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Up close with pop-folk icon Suzanne Vega
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Up close with pop-folk icon Suzanne Vega

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Suzanne Vega
February 25
Moore Theatre


There's more to Suzanne Vega than "Luka," or her other giant hit, "Tom's Diner." The Grammy-winning artist helped open doors to a flood of pop-folk female musicians in the '80s with her self-titled debut that featured quiet, dramatic tracks like "Small Blue Thing" and "Undertow." Over the years, Vega may have fallen slightly under the radar with mainstream audiences, but her fans have never abandoned her and still follow her work from album to album - speaking of which, she'll soon release a collective series entitled Close Up, which doubles as the title of her North American tour that descends to the Moore Theatre on February 25 (visit www.stgpresents.org for ticket availability). If you plan on going to the show, have requests in mind because she might play a few of them - I'm already set with mine. I recently phoned Suzanne Vega to get the scoop on her tour and plans for 2010, so here's what the acclaimed singer-songwriter revealed when she stepped into "The Music Lounge."

Albert Rodriguez: Can you tell me a little about this "Close Up" tour you're doing?

Suzanne Vega: Well, it's me and the guitar and I have two musicians with me, my guitar player and bass player. Gerry Leonard is the guitar player, the bass player is Michael Visceglia. And very often I'll play solo, as well. This tour is called "Close Up" because the album that I just released is part of a Close Up series that I've just put out the first volume to.

Rodriguez: Will fans have an opportunity to request songs?

Vega: I encourage the fans to shout things out. I don't always do all the requests. It's not as though I've rehearsed the whole catalog, but whenever someone shouts something out that we know and we like, then very often we'll do it.

Rodriguez: Then you'll hear me shout "Small Blue Thing," which I've never heard you do in concert.

Vega: Oh, okay. Well, I will probably be doing it.

Rodriguez: Do you have any particular favorites that you want to play at every show?

Vega: I always like singing "Caramel." There's something very sensual about it that I really enjoy. And very often I'm in the mood for "Blood Makes Noise," although sometimes I do it and sometimes I don't. It's hard for me to do that one without my bass player.

Rodriguez: What about "Marlene on the Wall"?

Vega: I generally do that one most of the time. It's a really good song to open with because it's got good chords and kind of an upbeat feel to it.

Rodriguez: If you'd rather play other songs, do you feel like the crowd still wants to hear "Luka" every time?

Vega: Uh, yes. I'm pretty sure any audience that comes to see me pretty much wants to hear "Luka." But I don't mind, I don't begrudge it, I don't feel like, "Oh, I have to sing that again."

Rodriguez: What's your impression of Seattle from your previous times playing here?

Vega: Very interesting city, beautiful waterfront. I've always enjoyed the waterfront and there's a certain underbelly to it, also. I've come away over the years with this beautiful topography, natural landscape, great shops, handmade things that are sold here and there, and you can be surprised with something if you look down the alley.

Rodriguez: For anyone who wants to be a singer-songwriter or touring musician, do you have any advice on how to start out?

Vega: Basically, it all comes down to being able to sing, play an instrument, be on a stage, play to an audience of some kind, and have something to tell them or give them that's different than everyone else. It kind of all begins and ends with that. In spite of all the different technology and different business arrangements, it all comes down to "Can you sing, can you play, do you have a story to tell?"

Rodriguez: Do you think it's gotten easier with the internet?

Vega: Well, easier and harder. Easier in some ways because I can reach a large number of people by Twittering or blogging or going on Facebook. But some things are harder, like getting airplay and selling records - that is much more difficult than it ever has been.

Rodriguez: When you first started out, we didn't have the internet. Now, during your show you can probably see people uploading Tweets.

Vega: [Laughs.] Oh, probably. At least I read about them afterward. The next morning I will sometimes go on Twitter and see some of the Tweets that people have done during the show.

Rodriguez: Are there any newer artists that you really like or follow?

Vega: I like Laura Viers. I think she's a really good writer, I like her music. It's sort of a mish-mash of Snow Patrol and whatever Danger Mouse is working on. I've been curious about Laura Marling, but I haven't delved deep into her work, and I was listening to Tegan and Sara for a while, again not overly deeply, so I'm hopping around from genre to genre. I like M.I.A., I think she's great.

Rodriguez: Finally, what are the plans for this year?

Vega: Quite a bit of touring, then I go back in the studio and come out with volume two of the Close Up series because I'm releasing my whole back catalog. That's pretty much my year.

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