Suzie Ungerleider (suzieungerleider.com) is best known as Oh Susanna, a moniker that she chose to take on when she started performing her own songs in the mid-1990s. In the beginning, she was writing and performing songs that were often dark and sad, with murder ballads and difficult tales being a common theme.
Her songs and subject matter expanded over the course of 5 albums made with a few different record labels. When it came time for the sixth, she reconnected with old friend Jim Bryson (who’s known for being a producer and band member alongside Kathleen Edwards) and began a musical partnership that continues to this day. Together they planned for an album that would eventually be called Namedropper, where Suzie reached out to some talented and pretty famous friends to write original songs specifically for the album. It includes submissions from Ron Sexsmith, Joel Plaskett, Jim Cuddy, and our episode 11 guest, Amelia Curran. Also included was Winnipeg’s own Keri Latimer, who is known for her bands Nathan and Leaf Rapids.
In the middle of a crowd funding campaign for the album, Suzie was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had to delay the project. Luckily, she overcame her cancer and is healthy and strong today.
After re-releasing her first two Oh Susanna albums, as she made and prepared for the release of a new album, again made with Jim Bryson and featuring contributions from Keri Latimer, Bazil Donovan of Blue Rodeo, and others, Suzie made the difficult but right decision to drop the Oh Susanna name. It turns out that the folk song that we all have known all of our lives, was originally written with some very racist lyrics, sung in a fake African American accent, in the “minstrel show” style, which was based on racist characterizations of black people. (You can read those lyrics HERE, but they are offensive)
After years of being based in Ontario, Suzie, along with her husband and drummer Cam Giroux, and their son and dog Willow (who got pretty hungry during our interview and made her presence known), moved to Vancouver, where Suzie was raised.
“Dying Light” is from the album Namedropper, which can be purchased on iTunes HERE