Suzanne Santo of HONEYHONEY

Suzanne Santo of HONEYHONEY

Caught halfway between the dark swoon of pop-noir, the raw rasp of soul music, and the honest punch of Americana, Suzanne Santo's Ruby Red tells the story of a singer, songwriter, and mul-ti-instrumentalist who, more than 10 years into an acclaimed career, is turning a new corner. Produced by multi-platinum Grammy nominee Butch Walker (whose Los Angeles recording stu-dio gives the album its name), Ruby Red marks Santo's first release as a solo artist. For the past decade, she's spent most of her time fronting the Americana duo HONEYHONEY, whittling her banjo, violin, and vocal chops into sharp shape along the way. Here, she takes a break from that longtime gig to explore something different, creating a moody, sexually-charged album filled with organic instruments, distorted fiddle, Walker's powerful electric guitar, and Santo's most stunning vocal performances to date. "I think I started writing songs for this record long before I realized that I was writing songs for this record,” said Santo. “ I’ ve identified with a collaboration for so long that the thought of taking a leap into the depths ofmy own music and having no idea what that would look like, definitely came as a shock. I was getting lazy and not finishing the tasks at hand like I really wanted, deep down, tobe able todo. Writing this record was bewitching in a way.” Before they collaborated onRuby Red, Santo made multiple appearances on Butch Walker's eighth album, Stay Gold. She joined him on the road, too, singing harmonies and playing violin,guitar, and banjo during a nationwide tour in 2016. During breaks in her touring schedule, she began diving into a different type of songwriting, looking to diverse albums by Erykah Badu, Da-vid Bowie, Townes Van Zandt, and the Alabama Shakes for inspiration. For years, she'd always been somebody else's bandmate. This was a time to explore her own identity. To write her own music. To ignore genres and defy expectations. To determine what, exactly, she wanted to say. . .and find out the best way to deliver it. “ Once Butch acquiesced to producing the record, I had an‘ oh shit!’ moment where I realized that I needed to really show up,” continued Santo. “ I hadto have songs that were finished, let alone good enough. I couldn’ t stop and I wrote all day every day to finish the songs I’ d started years ago as well as the few that presented themselves in the 4th quarter. I took long walks inmy neighborhood and listened to demos onmy cell phone and worked out lyrics. I would also wake upin the middle of the night with new ideas and would get up and write them down orrec-ord them. It felt like the songs were seeping through the cracks ofmy mind and out ofmymouth, without much ofmy consent. I think art is a channel, connected to something much greater than we are and I feel honored when it picks me from time to time." Ruby Red isan album about love, life, and lust in the modern world. Moody and melody-driven, its 11 songs range from "Handshake" — the record's epic opening track, equal parts Southern-gothic anthem and slow-burning soul ballad —to the driving "Ghost inmy Bed," which pairs anexplosive chorus with layers of mandolin, fiddle, and piano. Meanwhile, tracks like "Better Than That" focus on little more than Santo's voice: an electrifying, elastic instrument that's capable ofboth vulnerability and ferocity. Santo and Walker recorded Ruby Red quickly, pulling long hours in Walker's bright, sunlit studio in Southern California. The instrumental tracks were captured live, with help from guests like pedal steel player Dr. Stephen Patt — Santo's primary care physician, as well as a former member of the Edgar Winter Group — and drummer Mark Stepro. Santo kept the guest list small, though, splitting the bulk of the instrumental duties with Walker.
"It was incredible to work with Butch. He facilitates a great time and an artistic environment that orbits solely around what’ s best for the song, which isso rare in a business full of egos. Butch and this environment liberated and enabled meto work in a way that I never knew I was capa-ble of." Although Ruby Red marks the start of something new, it doesn't signify the end of Santo's long run with HONEYHONEY. Santo will join bandmate Ben Jaffe in the television series The Guest Book, whose episodes feature the two musicians in acting and musical roles. The show premi-eres on TBS during the latter half of 2017, adding another bullet point to the acting career Santo launched years before HONEYHONEY's formation. Santo's story is still unfolding. This is the newest chapter, bringing with it a track list that doubles down on the songwriter's strengths and stretches her limits. There willbe more chapters to ex-plore. More colorful stories to tell. But for now, Suzanne Santo's future is looking Ruby Red. "This record isso fucking sexy, I can't deal,” said Walker. “ Proud to have been in the room when these songs were going down. Put iton and turn out the lights."

Prufrock had the Emperor of Ice Cream in a headlock when the roar of a '37 Triumph Speed Twin made them both forget what they were fighting about. In walked an Anglo-Cherokee-Japanese skateboarder. "I'm Korey Dane, and you're both acting like children."

He had ridden from Joshua Tree where his father was rebuilding a 1953 Chevy Hardtop. "I've put my board away, gentlemen, and I've picked up a guitar. I figure the board will never really let me say what I want to say, and frankly, nothing makes me cry like the 3 minor chord." The table was cleared for a round of Old Pulteneys as Korey Dane began his tale of woe and redemption.

"I'm twenty-five years old. My mother handed me East of Eden when I was twelve and I've never been the same since. Neither has she. Mom and Dad headed in opposite directions; academe called her name and Dad, well Dad drove into the desert until he ran out of gas. And there he hung his hat. I tumbled for a while…and grumbled. But four wheels brought me where I needed to go. I probably did a little too much of this and way too much of that, but that's ok. I'm better for it. Lera says I've still got a long way to go. Hell, she's from Ukraine, for Christ's sake. She should know.

"Luckily, I heard and saw some things; Tom Waits, Bruce Davidson, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Aaron Embry, The Beatles and the Stones, Blake Mills, Mark Gonzales, Karen Dalton, and the 'Mats. Hitching across the country is like a 72-day answer to the question, 'What's the worst thing that could happen?' Well, I've gathered a lot of answers to that question. But the best thing that could happen was going around the country until I found myself back home. Listen to me. I'm Dorothy fucking Gale!

"Home is where I decided to take a position. Orville Gibson and Ernie Ball were my earliest accomplices. The three of us were sequestered for a couple of years until we all agreed I needed to step outside. I played for a few friends and nobody hit me. I felt this might work out.

"I rolled some Legend of 91 and got to work. A hundred songs…three of them decent. Then I slept for three days. Woke up and wrote a hundred more. This time, two of them were worthwhile. This wasn't going well. After a while I met some folks. They were nice. They were encouraging. And they said, 'Surely you can do better than this.' They introduced me to a man—a cruel man—who made me do things no man should have to do. Scansion, modulation, chromaticism…he was mean and relentless.

"But here I sit. Open to whatever comes. You're both older gentlemen, now. Go home to your wives, your families. I feel ready."

The three of them went their respective ways. Prufrock and the Emperor are now long gone.

Korey Dane is standing right outside your door.

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