We have a thing for local musicians here at Nordstrom, often inviting local bands to help us launch a special event and pump up the crowd. Last spring, Susy Sun played at our Rebecca Minkoff Spring Launch and we fell in love. We recently caught up with Susy to talk about her musical career and her latest video, Grey Skies.
Q: In a nutshell, how do you describe your musical style?
I’m a classically trained pianist and singer/songwriter. My voice has been described as “bell like.” It’s a sweet voice, mixed with lush music and poignant and emotional lyrics. The songs are heartfelt and uplifting. I write songs that are diary entries. I’ve always used my music as a form of meditation to cope with my own emotions. Currently, I’m recording a new album and adding some edge to my musical style. So, stay tuned. 😉
Q: What motivates you to create music?
It’s definitely an intrinsic motivation. I started singing before I could talk and eventually my parents took notice and gave me private piano lessons. The composing part came when I was around 13. I struggled my whole life with bullying and not fitting in. I always seemed to skirt on the outside of the “in crowd,” which was tough growing up. Music and writing at that point became my outlet for all of this inner angst that I was dealing with. No one sat me down and told me to start making music. It was something that my inner being willed me to do. It was just me.
Q: Take us through the song-writing process. Where do you start? Then what? How do you know when a song is complete?
Generally, I start my songs with one line and melody. You could say that it is generally the “hook” that randomly comes into my head via the universe. I always sit at the piano and write lyrics and music simultaneously. I believe that the music’s mood is directly related to the message that I am conveying in my songs. Generally, I like to get a song done in one sitting. However, given my Gemini disposition, I have a tendency to start things and never quite finish them. I have a million songs on my iPhone recorder that are sitting as ideas and have never turned into songs. A song goes through many cycles. It is complete after I finish the piano/lyrics/melodies. However, when I bring it to my band or a producer, it takes on another life. Sometimes, years later, I take an old song and rework it too. There is no finality with art. That’s exciting, isn’t it?
Q: Where do you turn when you feel creatively drained? Why there?
I think that I’m still trying to figure it out! I’ve realized that getting away helps. I grew up in a small town in eastern Washington. Though I love the city life, going out into the country always gives me a sense of peace. The ocean is very inspiring for me, too. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in yourself—narcissism runs in our veins. But, the ocean is beautiful because it’s so vast and deep. It is bigger than us and has a power of its own. I like being constantly reminded that I’m not that important. The world doesn’t revolve around humans. We are merely a piece of something much grander. This feeling gives me peace, and also inspiration. I love that feeling.
Q: Your latest video, “Grey Skies,” was shot in one day. Tell us about that experience!
Our intent for the music video was that the journey would guide the filming and the video’s ultimate direction. First, we drove out to eastern Washington to shoot in the desert. When we got there, it was pouring rain. So we shot anyway. To us, this was part of the journey and represented the subject of life and death perfectly. It’s bumpy and it’s unclear. It’s scary sometimes, but in the end it’s beautiful. That desert rain was unpredictable, but so perfect. We also shot up in the mountains where I was surrounded by the forest and snow. In the beginning and end of the video you see me standing at the edge of a cliff throwing flowers from an urn. This signifies giving over to the grand scheme of things and accepting the unknown. In letting the wind guide your feet, you’ll never be afraid.
Q: You gave up “cubicle life” to follow your musical dream. How would you encourage our readers to pursue their own dreams?
For me, it took quitting my job with Microsoft to completely delve into becoming an artist. My whole life I felt that I had been making excuses as to why I couldn’t do music. If I hadn’t jumped off the cliff, music would have remained my hobby. It took a lot of hard work to get to this point. I had to conquer my personal demons to break through those barriers I had built around me. And, I’ll be honest, when I finally did commit my life to my art, it didn’t get any easier. Every day is a challenge. But, every day I am also one step closer to achieving my dreams and self actualizing. I’m investing in myself and I’m right where I need to be. That’s a great feeling.
Pursue your dreams. What do you have to lose? Be confident. Make friends who are doing things similar to you. Build a community. Support is the groundwork for success.
Q: Any other advice you would give to your younger self?
Don’t wait to pursue what you want to do. Stop thinking about it and just do it. Also, be patient. The most important thing I’ve learned through pursuing my art is to be present. If you are constantly chasing something, how will you know when you get there? You won’t, because “there” does not exist. “There” is right now. “There” is the present. If you can learn to be content in this moment, then you have succeeded.
If you live in the Seattle area, be sure to catch Susy Sun at The Crocodile as she opens for Carbon Leaf on Friday, October 10! Need a teaser? Watch Grey Skies now: