Irish indie-rock band Susie Blue have over the course of their last two singles, ‘People Like Us’ and ‘Be A Lady’, sought to convey powerful messages of tolerance and equality.
The group’s lead singer and creative mastermind Susan Donaghy tells us about the importance of positive lyrics, impact of Sinead O’Connor and Joan Jett, gigs that changed her life, playing London, and touring with Glen Hansard and The Strypes.
‘People Like Us’ is about the intolerance and hatred in society, particularly in the form of homophobia. And ‘Be A Lady’ says that “it’s OK to be ‘different’ and stereotypes about gender aren’t a thing anymore in 2017”. How important are these messages to you?
They’re very important to me, as they apply to my life and the lives of people around me. It gets kind of frustrating that people still don’t get it, but I’ll do whatever I can for them to hear it.
Would it matter if people listening to your songs don’t pick up on the lyrics?
Well to me both the lyrics and the music are equally as important. The messages in my songs are very prominent but music is my passion, so I put just as much energy into the music and if people respond to the music that’s amazing.
Do you remember the first time you saw the audience singing along?
Yes, it was in Dublin on our first Irish tour and the crowd sang ‘People Like Us’ back to us. I think as a performing musician that’s all you can ask for.
Which musicians did you connect to growing up who showed you that songs can be about more than just catchy tunes?
I feel like Sinead O’Connor and Joan Jett were the people I looked to for inspiration unknowingly as a kid. Sinead O’Connor did not care about what anyone thought of her and sang what she wanted to sing; I think the same goes for Joan Jett. I remember hearing ‘Crimson and Clover’ for the first time and being so happy that she was singing about a woman. It meant a lot to me growing up.
Is there any one gig you went to that changed your life? Or at least made you think: “I want to do that.”
I didn’t go to many gigs growing up of big artists as it was expensive, but I went to a lot of local gigs. I remember seeing No Mean City who were a Derry band and thinking: ‘Wow I really wish I could be on stage like that and not worry’, and then seeing Glenn Rosborough play an acoustic set and thinking: ‘I wish I could write songs like that’. It still constantly happens – I’ll see a band and think: ‘Aw, I wish I could do that’.
You played your debut London shows a couple of weeks ago. Do you feel any extra pressure when playing cities you’ve never played before?
It is a lot of pressure because what if you travel so far and no one comes because in your head you’re thinking: ‘How have they ever heard of us?’ But both nights had amazing crowds and we are so grateful for the people who took the time to see us.
You’ve supported the likes of The Strypes and Glen Hansard. How, if at all, have those bigger gigs helped you grow as live performers?
Well, first of all Glen Hansard just blows me away every time and even getting an opportunity to perform on the same stage as him was amazing. I couldn’t believe it actually happened, I still don’t, I’ve been listening to him for so long. He’s another artist that sings about what’s important and in such a beautiful way. I’m honoured to know him. The Strypes have so much energy, an energy I still haven’t got yet, and they’re just so passionate about what they do. They’re also so kind to their fans. Can honestly say they’re the nicest bunch of lads I’ve ever met.
So is there more touring on the horizon? What’s coming up?
We have the music video for ‘Be A Lady’ coming very soon and a lot of new songs being recorded. By the end of 2017 I want to do bigger gigs and connect more with new fans.