Children’s Singer Suz Slezak On Making Music That Matters And Touring With Toddlers (It’s Possible!)

Suz Slezak

What was the impetus for making your latest album, Watching the Nighttime Come?

I first thought about making a lullaby album several years ago when my friends first started having babies. That original version was very much a handmade operation.  I played all the instruments myself, burned copies on my computer to replicate it, and hand painted the album covers. Once I got pregnant myself I realized it was the perfect moment to actually go into a studio with a producer and make a “real” album. It was really important to me to make something sophisticated enough that parents would enjoy it as well. I chose Josh Kaufman and Nate Martinez as the producers since I knew they would add beautiful texture and color and make it sound contemporary and hip. Watching the Nighttime Come is the result.

Watching-the-Nighttime-Come_

How is it different from previous albums?

Compared to the music of my main project, David Wax Museum, the songs are much more mellow and soothing. I ended up using a side of my voice that I don’t know that well. Being in a band with a bunch of men, electric guitars and drums means I do a lot of hollering and full-throated chanting on tour. So for this record the producer, Josh, had to remind me over and over to use a lighter touch with my voice. I was actually surprised by what came out. It’s a much more tender voice than I knew I had.

How would you describe your musical style?

I grew up in a family and community of folk musicians. We sang a lot of rounds growing up and it is to that experience that I attribute my love of harmony singing. I’ve played classical music, Irish, Scottish, old time and bluegrass fiddle tunes, and with David Wax Museum, have been learning Mexican folk music. So I suppose my style is a hodgepodge of all those styles.

Suz Slezak

How has becoming a parent changed you, both professionally and personally?  

One of the beautiful parts of my professional life now as a parent is the incredible transformation that I undergo each night on tour. Since our baby daughter travels with us, I am able to cuddle up and nurse her to sleep (often in the green room or in the bed we installed in the back of our touring van). Then at the moment she falls asleep I do a super-quick change into my performance dress and high heels, slap on some make up using the mirror on the back of the passenger seat visor, throw my hair into a half bun and dash on stage for our set. Staying present for her (without worrying about the impending show) and then being equally present on stage for my fans (without worrying about my baby) is a wonderful challenge. And the contrast makes me feel so alive. I feel unbelievably lucky each night that I can transform from a mama bear into a rockstar in sometimes four minutes or less!

Personally, becoming a parent has actually made me chill out just a bit. I am actively trying not to worry as much about the big picture, or the things that scare me about the future of the world. I can’t. It would literally drive me crazy. Instead I am focusing on small things like cooking healthy real food, drinking enough water each day, maintaining some sense of order in our home or touring van, consuming less sugar, keeping up with my daily journal, kissing my baby’s cheeks as much as possible, staying calm when she’s upset — all things that are within my sphere.

Suz Slezak

What are some of your plans for the future?

Well, having just done my first string of solo shows for the release of Watching the Nighttime Come, I definitely am excited for future solo records and touring under my own name. But we are about to release a gorgeous new album with my main project, David Wax Museum, so the next two years of touring will be focused on that. It is certainly my hope that we’ll be able to continue our life as musicians. But as the industry changes we are constantly figuring out how to make a living as artists. Luckily we live simply, and we love to tour. So hopefully that combination will sustain us.

As someone who has imagined being a mom since I was a little girl, the fact that I can be a mom and a touring musician is a dream come true.  Yes, our daughter’s birth has made our touring slow down a bit, but I think she has already been to 40 states and a couple of countries in her first year of life, so we’re definitely still on the move with her in tow. Even with all its challenges, we feel that the touring life will be a rich one for her to grow up in. Our community is vast and our daughter will be a part of that wealth of human connections. She is already so open to new people and new experiences and we hope that openness will continue as she gets older.

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