• John Van de Mergel

Sounds | Suzanne Santo ft. Gary Clark Jr., Fall For That


Alles aan dit nummer klopt voor mijn oren: van die licht diepe, hese stem over de klank van de gitaar en drums, de hele sfeer én....wanneer de überfantastische Gary Clark Jr. zijn geluid erbij laat horen, dan weet je dat je hier met een stomper van formaat zit. Voor fans van het soort americana dat de éne keer richting bluesrock, de andere keer richting indierock keert en uiteindelijk ook een vette scheut goth.

Hopelijk snel haar tweede album.

ter info Suzanne Santo was, quite literally, off the map. Holed up in a coastal Irish farmhouse so remote it didn't even have an address, she felt equal parts liberated and terrified as she attempted to make the most of a week-long writing retreat during a break from tour rehearsals with Hozier. And yet, in the midst of this exhilarating, once-in-a-lifetime adventure, Santo found herself repeatedly, impulsively reaching for the one thing that could spoil it all.

"I was so grateful to have this time on my own to work and reflect," she remembers, "but I kept making the mistake of picking up my phone and looking at social media or reading the news. Every time I did it, I'd just instantly get transported out of this paradise I was in. Over and over again, I found myself falling into the trap of adopting all this fear and anger that wasn't mine to carry."

So Santo shut off her phone, picked up her guitar, and, in one fell swoop, penned her searing new single, "Fall For That." Recorded with Grammy-winning  producer/engineer John Spiker (Beck, Steve Earle) and featuring a blistering guitar solo from Gary Clark, Jr., the track is a visceral reckoning with our conflicting desires for connection and solitude, inclusion and isolation, chaos and calm. Santo sings with a snarl on the tune, her bluesy wail paired with a gritty, oscillating guitar line that seems to inhale and exhale of its own volition, rising and falling in slow, steady rhythm like the chest of some sleeping beast. At once fierce and meditative, the song is a message to herself as much as any outside audience, an anthem of fear and determination delivered by a woman who's seen enough of each to know which side wins in the end.

"I've had projects blow up in my face and labels break my heart over the years, and I wasn't about to let that happen again," says Santo, who's releasing the single independently via her own Soozanto Records imprint. "It can be scary to go it alone, but I've found so much strength and freedom in carving my own path."

For Santo, that path began in Parma, OH, where she began studying violin in the second grade. Gifted enough to earn herself a high school scholarship, Santo found joy and purpose in music, but her life took an unexpected turn when she was scouted as a model and actress at the age of fourteen. She began spending summers working as far afield as Tokyo, Japan, before moving to New York City to attend the progressive Professional Children's School, where her classmates included Jack Antonoff and Scarlett Johansson. By nineteen, Santo was living in Los Angeles and had added banjo and guitar to her repertoire, and within weeks of launching her first band, the infectious roots duo HoneyHoney, she and her songwriting partner Ben Jaffe were being courted by a slew of labels eager to release their studio debut. Over the course of three critically acclaimed albums, the group earned dates with the likes of Sheryl Crow, Jake Bugg, JD McPherson, Ryan Bingham, and Trampled By Turtles among others, racked up millions of streams on Spotify, and landed soundtrack slots on ShowtimeABCTBS,  and  more.  NPR's  Mountain  Stage  lauded  the  "soul-stomping outfit's brand of West Coast country-rock with a Southern soul," while Ro  Ung Stone described Santo's voice as "as smooth and murky as smoked glass," and KCRW hailed her "expert banjo playing."

"HoneyHoney took off really fast, but we eventually just burned out," reflects Santo. "Ben and I still have so much love and respect for each other, but after a decade playing together, we needed to pursue our own artistic avenues."

In  2017,  Santo  recorded  her  solo  debut,  'Ruby  Red,'  with  multi-platinum  producer Butch Walker, who invited her to join his band and support him on tour. The record received a rapturous response, with LA Weekly praising its "dark poetry and Southern Gothic" atmosphere and Paste dubbing it "a smart blend of moody pop and alternative Americana," and the following year, Santo hit the road supporting Hozier, performing her own solo sets before playing guitar and fiddle and singing backup in the Irish star's band.

"I definitely leveled up playing with folks like Butch and Hozier every night," Santo explains. "The discipline and the musicianship I took away from those gigs was really fantastic, but in the end, I was always so happy to come back to my own music."

Indeed, as "Fall For That" demonstrates, Santo is a star in her own right, and with a new full-length on the way, the path ahead of her is clearer than ever before. Sometimes, it turns out, you need to leave the map behind in order to discover where yo


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