy to love, difficult to define: credit Choffel’s restless creative spirit. And also credit the Texas native’s musical upbringing. From birth, there were already hints of future prowess: the singer’s given name was inspired by her mother’s love of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne.” At an early age, the budding star had already taken up piano, saxophone and guitar; she even composed her own songs on a keyboard and recorded them into a karaoke machine.
And then there were the times she’d simply sit with her mom and listen to records. “Motown: that music affected me early on,” she remembers. “I loved Stevie Wonder. But I was also listening to people like John Denver, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell.” She laughs. “You know, bittersweet folk music.”
Choffel’s family and culture were deeply embedded in her music. Partially of Mexican descent, even her earliest work reflected the distinct flavors and rhythms of Tejano music (and why, to this day, you may hear her occasionally sing in Spanish).
After her parents’ divorce, the young Choffel moved to South Austin. There, at the age of 12, she had a musical epiphany. “In Austin I was exposed to live music in a new sense,” she says. “Before that, I thought you had to be an uber famous rock god or pop star...in Austin, I found this other path.” Which is why, as a teenager, you could usually find Choffel performing in clubs around town, belting out Bonnie Raitt and Bessie Smith blues jams at venues like Babe's on Sixth Street.
Her musical endeavors followed her to college, where she sang for roots-rock bands and a hip-hop/jazz project. During her time at the College of Santa Fe, she met an unlikely collaborator: Ben Haggerty, a.k.a. platinum hip-hop star Macklemore. “In hindsight, it’s really funny,” says Choffel, whose own hip-hop interests at the time included acts like A Tribe Called Quest and Mos Def. “I would do these slam poetry events on a bandshell in a big common area, and he would come down and rap with us.
Once Choffel returned to Austin, she began to focus on her own recordings, developing a unique sound that mixed elements of all her musical passions, including R&B, reggae, pop, and jazz. Her first album, Shudders & Rings, won accolades (“The Next Fun Fearless Female Rock Star” crowed the Austin Chronicle) and more than a few local and indie music awards.
But it was her live show where people really took notice. No matter the venue, hers was always an intimate affair, one the Austin Chronicle rightly captured: “The graceful confidence of her music,” they noted, “allows Choffel to make every performance feel as if it's late night and she's in a South Austin living room grooving for the pleasure of it.”
Headline performances at SXSW and Austin City Limits led to even more festival appearances at CMJ and Voodoo Experience. Choffel’s music appeared in commercials and in film, including one track during a pivotal moment of the indie hit Catfish (a surprise even to her).
Always up for the unexpected, Choffel auditioned for and landed a spot on NBC’s popular primetime singing competition The Voice in 2012, wowing the judges with her renditions of Fleetwood Mac and Bob Marley, and earning singular praise from Rolling Stone as “the only artist you’d want to listen to a complete album from.”
Cue the evocative and musically expansive Archer, combining Choffel’s depth of songwriting with an array of musical talent, from special guests Big Sam's Funky Nation to pianist Davíd Garza, to producer/musician Danny Reisch (White Denim, Okkervil River). The album balances heady introspection against lush textures and bounding rhythm: from the string-laden, reggae-infused “Race Car” and the percussive, provocative title track, “Archer,” to the sultry groove of “Animal” and soulful, syncopated sound of "Raincloud," graced with real New Orleans funk by Big Sam Williams on trombone and Da Phessah Drew Baham on trumpet. A lover by turns cool in “Hot Shot,” fiery and impassioned in “Hold Of The Night,” and paradoxical in “Stumble,” Choffel’s soul is palpable throughout.
The album closes with “Golden Fires”--a plaintive, slow-burning ode that strikes a universal chord, inspired by her recent move to New York City. “I got this real creative energy moving here,” she says, acknowledging her unpredictable path and ever-evolving story. “I certainly don’t want to stay in one place,” adding, “I find it more interesting to always step into other shoes.”
### PRESS "Equal parts Beat poetry, smoky soul grooves and indie-pop eccentricity. Think Feist meets Erykah Badu, with a hint of Tex-Mex seasoning." - Chicago Sun-Times
“A first-class singer, Choffel has the kind of voice that commands attention... And that smoky, soulful voice, mixed with indie-pop and jazz sensibilities, provides a beautiful vehicle for her words.” - San Antonio Express-News
“Refreshingly unique.” - Adam Levine
"Suzanna has learned from some of the greats about phrasing, playing around with delivery and beat, singing the emotions and the words rather than merely the melody. She slots nicely alongside Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux and Fiona Apple." - Steve Hochman, LA Times
released November 12, 2013
Danny Reisch (producer)
Johnny Vogelsang (bass)
Brad Houser (bass)
Laura Scarborough (vibraphone, piano)
Eldridge Goins (drums)
Kyle Thompson (drums)
David Garza (piano)
Jason Chronis (piano)
Austin Jenkins (guitar)
Jon Sanchez (guitar)
Big Sam Williams (trombone)
DaPheesah Drew Baham (trumpet)
Will Landin (tuba)
Peter De Hart (drums, percussion)
Andrew Toups (piano)
Caroline Wright (cello)
Mitch Billeaud (guitar)
Sean Conner (keyboards)
Chris Gebhard (guitar, wurlitzer, drums)
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