Sue Foley is what I like to affectionately call in the blues one of the "women with guitars" who are slidin', pluckin' and wailin' those blues notes of passion and pain. A native of Canada, Sue has known she wanted to play the blues since childhood. Many would not define her music as "traditional" blues, but when you listen to her music, you cannot doubt the influences. I had a chance to trade some dialogue with Sue, via her manager (I would have preferred a direct interview), but she has a lot to share and I am sure you will enjoy!
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Ottawa Canada...March 29 1968
You are still so young! Did you come from a musical family? If so, did your parents/siblings play instruments? Sing?
Yes, my father played guitar, as did my three older brothers. I was raised with traditional Celtic music, and of course 1970's rock n roll.
I have people in my musical life, who I listen to almost daily. Who were/are your major musical influences?
My main musical influences growing up were my brothers and my father. I decided at 13 years that I would be a professional lead guitar player. I got into blues on my own around age 15 and decided that would be my musical direction. My earliest blues influences were Memphis Minnie, Muddy Waters... Anything on chess records really, Freddie King, BB King, T-bone Walker and everything else I could find. I spent my first two years (age 15 - 17) playing traditional country blues... ala Robert Johnson, etc.
Canada is a long way from the Southern United States where the blues began. How did you come to find and embrace the blues?
My first experience hearing the blues live was when I was 15. It was in Ottawa and the performer was James Cotton. He was touring with a dynamite band and I was completely awestruck. I never had experienced something so real and human. So down to earth... my entire soul was lifted. It was one of the epiphanies I have experienced and certainly one of the most profound. I realized that this was not a down, sad music but an uplifting spiritual living thing.
Describe how you came to work with Clifford Antone in Texas and what has that experience been like?
I met Clifford Antone at the 1989 [W.C.]Handy Awards. I was playing in Memphis with harmonica player Mark Hummel (from California). Clifford heard me when I sat in with the Duke Robillard Band and came up to meet me. He told me he'd heard about me from Angela Strehli and to send him some demos. I did just that when I got off the road and he called me back and invited me to Austin. He was impressed with a lowdown thing I had recorded called “Gone Blind.” He thought I sounded like Lightnin’ Slim and was amazed I’d never even heard him. I stayed with him in Austin for a year at his place and he gave me a great education on lowdown blues, Louisiana swamp pop and early Texas R&B. We were and are great friends to the point of almost being family. I made my first four albums on his label Antone's Records, and lived in Austin from 1990-98.
Have personal occurrences in your life affected your music? Your writing? If so, how?
Everything I am, I do, I see... effect the way I play and feel music. Blues is about life, so all your experiences go into what you play. That is why the sounds coming out of some of these older performers are so full and awesome. I strive to get better as I age and keep being able to put more and more into what I play.
You have a new CD. Is this CD particularly special to you? Who collaborated with you on the CD?
My sixth CD entitled “Love Comin' Down” [it was ]released on Shanachie Records May 9 of this year. I was able to work with producer Colin Linden and am really happy with the results. I've known Colin since I was sixteen and playing Memphis Minnie songs in coffee houses in Ottawa. He has a deep and dedicated understanding of the blues and roots music in general. It's been a great experience. Also I got to write with a great musician out of Montreal named Ray Bonneville. Together we wrote two of my favorite tracks… “Empty Cup” and “To Be Next To You”. On “Empty Cup” I got help with vocals from one of my favorite artists out there today, Lucinda Williams. It was truly an honor to have her on the album.
Click on Sue's new CD to purchase
it from AMAZON.COM
In your opinion, has being a woman in the music business been an asset or a liability?
Being a woman is what it is. I consider myself a player, and generally shun gender questions. I think the music business is tough. It’s tough for men as well as women, but if it's what you must do, down to the depths of your soul, you will do it, no matter what.
What contemporary women performers do you now listen to?
Helena Mereillas from Brazil. I pop into the radio now and again but don't find much that blows my skirt up. I am more of a traditionalist and into roots. I love Lucinda Williams, Lou Ann Barton, Angela Strehli, Toni Price, and all my Texas pals. I like some pop of Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow. I am into Flamenco too.
What do you find appealing in their music?
What I find appealing in music in general is passion, and pure raw talent that's busting out.
Race seems to permeate so much of our daily existence. It is often an "issue" in the music industry also. How have you dealt with being a white performer singing the blues?
I just play and don't think about it.
What is your advice for those young women who are seeking a music career?
My advice is to learn to play... don't just stand up there and fake it. I think it's a great asset to any woman singer or otherwise to play an instrument. It gives you a greater understanding of what's going on and more control over the way the show goes. It also wins a lot of respect with the other musicians.
How do you want to be remembered?
Hmmm... Good question. I want to be remembered as being great! Naturally I want to be remembered as someone who made a life with music and was always improving and learning. I want to be the female Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. I want to be seventy-five and a wicked ass kickin’ guitarist, and ornery as hell.
For more info visit www.suefoley.com