“I love the ‘beyond pop and R&B,'” said singer-songwriter Suzanne Sheer when I described her music that way on WXPN Local. “People always say ‘what genre is [your music] and I never know what to say. I’m going to start saying that.”
Sheer was on the air back in June for a guest DJ set not long after the release of her terrific new album The Blue Hour, and in addition to showcasing some of the music that inspires her locally and nationally, Sheer talked about her personal creative journey, which led her from jazzy piano ballads to futuristic pop — something we found supremely striking at a preview party for The Blue Hour this spring.
Sheer spoke of writing big ballads on her family’s baby grand piano as a child, and how her songwriting began to evolve when she connected with Pittsburgh hip-hop producer Ricky P; she was inspired by the way rappers can enter a studio, hear a beat for the first time, and immediately connect with the music and begin creating. Previously she thought inspiration was a long process; though this, she learned that it could manifest in different ways, as could her style: “Just because I was writing stuff on the piano, which is a heavier emotional emotional instrument, didn’t mean that I had to just stick to one sort of genre.”
A turning point in the work on her debut album came when her friend Lotits took Sheer to Watts Studio and introduced her to producer 3xpo. She realized this wasn’t a person who was trying to force her into a direction she didn’t vibe with — he got her sound, and her creative ideas.
“Nothing needs to be restricting you,” Sheer said of collaborations like theirs. “I think when you find people you can work with who understand your art, it’s like ‘oh yeah, let’s just do everything we can, let’s make every sound we can. It doesn’t matter if ‘this doesn’t go with that.'”
In addition to chatting about The Blue Hour — which you can hear at the streaming service of your choice here — Sheer played a wildly eclectic guest DJ set that highlighted some of her favorite and most inspiring music. Some songs came from other scenes — Chicago hard rock band Kill Hannah, Bloomington indie-psych outfit Diane Coffee — but most were her peers and neighbors in Philly, and we hear Sheer talk about being friends with gnarly guitar instrumentalist Emily Robb and watching her grow as an artist, performing with saxophonist / singer-songwriter Max Swan at the Kimmel Center, and fielding a DM from rapper Miles Chancellor in the middle of the night that led to a fruitful collab.
Listen to that guest DJ set in full and check out the playlist below. Suzanne Sheer performs this Thursday, July 21st at Cherry Street Pier for the Tiny Room for Elephants Festival, followed by a show at The Oval XP with Mars Parker’s NeoWolf on July 30th, an August 4th Sounds at Wet gig, and an August 12th spot opening for Worldtown at Brooklyn Bowl.
And at the end of the interview, Sheer also gives us a heads up on The Blue Hour‘s next phase: a collection of remixes that will begin dropping this weekend. Stay tuned for more.