Susan VoelzSusan first gained recognition as the violinist for Poi Dog Pondering
but proved more than just an instrumentalist when, in 1993, she released her first mostly
home-recorded CD entitled 13 RIBS. The album was critically acclaimed in such industry
magazines as ROLLING STONE and MUSICIAN.
She grew up in
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin in a musical family -- her father was a jazz bassist/dentist and her
mother was a singer and choir director. "We still have a Christmas band. My mom
played pump organ, my brother transposes trumpet parts, I improvise a bit, my dad plays
upright jazz bass and the nieces all sing. We are just awful." Every day her ears
were filled with classical radio and her dad's big band records, absorbing a strange blend
of the two: melodies and textures from symphonies and the vibrancy and freedom of jazz.
Indiana University in Bloomington, her own musical being began to unfold. She first sought
out an Irish fiddle teacher and then agreed to play in a "folky rocky" band with
her boyfriend, who slowly and calmly showed her a few simple improvising techniques.
"I had spent so much of my life acting right and playing perfectly that this was the
first time I felt connected to my playing." They eventually moved to Alta Dena,
California (LA) and lived on Christmas Tree Lane. Suddenly and tragically, he was murdered
and Susan moved back to Bloomington for a few years. She took this time to begin writing
not only instrumental pieces but full songs. She also spent months touring with the
Charlie Sexton Sextet.
After a brief
trip to New Orleans, she relocated to the beautiful and historically drenched Crescent
City. She took a job typing downtown and each night recorded on her 4-track (Foster X-15);
mostly new wave-type songs that no one will ever hear.
Seeking a more
compatible musical community, Susan wound up in Austin, Texas where she first hooked up
with Arthur Brown (the self-proclaimed God of Hell Fire) and thrillingly performed with
him on "Solid Gold." She was introduced to the wonderful Ronnie Lane (of the
Faces) and was playing a show with him one evening when the Poi Dogs (who had been
busking) were invited to open the show. They asked her to play on their first Texas Hotel
EP. "I played 2 songs -- never ever thinking the Poi's would become such a huge part
of my life experience."
Poi Dog toured
around and around the U.S., Europe (including the Montreaux Jazz Festival and Roskilde)
and performed in Japan as well. Susan had a chance to meet and play with many acts on
festival bills, from Giant Sand and T. Bone Burnett to Michelle Shocked. During this time,
John Mellencamp called for her assistance. She joined up for a series of promotional shows
supporting his BIG DADDY record, including Saturday Night Live, David Letterman, and
Westwood One Radio. Arriving home, she would spend hours pouring thoughts, feelings and
melodies onto what was now an 8-track (Tascam 688) which eventually coalesced into 13
RIBS. A demo was given to a small indie in Paris (Voodoo), who fell in love with the song
"Map of You" and released the entire record in Europe. Pravda subsequently
released 13 RIBS in the U.S., which landed on several college radio top ten lists and the
title track of which has played on the American Airlines Inflight Entertainment channel
for four months.
When the Poi Dog
"Volo Volo" tour ended, which Susan describes as, "a tour of twice the life
in half the time" (and which included a spectacular rollover car wreck), she moved
her recording gear back to Louisiana just in time for the hurricane. As the songs for her
next album "Summer Crashing" were being written and developed, she realized they
were all loosely related to the theme of being crashed, of losing one's innocence (no
longer a tragedy virgin), of love and dreams vanishing, of finding oneself in a dilemma.
Susan moved to
Chicago and is currently working with Poi Dog Pondering writing songs, writing and
arranging string parts, and recording vocals on the new Poi record.