It’s no secret that the best things usually come on the side – you don’t have to go any further than sweet potato fries for proof of that. When singer-songwriter Suzie Bradford went looking for something “on the side”, what she found was a new sound and a new love.
Formed in Spokane, WA in 2003, The Side Project was born from Suzie’s need to find a more feminine outlet for her music than the rockin’ guy-group that she was fronting at the time. Joining musical forces with bass-player (and now-husband) Ben Bradford and a mutual friend, the aptly-named project was just what she needed to let her disarmingly-pretty and lyrical vocal style shine through. Not surprisingly, the project soon took center-stage with an ever-increasing number of live performances and a full-length CD, which followed 2 years later.
In the time since their inception, The Side Project has been mesmerizing audiences throughout Washington State with their live shows, which often incorporate other creative disciplines, including painting, photography, film and sculpture. The collaborative multi-media aspect of their live performances was inspired by a close friend and mentor who Suzie had the privilege of working with at age 19. “He taught me how to incorporate art and I saw the beauty in being able to watch the performance and watch the art being created.”
In addition to their rigorous playing schedule, Suzie and Ben have just released their third studio album, “Wake Up Call”. Compared to their previous efforts, which were recorded over a much-shorter period of time, this effort was 5 years in the making; something that Suzie hopes will show-through in the songs themselves. And, although the songs on “Wake Up Call” run the gamut from tender ballad to straight-up pop, and are quite different from one to the next, the band manages to maintain a good flow throughout the album. The common thread that ties them all together is Suzie’s sensitive, yet powerful delivery. Even when she sings sweetly, you know she means it.
I wanted to know more about Suzie’s songwriting, and in particular, how much of her personal life (and marriage to bandmate Ben) sneaks into it. She responded candidly, “I would say that my first two albums were definitely written more about Ben. In this one, I did write “Mr. Wonderful” for Ben because I do have a really amazing, amazing man. And, I believe every women deserves an amazing man so I wrote that song to encourage women that he’s out there; you just gotta keep pounding down the doors.” But, this isn’t strictly an album of love songs. As Suzie explained, “In this album, more than the other two, I talk more about my struggles with, you know, the angel and the devil on my shoulders. I wrote “wake up call” about that struggle within myself.”
Part of that struggle comes from trying to find a balance between living the life of a musician at night and taking care of the demanding business side of the band by day. With a playing-schedule that often has the band on stage 4 nights a week, plus Suzie’s efforts to book and promote the band without the help of management, it is easy to understand how it can be difficult to maintain that equilibrium. I asked Suzie about the demands that come with being an indie band who are doing it all themselves. “I always view it like “it is as much as I want it to be”, you know? As much as I put into it is what I am going to get back. We’ve had management in the past and although I look back now and think, “Gosh, that was something I should have been super grateful for” because I understand how much work goes into it, I also like to be in control of things. So, I struggle with that balance….letting other people do it for me, because I feel like I could maybe control it or, not necessarily do it better…”
I asked Suzie if there are enough tools and resources out there for indie bands; specifically, is it possible to do it all without management, or do are there obstacles in the road that having representation would avoid? “Yeah, both, I think. With the management that we had before, some of her contacts wouldn’t re-hire me because they were, well, her contacts. We learned that the hard way. I’m looking into “the Indie Bible” (a directory of music industry websites) and looking at all of the radio stations we can send the cd to. I think if it’s supposed to go, if it’s supposed to do something, if it’s supposed to work…if you put in the work, then it’s going to work for you.”
And, work they shall. Having just released the CD at the beginning of this month, Suzie and Ben are wasting no time in getting it off to a good start by getting it into as many hands (and ears) as possible. I, for one, believe this album will spell success for the duo who are hitting the ground running with a good local following; as well as a little taste of international recognition, thanks to one of their songs showing up on season 4 of “So You Think You Can Dance”. Will the world see the potential that lies in “Wake Up Call”? As Suzie puts it, “I’m really optimistic that they’ll look at this album and really latch onto it.”
“Wake Up Call” by The Side Project is available now , on CD or via digital download, at CD Baby. Look for The Side Project at various venues in and around Seattle. Check out their MySpace page for show dates and further info.