Canadian roots and blues artist Suzie Vinnick is something of a legend here in Ottawa, where she blasted onto the music scene some 27 years ago, leaving behind her hometown of Saskatoon. Those like myself, who witnessed her performances paired with Ottawa guitarist Tony Diteodoro back then would never forget them. Her passionate and powerful multi-textured vocals stirred up the blues world, and still continues to do so, with the recent release of her sixth album, Shake The Love Around. Now residing in the Niagara region, she came back to pay us a visit with a performance and pre-show interview at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage. The room was witness to the first live “We Love Canadian Music” podcast which featured NAC Presents Executive Producer Heather Gibson who conducted the interview onstage.
The conversation revolved around her beginnings as an artist in her hometown of Saskatoon, her connection with Tony D. (MonkeyJunk) which led her to Ottawa from 1991-1998, and her first album, Angel On The Sidelines (1994), which sprouted from that union. She spoke of other musical collaborations and albums that would ensue, offshoots into conducting workshops, and even a successful dabble in jingles. They discussed her 10 Maple Blues Awards among other accolades which would follow, not only garnered for her vocals, but also for her work as a solo acoustic act, and as a bassist. She also talked about the challenges of self-promotion, her perogie-making skills, and what it’s like being a woman in the blues industry:
Heather Gibson, NAC Presents Executive Director: “Blues is one of those things where you don’t see a lot of women on bills. I know that it is changing, but you’ve been here for awhile now, so did you find that it was difficult in the beginning?”
Suzie Vinnick: “I think I was so green… so new to the music business that I was just excited to just be out doing something that I loved… playing and singing.”
Heather: “You had a great supportive group of guys around you and I think that there’s some parts of this industry where that’s very helpful.”
Suzie: “Yeah, Tony’s great and I felt confident enough in working with him to take the chance and go across the country in the summer and spend time in Ontario playing music. I learned so much from Tony and still do… he’s just a joy to play with, so I’ve been really lucky. And I think that there’s just a lot more guys in the blues industry than there are women, so it may look like it’s unbalanced on the outside because of the numbers, but I know and I see more amazing young women artists coming out.”
During the performance segment, Vinnick gave us a taste of tracks from her new album, as well as some of her older material, and a few cover favourites, including Bo Didley’s “I Can Tell,” laced with groove and attitude. Her guitar skills were nothing short of impressive, and her passionate vocals wove effortlessly through colours of sweet and sassy sultriness to strong and crisp intensities. Her one-woman show filled the pristine acoustics of the room with a richness of sound that needed no accompaniment. During “Danger Zone,” she switched over to her bass – an instrument she played for 17 years in her earlier performing days. “Drift Away,” a folk ballad she co-wrote with east coast powerhouse Matt Andersen, brought me to my knees with its beautiful and heartfelt melody and lyrics. But the deliciously sweet and creamy icing on the cake came for me with her iconic rendition of Lonnie Mack’s “Oreo Cookie Blues,” a bit of 12-bar smouldering chocolate decadence you could almost taste.
Suzie Vinnick’s tour continues, with a busy schedule reflected in the 424,000 km she has put on her car so far. For more on Suzie, her tour schedule, or to purchase her new album Shake The Love Around, please visit www.suzievinnick.com. To listen to the NAC’s podcast, visit https://nac-cna.ca/en/podcasts.