Sometimes the best new talents sneak up on you, not hitting the radio or the popular music scene for many months, meanwhile a select few are in on the secret – and they understandably like to keep it all to themselves. Susie McLean is one of Canada’s such secrets, but since the release of her first album in May, we must face the truth: the secret is out.
As a mother of two, happily married to her perfect match, Susie McLean has, admittedly, done things backwards when it comes to standards in the music industry. Although she started playing the piano at age eight, began singing lessons shortly after, and attended Etobicoke School of the Arts all before meeting her husband, Susie’s career as a musician didn’t begin until she had everything else in her life figured out. “I was an executive assistant for a company,” she explains as we sit down at the chic downtown Toronto restaurant WISH. “I think it was the fifth year I was there that I was like, you know what? I need to do my music. It was a feeling that just didn’t go away.” Now, a few years and plenty of onstage experience later, Susie has released her first album and is adjusting to life as a full time singer.
After making what she says was a family decision to pursue her love of music, Susie spent nearly two years writing three original songs, “Sing Your Song”, “Falling Down” and “‘Til The Morning Comes” an original song, written by Laura Woodley.” She also spent the time selecting the seven other tracks, hand-picked and pored over cover songs, that would complete her debut album. “The album took me so long because every single song on it means something special to me,” she says, placing a heartfelt hand on her chest. And of course, when it comes to writing, you can’t always predict when inspiration will hit. “ Sometimes I’ll be out with people, and someone will say something, and I’m like… that’s beautiful, that’s a song!” Susie says, laughing. Once the writing process was complete, however, she confesses it took only two days in the studio to record the entire album – albeit, early mornings and late nights for the two-day recording marathon.
Although she speaks with confidence and her laughter can easily capture all ears in the room now, it wasn’t always a smooth ride for Susie. First was her struggle to find the right genre for her voice, which she says took a couple years until she became an avid Ella Fitzgerald listener and broke into jazz. Interestingly enough, as Susie has grown over the past two years of album creating, so has her genre. “I think that my voice is really different, and I wouldn’t even say that my music is strict jazz, it’s a mixture of folk, with pop in there, and even a hint of country,” she expresses in her super relaxed manner, clearly realizing that the evolution of an artist is inevitable. The second, and perhaps bigger dilemma that Susie experienced was her reluctance to perform in front of audiences. But she now explains that “the more I performed the more confident I got, the more feedback I got the better I felt,” and she is now performing more and more, and hopes to break into more summer festival performance gigs. Of course throughout the entire process, the support of her husband and two children certainly helped her to become the soulful performer she is today. “My son is 5 and my daughter is 4,” she confides, “they’re so cute, they always say ‘mommy sing me a song’!”
Now that she’s begun to carve her path in the music industry, Susie admits that she’s glad she gave herself time to mature before her musical career started. “I love that because I’m older, I really know who I am now,” she says, adding that with her comfortable lifestyle in family oriented Mississauga, her focus is her love of music, rather than huge fame or monetary gains. To keep her life balanced, Susie makes sure to still dabble in her other hobbies, photography and interior decorating. And of course, relaxing at home watching a movie with her husband is also a great way to unwind. “There’s so much more creativity when you’re not thinking about music for a bit, and then you come back into it and you’re like, ‘oh I have so much more stuff to work with now’!” For now, she’s enjoying the ride, but Susie confesses that she’s already begun thinking about a new album, which will likely feature more original songs – an addition to her musical repertoire that we simply can’t wait to delve into.