Suzanne de Bussac, whose music Exclaim once wrote is for “anyone who can appreciate the fine art of songwriting, accompanied by fleeting moments of Kate Bush brilliance,” is back with a new album, Shiver Stories — it only took 18 years.
She got a little busy raising three kids as a single mother, and dealing with what she calls ”family obligations, crisis, illness, death and the multitude of uninvited yet unavoidable adventures.”
Fortunately, she continued to write songs and the resulting collection is sometimes fierce and sometimes soft, but always keep hope and love at the forefront, including on “Keep Dancing,” “Lazy Bones,” “The City” and “Blasting Away.”
The album title and title-track were inspired by a chapter in the best-selling book Women That Run With Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. “There is a story behind the title and concept of the record,” de Bussac says, “It is me trying to make a difference in the world in some small way through music.
“The album speaks to a variety of topics on mental health, which I am very passionate about and engaged with due to my daughter’s conditions and my volunteer work with Alberta Health Services, as a family advisor for their child/adolescent addiction and mental health psychiatry program.”
Stylistically, the songs relate to her previous album, 2000’s The Valley of Baca, with the classical music she teaches daily as a music teacher earning great prominence but co-producer Dean Drouillard taking what she calls a “psychedelic cabaret” approach to the music. She calls Shiver Stories “kind of a rock & roll album, post punk in places, neoclassical in others” or “neoclassical postpunk pop,” she laughs.
She used the same team that made The Valley of Baca because “They know my story, my history,” she explains. “I need that kind of solid base to work from in order to disseminate this music with authenticity, honesty, and the required vulnerability.”
Her backing musicians included Mark Mariash (drums), Todd Lumley (keyboards), Dean Drouillard (guitars/production), and Paul Vienneau (bass), who have worked, between them, with artists as varied as Buffy Sainte-Marie, Carlos del Junco, Hawksley Workman, Royal Wood, Amelia Curran and Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle.
“The production quality is amazing and the guys played their asses off,” de Bussac raves. “It was really magical and so good to be back with old friends and the camaraderie with one another really is apparent in the music. The band really went the extra mile on vibe.”
Before becoming a recording artist, de Bussac worked in the music industry in Toronto. She was national marketing manager for HMV Canada, ran the Canadian branch of a Caribbean record company, and had her own audio visual company that, among many other things, programmed the music on Air Canada flights.
Along the way, she played dozens of locals clubs, picked up songs from Kevin Quain, and after her debut album was released continued to write originals. After moving to Calgary and starting a family, she began an independent music teaching practice in 2009 that continues today. Her program focuses on songwriting, performance, recording and piano teaching for young children. “We explore the value of popular music in the form of a healing tool, a coping mechanism and a spiritual guide,” she says.
de Bussac marked her return to public performance in 2015 at the National Music Centre and has earned grassroots notoriety, playing regularly and interspersing her advocacy for mental health. She also volunteers at schools, for Alberta Health Services as a family advisor for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Psychiatry Program (CAAMHPP) and musical mentoring girls aged 10–17 with Stardale, an organization that supports at-risk First Nations girls and women with education, life skills, and programming that aims to empower and heal.
“As I get older, and hopefully wiser, and continue to play and write as vigorously as I always have, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am legitimately a maker of music, whether playing, teaching, writing or performing. It’s what I do every day, all day,” she says. “I have no illusions about my role as a musician or expected financial gain from my original work, but I am simply obligated to produce my songs into recorded form in order to complete them.
“Music keeps me honest, hard-working, humble, and sane. The songs are like friends with sage advice; they call me on my shit, they help me make sense of the world.“