Susan Lavelle, Indie musician and personalized song writer

Susan LaVelle is a writer, information designer, singer, and lyricist from the Twin Cities in Minnesota. With her partner, Matt Dorland, she has written original songs in many genres including blues, ballads and swing, and performed in the duo Just a Touch of Jazz, weaving hope, love, and relationship through a musical tapestry of life.

The Covid Pandemic negatively affected musicians so much that the majority of work completely dried up. Susan chose do to something about it and found a way to feature many of them in a You Tube Series called Uniting Twin Cities, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toPdb92ulxE.

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Susan never stops growing and expanding and is launching a custom songwriting business which can be found at https://song.wedding/.
She’s a true Bloomer and a strong, talented, innovative woman who believes in the healing power of music and giving back to the community.

Contacts:

Spotify Pre-save link: 

https://show.co/quo3ayo

Websites:

https://song.wedding

https://justatouchofjazz.com

Hear me on iTunes:

https://music.apple.com/us/artist/just-a-touch-of-jazz/1571080150

Hear me on Amazon:

https://music.amazon.com/artists/B096RW2JHD/just-a-touch-of-jazz

 

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Transcript:

Sharman:  

Welcome to the Live Your Bloom podcast, where I interview people stepping out of their comfort zones to fulfill old dream seeds or plant new ones, regardless of age. I also interview people who have specific interests or programs that could benefit us on our journey to bloom like my guest today, Susan Lavelle. Writer, singer, lyricist from Minneapolis. In fact, we're listening to one of her songs. With her partner, Matt Dorland, she's written many original songs; blues and ballads and performed in the duo, 'Just a Touch of Jazz'. Their purpose? To weave hope, love, and relationship through a musical tapestry of life. Susan has found a new venue for her talent and is here to tell us all about it. She is a real bloomer and I am thrilled to have her as a friend with us today. Hey, Susan!

Susan:  

Hey there, Sharman. You were one of my greatest fans, I think.

Sharman:  

Probably, because of our love of jazz but also because your interpretations are quite unique and I enjoy your choice of songs. Plus, you're a songwriter; not an easy thing in the jazz world. Well, let's get into it. What are we listening to? What's the purpose of this particular song?

Susan:  

You're listening to 'Tell Me That You Love Me', I wrote that a few years ago, mostly about my husband. I've pulled that one out of our original songs and released it, for release on, November 5th on all the streaming platforms. And, but I also wanted to have some of our songs that I could put on my website for the new song wedding, which is a business I'm pivoting to; I'm very excited about. I have been writing songs all my life and I've written a lot of weddings songs for people. It occurred to me even that I could go back and ask for testimonials from some of the many people I wrote songs but, I mean, like decades ago, actually. I think one really wonderful thing about writing a love song or a song individualized for people, which is what I'm going to be doing business. Such a song carries you forward in your life. I mean, I know I have the skill to actually interview people and find out that the stuff of their life that they want to have in a song, but don't know how to write their selves. And I've found that, that is a real skill that I have. It's a moment in time. It's a, like I say, a tapestry of relationship, love and life. This song I've put on my website as a focus point for people to take a look at some of what I can write in that genre.

Sharman:  

Terrific! Now you mentioned it's on all the streaming platforms. Not all of our people listening, know what that means. So, where would they be?

Susan:  

Well, on Spotify and Pandora. And for example, you can say, "Siri, play 'Just a Touch of Jazz'." 'Silence' or play, 'Just a Touch of Jazz', 'Tell Me That You Love Me' once it's released; not released yet. So they can't say that yet, but you know, that kind of thing.

Sharman:  

Do you see that business expanding to include other events besides weddings?

Susan:  

Yes, absolutely. In fact, right now I'm writing a song for someone that passed away, sort of a memorial type song. And, unfortunately, we've got a lot of that going on,

Sharman:  

I know too.

Susan:  

And I've written that kind of song before, too. So I do, but I feel like wedding songs and I just decided I'll start out with that. My website is song.wedding, not .com, not .org, not dot anything else.

Sharman:  

Well, people will get a CD of the song?

Susan:  

Yes. When I, when I make, okay. And the whole process is fairly long and it's not cheap. Because the value I have is to value myself and the other musicians; composers that are involved. Which is a very hardworking crew and it's not easy to write a song like that. So I'll, but the process is that I will do an initial interview with someone to consult with them and learn more about them. Then, once they have committed to the songwriting, we'll do an in-depth interview about 'Who it is?', 'What it is they want in the song?', 'What styles of song they can give me?' Some like reference songs, like 'What songs do you like?' And then, after that's done, we'll write the lyrics. They'll get a chance to give me feedback on that. They'll get like a reveal moment. We'll meet and I'll reveal the song. They'll get to give me feedback. At that point, if we need to change anything before it goes into the studio, they'll get one last chance to get feedback on how it sounds and then we'll release it to them after it's gone through production.

Sharman:  

Yeah.

Susan:  

Via CD. And, download and then there's some upgrades it can have. So like, for example, if they want to have sheet music for it, if they want a live performance of their event, their wedding or their anniversary party or whatever it might be or some people might want to have a nice plaque on the wall to hang with their lyrics or another thing they could have would be like a - I do have skill in tech... What kind of tech? Oh, website development, Photoshop, information design, graphic design. I've done that kind of thing. I have a master's degree in that from writing studies. And so...

Sharman:  

This is a wonderful merging of all your talents.

Susan:  

Yeah. So, what I was just going to say with that is that I can also put together a video or a slide show with the music for that person. All of those are upgrades or extra costs, but, you know, what people are paying for weddings nowadays most of which is very transitory. It just disappears. Whereas, a song that is crafted on that level for person's life is something that, you know, in years forward, you can go back and I've done this myself with things. Even the song that we were just listening to, 'Tell Me That You Love Me' - that is a milestone moment or a point in time, which you can take that song and relive it in a new way for yourself and just be clear and all the rest of that. So yeah.

Sharman:  

I can hear it. Like if there was a visual representation of it, they could be adding on as years go by. If they end up being together. And I say that, cause it's a big if, but if they're still together after 50 years, you could actually see the journey of their life.

Susan:  

Sure, absolutely. And that I'm all for giving people those moments, which bring them back to the essentials. Because a lot of times, people do break up the relationship. Well, there's lots of good, lots of reasons why people say, of course. But you know, there are many times when people let anger or a moment of frustration that has built up without going back and focusing on 'What do I really want?' So, I mean, I do think that there's a real value in those sorts of moments that bring people back to that focus on 'Why did I get married in the first place?' Or 'What do I love about this person?' and that sort of thing, too. So...

Sharman:  

Okay. I mean, it's grown so much since the first time we talked about it and I can just sense from your talking that you're confident about it. You're excited about it, but you know, what else I love is that you are like me, I like real music?'. That's the way I have my studio set up. Real drums, real piano, real guitar. I got an upright bass and a bunch of amps. I like to bring my friends in or new musicians. I like real music. And that's what you're doing for where you live in Minneapolis. And in fact, you started a project called 'Twin Cities Artists', I believe. Is that the name of it?

Susan:  

'Uniting the Twin Cities With Music'.

Sharman:  

Okay.

Susan:  

Yeah. We did that. Well, Sharman and I are both in a thing called 'Amplify.' It's a mastermind of musicians, which we both really recommend, I think, to people who are really serious about leveling up in their music careers. Anyway, there was a series of Instagram concerts that they were doing. And, I performed a couple of times on that and I thought to myself, the last time I was doing that, I thought, 'What would stop me from doing the same thing that is being done here?' What was being done there was bringing together a group of artists and letting people have a time for performance in a concert that was kind of putting together a group of people. And, I thought, 'Well, I could do that here in Minneapolis'. Minneapolis during, especially during COVID, we had the murder of George Floyd. There was burning down of stuff was really, really rough. It's still is really rough right now, actually in Minneapolis. And they're having a hard time pulling themselves up out of the massive pain. So I felt like, 'What do, what are the musicians artists doing right now? They've got to be writing songs'. We're all in our houses. We're stuck at home. People have to be writing songs and then people here have to be writing songs. So I thought 'Let's just pull some people together and give them a chance.' and I can do that. Like I said before, I have tech skills, which just on the side. I, if you want to know a pivot for me, a turning point for me is realizing that I have these skills. And yes, I can get a job at some big corporation doing something where they do pay a lot of money or I could go for like upwork or something like that. No offense to them. But you know, you don't get paid enough for that kind of work. Can it be someone's virtual assistant, do something for someone else, which was spent all my time doing that.

Sharman:  

Right.

Susan:  

At the expense of what I really want to do. So why don't I just do what I want to do and use my skills for that? As I've gone to. And that's what I decided to do and have done that with my music rather than getting hired by someone else. But anyway, we put together different artists from the twin cities and we started this each concert was thematic, so there was like four of them.

Sharman:  

I saw them all. I just have to interrupt and, a lot of talent, a lot of eclectic talent, a lot of different genres, a lot of different styles, a lot of joy. Where can they find it? On YouTube, right?

Susan:  

It's on our YouTube channel. If you go 'Just a Touch of Jazz' on YouTube, you should be able to find out.

Sharman:  

Okay. Yeah. It's so wonderful way to spend time listening and supporting but it just reminds you of there's so much talent in the world. There's so many...

Susan:  

Right.

Sharman:  

So many musicians were so deeply affected by the pandemic and the shutdown. This was just, well, you actually did this before COVID, I believe, right?

Susan:  

No, I started that one at, that was COVID and all the trouble in Minneapolis.

Sharman:  

Yes.

Susan:  

The thing with that too, is that I believe that music is and this goes back to my song, that song wedding business, too. Music is a catalyst for so much for people. And the thing is, is that so many people don't know how to play an instrument and engage themselves in music in a way that meets that satisfaction in their soul, because they don't know how to put words to the thoughts they have, and they don't know how to make their own songs. Maybe they do, maybe, but they just don't have a confidence in it or whatever. But maybe they have something to say, and they can say it through your song or through my song or through the songs of other people in the community, et cetera. That was a big motivating factor in getting that - t hose Uniting the Twin Cities With Music concerts out, too, because I felt like people need to process what's going on. And, so if I give this chance to different people who are going through different things, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that people out there are going through those same things, too. And they are feeling those same things, whatever the musicians have just written. And that to me is very powerful and take that into my song.wedding business. I mean, that is actually the same sort of thing. You're kind of standing in the gap, could say for the people who want to somehow bring a song together that represents their inner most feelings, their love for this partner. If it's a wedding, if it's a tribute to someone who's passed away, they have a lot of feeling that they wish to get out. And so if you're a skilled lyric writer then you're able to tap into that. And so, one of the courts are the last, like five years with Matt, six years, whatever it has been with Matt and learning this process that we had, like we've got, I don't know. I think we wrote like 40 songs or 35 songs, something out there out.

Sharman:  

That's quite a catalog right there.

Susan:  

It is. And I've had them all copyrighted. Cause I don't want them to disappear. Song Plays. Well, let's talk about another one of your songs which again is a wonderful form of expression and what you believe. And it's called 'Silence'. Well, Silence is a song I knew I was going to write from when, as I said, George Floyd murder and here in Minneapolis, so many people were talking about that. That was may of 2020. So I knew I was going to write a song about that, and I actually knew it would be calm silence, but I just didn't have. If you're writing songs, you just like, there's a time when you know you're going to write it and then, then you do, and then you can, so I waited until it was the right time. And then I wrote that in like March or late 2021, or maybe I wrote it before that we recorded it in March, I guess. In December, I went to the George Floyd Square and I just took my phone. And as I - I parked a few blocks away. And as I was walking to the George Floyd Square, which is where he was murdered, and there was an initial setup of a Memorial there. And I just recorded on my phone, my speed to walking up to it. So that was like quite a long time, but it just recorded everything that I saw, from my feet on. And once I got there, just the different things that were there Teddy bears, flowers, plaques, but some of it was a chalk drawings, lots of chalk drawings. Some of the things that are there now were not there then, but the main painting was up there. And there's a couple of main paintings that have been up there on the building. That was really a moment. And I have a video of that song 'Silence'. So a great place to find that would be on my YouTube channel, again.

Sharman:  

I have seen it. It's quite brilliant. And it does stop you right in your tracks and it's very moving and that's what it needs. That's what it needed to do.

Susan:  

Yeah.

Sharman:  

Yeah.

Susan:  

So for that song, you know, It's a powerful song. But I feel like it, the video goes like so much with it, that it's really best for people to listen to it. I did release it on Spotify. I wanted to get it out there as fast as I could, so I could have put it into a studio and gone in there and had let's have my vocals be perfect. But then I had such a struggle trying to figure out, well, how should I sing this in some way that actually represents the rawness and the emotional feeling? So I just let it be my emotions.

Sharman:  

I'm a big believer that if you can stand up and sing a song with a piano or guitar, warts and all, but you can move someone with the feeling. I would rather that. I don't need to hear perfection. I don't need to hear elaborate arrangements, elaborate soloists. I really am always seeking to be moved. And I always go back to someone like Billie holiday, who could break your heart with the lines that she was singing. And you we're able to do that. You don't even realize it, but that takes a lot of courage and confidence just to be able to sing a song with a piano and nothing else.

Susan:  

Yeah. Well, I do have to say, let's go back to the idea of being a bloomer because I've just as an advice to everyone or what, maybe not advice, but just a testimony that, you can keep doing things that you feel or in your heart, you can keep growing in them and getting better at it. You know, pick tech, for example, people are put off by texts, so they don't, you, you're a great example, Sharman, to people who felt like put off by it, but you kept digging in there and got to be really good at it. But it's a moving target and you'll never, if, as long as you realize that it's just a process of always having to learn that thing. You will never actually be perfect. So, you are on a pathway to getting better at whatever thing it is that you are interested in and that. So, don't let people put you off, always be willing to get better, but don't let people put you off ever.

Sharman:  

Don't always listen to family and friends, and you might, you may find support from new kindred spirits, that, and that's okay. You don't share the 20 years together, but you do share your passion for that thing. So, they really relate to what you're dealing with. Never has there been so much support, for learning as there is now.

Susan:  

True.

Sharman:  

There's so many people online even when I'm editing music and I'm like, 'I can't remember how to do this.' one thing over there. Some kid from somewhere is going to say, 'Okay, you push the control and the S and the, this, and all that. Bingo. There you are.' So...

Susan:  

I will challenge you to say that it might not be a kid. It might be an older one, like me..

Sharman:  

True. You know, but I have learned that I just need to know as much about it as I need to know. I don't have to know all the ins and outs.

Susan:  

True.

Sharman:  

And if I like, for example, I'm not, I'm not into graphics. Don't want to be, maybe I'm smart enough to be, but I don't want to be, I leave it to the people like you. That's your thing, your talent, your skill. I don't, it took me a long time to realize I don't have to do everything. I'm trying right now with my new CD to write grants and get enough money to bring people in. Who, number one, are better than me and, number two, need the work. And so what could be better than that? And that's a relief. It's off my back. I don't have to do everything really well. I just have to do for me, my music, I have to write it and I have to believe in it and I have to stand by it. The rest of it. I need help. And that's okay.

Susan:  

Yeah. You just have to be confident in your own skills and your calling and your focus. And so have a focus. Don't let anything pull you other ways. I just like had just a few spasms, I'd say, 'Oh, maybe I should get a job.' But you know, some tech thing, whatever, in addition to this, or whatever. And I had like hundreds of emails coming in every day with ideas about jobs that I should try. It was just really going take me down, like rabbit holes distracting me, frustrating me. And I just finally just like last week, I think it was, I said 'Enough. I'm unsubscribing to all of these jobs and things, and I'm going to stop.even considering that". And you said, what you said to think about, what do ever have a problem with your decision? Well, yeah, my husband sometimes wishes I worked for Medtronic. It's Scientific and technical writer because I'd make a lot of money doing that but I don't want to do that. I don't think I succeed at that because I'm more of an artist's temperament, really. You just really have to understand yourself. You just have to come to grips with who am I. You can get better and you can learn more stuff, but you also are a person. You are who you are kind of intrinsically and who you've been made to be. Go ahead and enjoy that and do the things like...

Sharman:  

And you are learning how to make the living as an independent musician. I'm sure when your first couple checks come in for your songwriting, your husband's going to be real proud of yourself. Yes. So you know, Susan...

Susan:  

He's been supportive, but he just like - people, even if they're supportive, if they're not on your wavelength, they don't necessarily get it..

Sharman:  

Yeah. Yeah.

Susan:  

But yeah.

Sharman:  

I'm so thrilled that you were able to share all these projects that you're in and your passion and your path and your journey, because I know you've been working hard on it. That's what makes you a real bloomer is because you're following your bliss. You planted the seeds. They're blooming. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. And we're going to have all your links on the page so you'll be sending that to me so people can contact you and keep in touch and let me know how your business is growing.

Susan:  

I sure will. Thank you so much, Sharman.

Sharman:  

My pleasure.

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