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Interview: Susanna Hoffs

6 min read

Susanna Hoffs first rose to prominence in the early 1980s with the chart-topping female band, the Bangles. The ensemble made an enormous impact – not just on the charts, with singles Eternal Flame, Walk Like An Egyptian and Manic Monday, but also as musical pioneers – and paved the way for some of today’s biggest artists.

Susanna Hoffs found mainstream success away from her Bangles band mates when her first record, When You’re A Boy, was released in 1991. Someday, Susanna’s’ latest album, was released earlier this year and she has taken to the road to promote the collection, including a performance November 13th at Anthology in San Diego.

Before heading to San Diego for the show, Hoffs chatted about her career highlights, her beliefs on LGBT equality and what she has been doing in the 15 years between solo releases.

Brendon Veevers: Your new album is a collection of songs that are coated with both sentiment and nostalgia. Can you tell me about the album and what inspired you?

Susanna Hoffs: The making of Someday was inspired by my wish to create a group of songs that were, for lack of a better word, delicious to sing. Inspired by my favorite songs from the ‘60s, my goal was to make a very melodic album that was musically cohesive and evocative.

BV: Was recording a collection like Someday a project you have always wanted to do or was it a recent decision?

SH: I’ve been dreaming of making this record for ages. That’s why I called it Someday, because I was hoping that someday my dream would come true.

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BV: Your work as a solo artist sounds so natural, fresh and relaxed, yet it has been 15 years since your last release. Why so long between solo albums?

SH: I got busy with the Bangles starting at the end of the ‘90s and some of the songs I had written for a solo project ended up on the last two Bangles’ studio albums, Doll Revolution and Sweetheart of the Sun. Balancing the Bangles with my family life pushed my solo project to the back burner.

BV: You worked with Mitchell Froom on the new record, whom you have worked with for many years. What drew you to Froom in terms of handing him the producer’s reigns?

SH: It was a lucky twist of fate that I ran into Mitchell at Largo, a wonderful venue in L.A., and mentioned that I had suddenly written a slew of new songs that I was very excited about. I guess my excitement was contagious because he called me a few days later and wanted to hear the songs.

I hadn’t even had a chance to demo them, so my writing partner, Andrew Brassell, and I went and performed them for him live with just a couple of guitars. A few days later, Mitchell called and said he thought we should make a record. Thus began our musical journey.

BV: As a songwriter, from where do you draw your inspiration?

SH: Here, there and everywhere. Singing and songwriting have always been outlets for me to explore and describe the emotional landscape of my day-to-day life. And, I’ve always been interested in expressing the push-pull between sadness and hope.

BV: You achieved a vast amount of success with the Bangles. Is there the same amount of pressure for you to succeed when it comes to your solo career, or is your solo work a more laidback affair?

SH: If I could list one of the good things about getting older, I’d say it’s the perspective you gain from being able to look back and reflect on various phases of your life. From that vantage point, you can more clearly prioritize what’s important. I can honestly say, at this point in my life, that I’m making music for the love of it.

BV: You have found success both as a member of a highly successful, chart-topping band as well as a solo artist. Do you prefer to go at it alone or being part of a collective?

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SH: I don’t feel the need to pick and choose. I love being a Bangle. We’ve been together for over 30 years and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished. I also love working with Matthew Sweet and I’m very excited about volume three from our Under the Covers series. I’m really enjoying my collaborations with my new songwriting partner, Andrew Brassell, and I’m thrilled to be going on the road to play these songs with him. I love my job, all of them.

BV: What is your secret to longevity?

SH: I’ve always been pretty feisty and, when I’m passionate about something, I don’t like to take no for an answer. When the music industry was falling down around me, I thought there had to be another way. The choice was either to give up and become mute or to keep singing. One thing I know for sure, I haven’t stopped loving music; people haven’t stopped loving music.

BV: The life of a touring musician must be quite demanding. How do you manage family life with the schedule of a rock star?

SH: Wow. It’s quite complicated and involves some skilled juggling, but I just prioritize and make it work. And I’m a fan of to-do lists!

BV: Music has changed over the past 30 years quite significantly by moving into the digital age with downloads slowly replacing physical formats, and even the way that albums are recorded. As an artist who has witnessed and been in the middle of such vast changes in the industry first hand, how have things changed for you as a musician?

BV: I’m loving this brave, new, independent world. There’s a new freedom that comes without the old structure of the music business being in place. It’s a more immediate, direct connection to the people who are interested in my music, partly because of social media and partly because artists have so much more control over all of the various aspects of the art. It’s reminiscent of the early days of the Bangles when we had our own label, Down Kiddie Records. We were totally DIY.

BV: You are regarded as quite the gay icon. The presidential election is on our doorstep and marriage equality is always a hot topic. What are your views on marriage equality?

SH: Love is love. And people should be able to marry whomever they love. So, yes, I fully support marriage equality.

BV: Do you think the gay community has played a role in the success of the Bangles and your solo career?

SH: I have had the good fortune to perform with the Bangles at Pride events in Los Angeles and Long Beach. It’s always an honor and a good time. It’s nice to be able to support communities that have supported me and my music over the years.

BV: Going back to your new album: what can we expect from one of your performances?

SH: I’ve put together a set that reflects many of the different chapters of my musical life. I’m playing songs from the new record, but also some Bangles’ tunes that have been reinvented for this tour, along with material from my Under the Covers projects with Matthew Sweet, and songs I’ve always wanted to sing. I’m very excited to play in smaller, more intimate settings.

Susanna Hoffs’ new album Someday is out now.