Singer and multi-instrumentalist Suzanne Santo of HONEYHONEY recently released her debut solo album, Ruby Red, and when she was in town for a show at Rough Trade, we were lucky to have her make a pit stop at the Baeble Studio. During her time here, she performed a handful of songs off of the excellent record, including "The Wrong Man," "Better Than That," "Ghost In My Bed," and "Yours or Mine."
Back in September, we premiered a live version of the album's lead single, "Handshake." I called it "riveting" and "heartbreaking" and after getting to experience it while sitting in the same room as Santo, I strongly stand by those claims. When Santo opened her mouth and began to sing, it wasn't exactly what we expected: a huge, expansive voice singing lyrics about getting wasted and the most epic heartbreaks. Not to mention, when she just simply talks, she has a very strong and lovable personality (and a sailor's mouth), which results in an interesting juxtaposition between herself and the music. Like I said months ago, it's absolutely riveting.
You're ready? Do we need to... Do I get paid for that? - Okay, cool. Yes. - It's not even your best cut... - Weaseling my way in there. It wasn't a solid clap. It was, like, a little "eh. " Well, I'm Suzanne Santo. I got blood on my hands I got blood on my hands I took that shot steadily and killed the wrong man I got blood on my hands I had justice on my mind But who the hell am I? All of my ammunition was just my goddamn ambition To do the wrong thing to make it right I had anger in my mouth And I drank till I blacked out Yeah, I got fired up, fought and fucked up and passed out on the couch I had anger in my mouth Oh, no I got sorrow in my bones I should've let that man go home Paralyzed by pride I know I should've known I got sorrow in my bones I got blood on my hands I got blood on my hands I took that shot steadily and killed the wrong man I got blood on my hands I got blood on my hands I got blood on my hands There's a ghost in my bed Screwing with my head - I'm here in New York to play a show at Rough Trade and to play at Baeble. And hang out with your wonderful staff. - I've been in a band called HoneyHoney for about 11 years. We totally started when I was in high school, so, you know, very young still. And I recently released my first solo record in August, it's called Ruby Red and here we are, playing Ruby Red songs for you. Sometimes I think watching movies, like, ruins relationships because you think that's what they're like. You know, at least in terms of romcoms, but this song is about more of a real love. - Sober approach. Yeah. - Cool. I'm trying so hard not to love him too fast Line up all the horses and race around the track Run laps around reality and never look back I want a real hard love that's better than that I'm trying so hard not to bury myself Beneath the dirt and the flowers of somebody else Yeah, beauty is blinding and darkness runs deep I want to hold onto him and still hold onto me Cocaine and whiskey ride They don't even compare to how love makes me high So I won't push my luck, I'll sober up I won't feed off of it till it dies I'm trying so hard to stay right where I am And I drive my mind in reverse, and speed up ahead Break down on a road that just leaves me for dead I want the peace of the present to steer me instead Cocaine and whiskey ride They don't even compare to how love makes me high So I won't push my luck, I'll sober up I won't feed off of it till it dies Yeah, I've got a history, I know you do too What the hell would we be without what we've been through? And I don't give a damn about the mud on your boots I just want you Cocaine and whiskey ride They don't even compare to how love makes me high So I won't push my luck, I'll sober up I won't feed off of it till it dies Till it dies - I did my record with Butch Walker. I had met him earlier last year and played on his record in the springtime, and then I'd sort of, you know, mustered up the courage to ask him if he would produce my solo project. And when he said yes and gave me a timeline that wasn't very far off from that point, I was like, "Oh, So I spent a good, solid month and a half just writing every day and walking. I was, like, going on these long walks with my demos and kind of writing on my walks, and then that's sort of where Ruby Red came from. Long walks. - Awesome. There's a ghost in my bed Screwing with my head Stomping around my room Drinking all my booze He makes me toss and turn, my stomach churn And he laughs at me Thinks it's so funny He drives my car and says, "Hold on, child" "The road we're on is winding wild And we got busted wheels" "A dead-end deal" "I will haunt you till you're lying still" Yeah, he always gets me good and wasted I knew it from the start, the first time I tasted The darkness when he kissed my mouth I'm his to haunt and he's my way out He pulls me in, my face on his chest He ain't wearing his shirt I ain't wearing my dress He spills tequila out into my mouth And we hit the town Tear that motherfucker down Because he always gets me good and wasted I loved it from the start, the first time I tasted The darkness when he kissed my mouth I'm his to haunt, yeah, he's my way out Yeah, he always gets me good and wasted I loved it from the start, the first time I tasted The darkness when he kissed my mouth I'm his to haunt, yeah, he's my way out My way out - Oh, I have money for you. Yeah, can you hold on one second? Hold on one second. Yeah, you're my number one. - Whatever. - I was just being funny. - Hartnett. - No, what? He doesn't exist. He's That's all on record. Great. Josh I'm sorry for saying that. - Exactly. It doesn't matter. - Is he an actor? - Yeah, totally. - He sounds like an actor. - He sounds like an actor. - Which one is he? - No, he's awesome. That's the predicament. - Oh my God. This is happening. Ben Jaffe, the other half of HoneyHoney and I had just released our third record, or didn't just release it but it had been out for a couple years and we did some strenuous touring. As we like to say, we toured our dicks off and we were exhausted and wanted to just try some different stuff creatively, and he made an amazing solo record and I made my record. And, well, I wanted to make a little more of a produced record, a little more rock and roll, a little, you know, it's got quite a menu on it. There's a lot of variety on there. I definitely expanded and sort of was surprised at things I was capable of. And then I also have this appreciation for Ben and all the things he's contributed and how he works, and it's been really cool for both of us. I don't want your sadness walking me home Tucking me in at night, calling on the phone I don't want your angry mouth singing me a song Taking all the good I feel, making it feel wrong I want to sleep through the night without your demons kicking me I want to wake to a day that's really you and me Without the scrambling noise over our reverie Without the simple things that turn into pulling teeth Is this yours or mine? Who erased the lines? I can't make up my mind Is this yours or mine? Get yourself a big old car with some brand new tires Drive out your memories until the ghosts get tired Wait until they're all worn down, hang them on a wire Or leave them on the side of the road and set them on fire Is this yours or mine? Who erased the lines? I can't make up my mind Is this yours or mine? Mine Is this yours or mine? Who erased the lines? I can't make up my mind Is this yours or mine? Is this yours or mine? Who erased the lines? I can't make up my mind Is this yours or mine? - Hi, there. I'm... Boo. Aw, so dramatic. I'll try to shed a tear. I'm no fortune teller, okay? When is this going to come out? Ha. Here's what's great, Dodgers haven't been in the series in a long time, haven't won a series in God knows when. - '88? - Yeah. It's not that long ago. I have an acute sense of danger. What's the best part of my job? Other than, like, playing music, which is awesome, I love that I have...when I travel as much as I do, I get to see...I get to have these really strong relationships with friends and family that I wouldn't see, probably, very often but I see, like, my cousins in Atlanta a couple times a year. And I'm really close with them and I get to see my parents all the time, and that's one of my favorite...that's my favorite part. Without your demons kicking me I want to wake to a day that's really you and me Without the scrambling - Hello, hi, I'm Suzanne Santo and this is Baeble Music. Without the simple things that turn into pulling teeth Is this yours or mine? Who erased the lines?
Caught halfway between the dark swoon of pop-noir, the raw rasp of soul music, and the honest punch of Americana, Suzanne Santo's Ruby Red tells the story of a singer, songwriter, and mul-ti-instrumentalist who, more than 10 years into an acclaimed career, is turning a new corner. Produced by multi-platinum Grammy nominee Butch Walker (whose Los Angeles recording stu-dio gives the album its name), Ruby Red marks Santo's first release as a solo artist. For the past decade, she's spent most of her time fronting the Americana duo HONEYHONEY, whittling her banjo, violin, and vocal chops into sharp shape along the way. Here, she takes a break from that longtime gig to explore something different, creating a moody, sexually-charged album filled with organic instruments, distorted fiddle, Walker's powerful electric guitar, and Santo's most stunning vocal performances to date. "I think I started writing songs for this record long before I realized that I was writing songs for this record, said Santo. Ive identified with a collaboration for so long that the thought of taking a leap into the depths ofmy own music and having no idea what that would look like, definitely came as a shock. I was getting lazy and not finishing the tasks at hand like I really wanted, deep down, tobe able todo. Writing this record was bewitching in a way.Before they collaborated onRuby Red, Santo made multiple appearances on Butch Walker's eighth album, Stay Gold. She joined him on the road, too, singing harmonies and playing violin,guitar, and banjo during a nationwide tour in 2016. During breaks in her touring schedule, she began diving into a different type of songwriting, looking to diverse albums by Erykah Badu, Da-vid Bowie, Townes Van Zandt, and the Alabama Shakes for inspiration. For years, she'd always been somebody else's bandmate. This was a time to explore her own identity. To write her own music. To ignore genres and defy expectations. To determine what, exactly, she wanted to say. . .and find out the best way to deliver it. Once Butch acquiesced to producing the record, I had an'oh shit! moment where I realized that I needed to really show up, continued Santo. I hadto have songs that were finished, let alone good enough. I couldnt stop and I wrote all day every day to finish the songs Id started years ago as well as the few that presented themselves in the 4th quarter. I took long walks inmy neighborhood and listened to demos onmy cell phone and worked out lyrics. I would also wake upin the middle of the night with new ideas and would get up and write them down orrec-ord them. It felt like the songs were seeping through the cracks ofmy mind and out ofmymouth, without much ofmy consent. I think art is a channel, connected to something much greater than we are and I feel honored when it picks me from time to time." Ruby Red isan album about love, life, and lust in the modern world. Moody and melody-driven, its 11 songs range from "Handshake" the record's epic opening track, equal parts Southerngothic anthem and slow-burning soul ballad to the driving "Ghost inmy Bed," which pairs anexplosive chorus with layers of mandolin, fiddle, and piano. Meanwhile, tracks like "Better Than That" focus on little more than Santo's voice: an electrifying, elastic instrument that's capable ofboth vulnerability and ferocity. Santo and Walker recorded Ruby Red quickly, pulling long hours in Walker's bright, sunlit studio in Southern California. The instrumental tracks were captured live, with help from guests like pedal steel player Dr. Stephen Patt Santo's primary care physician, as well as a former member of the Edgar Winter Group and drummer Mark Stepro. Santo kept the guest list small, though, splitting the bulk of the instrumental duties with Walker.
"It was incredible to work with Butch. He facilitates a great time and an artistic environment that orbits solely around whats best for the song, which isso rare in a business full of egos. Butch and this environment liberated and enabled meto work in a way that I never knew I was capa-ble of." Although Ruby Red marks the start of something new, it doesn't signify the end of Santo's long run with HONEYHONEY. Santo will join bandmate Ben Jaffe in the television series The Guest Book, whose episodes feature the two musicians in acting and musical roles. The show premi-eres on TBS during the latter half of 2017, adding another bullet point to the acting career Santo launched years before HONEYHONEY's formation. Santo's story is still unfolding. This is the newest chapter, bringing with it a track list that doubles down on the songwriter's strengths and stretches her limits. There willbe more chapters to ex-plore. More colorful stories to tell. But for now, Suzanne Santo's future is looking Ruby Red. "This record isso fucking sexy, I can't deal, said Walker. Proud to have been in the room when these songs were going down. Put iton and turn out the lights."