Susie Suh is a singer/songwriter who recently released the album Invisible Love as a collection of songs working with various collaborators and Producers to create the wider sense of a journey that expressed Suh’s own experiences but also sets out to be potentially healing for audiences. Related to that goal, Suh will be hosting the Invisible Love Experience in LA at St. John’s Cathedral on May 17th, 2022, a one-night-only experience that presents sound as a healing experience. Her new album will also arrive in a special vinyl edition for fans on May 27th, 2022.
You may be familiar with Susie Suh’s music through placement on The Blacklist, Parenthood, Awkward, Containment, and more, or through her previous two albums, but the songs on Invisible Love represent an expansion in her ideas and sound particularly influenced by her study of sound healing and her search for greater spiritual connection. At the same time, the new songs speak to internal states that are highly relatable and also counter the difficulties we face in an often chaotic world, for instance the overwhelming sense of approaching change in “Blood Moon” and the reassuring statement of individual value in “Invisible Love”.
I spoke with Susie Suh about some of the new approaches she took to crafting these songs, her greater vision for the album, and what she has in store for her LA event in May.
Hannah Means-Shannon: I know that you worked with several different Producers and collaborators for the songs on this album. Were you able to make that decision on a song-by-song basis as they were recorded?
Susie Suh: Yes, the whole album happened pretty organically. There wasn’t, for instance, an intense two month period where I recorded the album, but they were written over time. For example, I wrote a song on guitar acoustically. Then I was speaking to my manager, and she suggested chatting with Mitchell Froom to see if he would like to Produce that song.
I met with him in a studio, and we recorded it and tracked it pretty much in one take. It was super cool and easy. He created some of the instruments on it. He’s really talented and I feel like he really helped bring out the song. I worked on other tracks with different Producers, and some of them were co-written with other people. Every song on this album has a little bit of a different story.
HMS: I think that makes for a really interesting collection of songs, since even though they seem to have interrelationships particularly in mood, the fact that they have these differences makes for an exciting experience listening to the whole.
SS: It’s funny because I started out mostly writing by myself on guitar or piano, and some of the songs on the album are that way, but others are pure collaborations which brings a different energy to the songs and the album.
HMS: Was it something you enjoyed to have a more varied experience?
SS: Yes, and I usually write all of my own lyrics on songs, regardless of who I co-write with. Usually, it’s me doing the melodies and the top lines, and if I am co-writing with someone, they are doing more of the music aspect. But when I was working on one song, “Taste of Your Tears”, that was the only song that I’ve ever co-written the lyrics with someone. It was with another singer/songwriter, Amy Kuney (AMES), and it was really interesting for me.
HMS: Collaboration sounds like a pretty wild experience. It must be like jumping off a cliff if you don’t know the other person very well.
SS: It is really interesting the way in which music gets written. You show up and hope some synergy and magic happens. Songwriting, in particular, is a really interesting process that I find to be quite magical. I do feel like I have to marinate and process, and I’m a slower writer. I want to make sure that whatever it is that I’m saying, it’s the way that I want it to sound. I’m particular about words. I’m not really a writer who cranks things out.
HMS: I can imagine these songs might take a while, since the mood of each of them is very specific and they have significant sound layers to them.
SS: The analogy that I like to use is that songs are my “song-children”, my musical children. Sometimes they happen really easily and come into the world super-quick, and other times I have to work at it more, figuring things out. But for this album, both of those things happened. One of the songs, for example, is “Blood Moon”, which I wrote by myself on the piano. That approach went back to my roots, writing in a room by myself, with an instrument. That one just fell onto the page and spilled out. It was a cool experience to watch and wonder, “Wait, where did this come from?” Other songs are like a puzzle where I will move things around.
HMS: Do you feel that certain songs were influenced by where you were in life at the time of writing?
SS: I feel like my music is really indicative of where I’m at. I feel like the songs are like time-stamps. They chronicle a period of time where I’ve been on this spiritual journey.
HMS: Did you realize you were on a journey at the time, or was it clearer in retrospect?
SS: I think it was kind of both. At the time I kind of knew, but retrospectively, I feel like I knew it even more. “Blood Moon”, in particular, was a song that I was writing when I lived in Ojai. The night that I wrote it, it was super, crazy windy, and my whole place was shaking. As it was happening, I felt like it was foretelling a lot of change coming in my life, and also in the world.
It’s one of my favorite songs on the album, and I think it was a process of sorting out what I was feeling at that time. But I did feel that there were changes that were going to happen, though I didn’t know on what level, or what scale.
HMS: It’s interesting because a lot of musicians who I spoke to early in the pandemic period had been writing music feeling like big changes were coming. Things were so intense just beforehand, too.
SS: I think we’re all tapped into the collective consciousness on some level, and it’s just a matter of whether you’re paying attention or not. In the times when I’m meditating or in a creative zone, I feel like I’m able to tap into it more. For me, music in general, is being able to express not only how you’re feeling, but more general emotions. I think it all comes from the same place. My profession is one where I’m kind of like a detective where I have to discover my own emotions, or those of other people, or pick up on things from an emotional standpoint.
HMS: I imagine the more you deal with that territory, the better you get at it over time. One really cool thing about this album is that it doesn’t shy away from difficult emotional states, but it also has some really positive, uplifting ideas. “Invisible Love” is very uplifting. I think that hearing those positive things about a person in the song really contrasts with how much the world can make individuals feel like they don’t have value.
SS: As I continue to grow in my musical journey, I feel like part of my calling with music is to really try and help people remember who they are and remind people of some of these things we tend to overlook. It was really important for me, with this album, to really try to inspire people with words and sounds that could help empower them. That’s one of the reasons I wrote it for myself, too. Typically, the word “invisible” is a negative word, but I wanted to flip that on its head and say that this idea of love is invisible, but we are all connected to it. It’s a part of all of us. I wanted to remind people that we all are beautiful and divine, and we all have a connection to those things, even if we may not see them all the time.
HMS: Using that as the album title, too, really calls out that concept and gets that phrase out there.
SS: I’d never really hear that phrase before, either, so I thought it was an interesting way to share the album and the song. When I think of some of the lyrics in the song, like “Invisible love, that’s what we are, A drop of water merging with the stars”, I hope that some of that imagery helps remind people of our connection to the divine or something larger than ourselves.
HMS: I think not only the lyrics, but the music conveys that, as does the video. I love the different cultural traditions, and the use of natural settings, like the cave. What led to your choices for the video?
SS: That video was co-directed between me and Seth Fuller. A lot of the ideas that I had in my head were ones that he was willing to do. When I listened to the song and thought about how I wanted to represent it visually, I wanted to express this concept of invisible love, but I also wanted to incorporate the concept of the Divine Feminine. I feel like you don’t really see this that much in Pop culture, so I wanted to show different versions of the Divine Feminine and explore that concept. So it’s all women in the video, and the character where I’m in the cave is representative of someone named Guyanin, who in Asian culture is a female Buddha.
Then, when I’m in the water, that’s indicative of a water goddess. When the dancers and I are all wearing the same dress, it’s expressing a character I created who travels through different environments in time and space as a metaphor for my spiritual journey.
HMS: Do these ideas come up in your live performances also?
SS: Yes, we’re doing a show in Los Angeles on May 17th at St. John’s Cathedral. There’s going to be a musical concert and an immersive wellness experience. It’s pretty limited seating because we’re going to have everyone on yoga mats, but we’ll be fitting as many people as possible. There’s going to be a section of the event when I’ll be doing a sound healing ceremony, also called a sound bath. Sound therapy really calms the nervous system and helps regulate stress. The crystal bowls that you hear at the beginning and end of the album are being played by me, and it’s part of the sonic journey.
I’ll be performing that live at the event, since I’ve studied and trained in sound therapy. Part of the reason why I created this event is because, honestly, sometimes when you hear live music, it’s not very comfortable. It can be very crowded, with a lot of people standing, and I wanted to create an experience where people can walk out feeling better. I want people to breathe and take a minute to step outside their realities.
HMS: I know what you mean about live events. Some of them rejuvenate you but some require a lot of energy expenditure to have that experience. It would be great to leave an event feeling like you gained energy.
SS: Obviously, music itself is healing, and that’s part of it, but the space we’re using is quiet and about listening. There won’t be talking. I’m going to have a string trio playing with me.
HMS: I was wondering, when I saw the intro and conclusion sections on the album, if you thought of this album itself as a therapeutic listening experience.
SS: That was my goal, to create a sonic journey and bookend it with something that I feel has helped me in my life, in terms of sound therapy. Then I wanted to take that even further live. I wanted to infuse some healing into the songs and the album. Any time you put together a body of work, you want to make it cohesive, and have it flow from one song to the other, but the order of the songs on the album is what works best for me as a journey.
I don’t know how many people listen to whole albums these days, but I wanted to create that experience for those of us who still listen to albums back-to-back, to go on a journey. I think that’s one of the pleasures of listening to music.