Having built a reputation as a Juno award nominated artist known as Oh Susanna, it’s a big decision to rebrand after nine albums. It seems fitting to enlist the tenth record to help spread the message through the album title, My Name is Suzie Ungerleider.
Ungeleider explained: “here I am, leaving behind the trappings of a persona that gave me the courage to climb up onstage and reveal what is in my heart. It once protected me, but I need to take it off so I can be all of who I am.” The “exciting, dark, funny, charming” character that she thought was Oh Susanna was Suzie Ungerleider all along.
John Paul Keith came to prominence in the burgeoning Americana scene (alternatively known as alt-country) as a founding member of the Viceroys and then the Nevers, all before the age of 23. After a decade in bands in New York City, Nashville and Birmingham Alabama, he settled in Memphis.
He’s built his solo career in the city over the last 15 years, as well as collaborating with Amy LaVere and Will Sexton. Fittingly, it was the heritage of the city that inspired Keith’s new record.
Norwegian singer-songwriter Liv Austen rose to prominence in the UK country scene but if you expected her first covers EP to be all Dolly, Garth and Shania, you’ve not been paying enough attention to her artistic development. She’s long been known to slay a Sigrid or Dua Lipa track in her live set, and her debut album, A Moment of Your Time, was a masterclass in pop perfection.
After appearances at The Long Road Festival and tours in the UK supporting Ashley McBryde and Ashley Monroe, Sean McConnell came back to the UK as a headline artist in his own right in February 2020.
Although he performs in the modern folk realm, he’s got one foot in the country world too, having co-written Brett Young’s Mercy and Little Big Town’s The Daughters. He’s also written for Meat Loaf, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Scotty McCreery, Brothers Osborne, Christina Aguilera and the TV show Nashville.
The 34 year old has plenty of pedigree to support that back catalogue. He wrote his first song aged 10 and released his first album aged 15.
If watching X Factor is your guilty pleasure then you’ll remember Janet Devlin. She came to prominence in the eight series, alongside Little Mix. She had a unique voice and style that seemed different from the typical acts on the show.
The audience warmed to her personality and talent, meaning she topped the public vote more times than any other act that season and was tipped as a potential winner. However, she was voted off after her mentor, Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child, refused to chose between two of her protegees.
One unexpected consequence of being instantly shot to fame was coming to the attention of Courtney Love, who claimed that Devlin was distantly related to Kurt Cobain!She publicly offered Devlin the option of singing a Nirvana song on the show if she wanted to! Devlin also got to work with prominent musicians like Newton Faulkner in the years after the series.
Devlin’s back with two strong videos. Most recently, she headed to YouTubeSpace in London to strip down to gold paint and glitter, alternated with petals, for a striking conceptual video.
The inspiration for the song Honest Men came from viewing her own experiences through the lens of Greek philosopher Diogenes, who was known for criticizing Plato, sleeping in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace, and carrying a lamp in the daytime on the search for an honest man!
Devlin explained that the song poured out of her in under an hour while suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder: “I began singing the darkest lyrics over the top of this beautiful melody that was emerging from my little uke. That juxtaposition of light and shade inspired me…It really captured a moment and a lot of meaning is contained in in this track!”
She’s not content with shining a light on others. She previous exposed her own guilty secrets with the song Confessional. As we’ve been focusing on videos recently here at Music Closeup, we were particularly impressed with the use of space, angles and perspective to convey the sense of surveillance, vulnerability and claustrophobia within a confessional booth.
The song foregrounds Devlin’s Irish heritage with uilleann pipes, accordion, fiddles, bodhrán, cow’s ribs, whistles and drums backing her voice.
“If it doesn’t sound like an obvious single, it’s because it’s not meant to. It’s a glimpse of what’s to come. I’ve essentially created a concept album, everything is on the table and laid bare,” Devlin explained.
Devlin’s concept album Confessional, centred on honesty and reconciliation, which is due out in May 2020, is set to be accompanied by an autobiography, My Confessional. You can expect it to clarify some of the difficult experiences that led to this distinctive singer having such a distinctive worldview for one still so young. Keep an eye on her website for details.