Suzanna Choffel’s Sliding Doors
Mother’s Day weekend celebrant grooves effervescent
By William Harries Graham,
1:45PM, Fri. May 12, 2017
Suzanna Choffel celebrates today’s drop of Hello Goodbye with an album release party tonight at 3ten ACL Live. The Austin native’s fourth full-length disc, the album continues expanding on her unique soul-folk-pop sound with the help of producer David Boyle and an A-list cast of locals including Charlie Sexton, Davíd Garza, and Jazz Mills.
The title Hello Goodbye comes from the song Choffel felt best summed up the album’s contemplative lyrical thrust.
“[The songs explore] some A versus B scenarios, or this longing to land in one place versus another,” explains Choffel, 37.She’s harder to pin down musically, laughing when mention’s made of a recent KUTX in-studio appearance wherein the host at one point commented, “We don’t know what to call it, but whatever it is, we love it.”
“I write pop songs influenced by soul, blues, and folk, with hints of reggae and Latin music,” she says. “I was raised on Motown and Seventies folk and pop, so there you have it: Genre is hard with me.”
Despite myriad musical influences, Choffel always manages to center the material with her sultry, silky voice. If you’ve ever witnessed her strumming a Casino hollowbody guitar while covering Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide,” you’ll be familiar with the goosebumps.
“I love many things about this album, but mainly I feel like it captures my musical personality really well,” she offers. “And I feel like it highlights my roots. I’ve finally settled into the earthy part of me.”
Choffel began performing at the Saxon Pub and Broken Spoke during middle school. While she attended Texas State, she played in the Humblebums, a Latin roots-rock band popular at the Triple Crown and Antone’s, where they opened for Bob Schneider’s band the Scabs. Hello Goodbye’s producer, who recorded the album at his Church House Studio on Congress, held down the keyboards slot in the Scabs.
Once the singer got more comfortable sharing her own songs, she started performing at the Cactus Cafe. After studying music at the College of Santa Fe, Choffel returned home and debuted under her name at Momo’s, where she got to know its owner Paul Oveisi. They’d hang out at diners after late shows and eventually fell in love. Together now eight years and the parents of a toddler, they took up residence in New York, but came back to Austin after some “brutal winters.”
“There were a lot of interesting moments while recording this album, like being pregnant, which was a big first for me,” she laughs. “I had to learn how to deal with my body and my emotions in a whole new way while throwing myself into an album.”
Choffel and Oveisi’s daughter Lulu is now 2.
“Becoming a mom is definitely a headspin. It’s amazing and incredible, and all the other words in a thesaurus that describe the awe and wonder that comes with watching a life grow. It’s also extremely time-consuming and exhausting. It’s been hard figuring out the balance of life now,” she beams.
Motherhood’s also had a profound effect on Choffel’s songwriting.
“I wrote nothing but lullabies her first year of life,” admits Mama Bear. “I emerged from that and started writing other stuff. It’s kind of quiet, electronic, as my songwriting hours are usually when my daughter’s sleeping.”
Choffel’s mere presence is uplifting. You can’t be around her and not feel more cheerful and light. That will become apparent tonight at the roomy yet intimate 3ten ACL Live, where the singer also welcomes openers Dan Dyer and Jonathan Terrell.
“I want people to know how happy I get making music in the presence of others, because I am such a huge music fan myself,” she says. “I know how beautiful it is to go to a show and be a part of the magic that’s created in the moment – that communion of giving and receiving that happens between the stage and the crowd.
“I love the flow of energy from the crowd to the performer and back again. When you’re onstage performing, you’re helping people in the audience believe in themselves, too. It’s just a big, beautiful confidence booster.”