Once touted, predictably, as Ulster’s sassier answer to her friend indie rocker SOAK, twenty-something Susie Blue has emerged as one of Ireland’s brightest new talents in recent years. From a little further down the Atlantic, stevepafford.com is delighted to give you a recap of why this newly crowned Queen or Queer is rapidly becoming the Irish icon of the 2020s. Not only that, but to celebrate Women’s History Month Susie’s chosen five favourite females of her own. Let there be light.
An early learner musically, Susie’s rock fan father Tony bought her a guitar when she was seven, teaching her to play her first song, Sloop John B by The Beach Boys. Once the family relocated to Derry her musical education began in earnest, and the nascent performer found herself delving into songwriting. She found the process enlightening and restorative, and used it as an outlet to vent her troubles, express her doubts and fears, anger and pain.
Kicking off in 2013 with Stripped Bare and Bits & Buttons — a pair of lo-fi EP releases recorded in her bedroom – the strident strong-willingness in Susie’s songs are strongly influenced by classic female artists like Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell. Initially playing solo, the rechristened Blue was joined by a succession of musicians who’ve added a sonic ambience to her dreamy, shoegaze sound. But it was in 2018 that Northern Ireland’s new Queen of Queer really rose prominence, with the full release of her debut album Didn’t Mean To Care, an intimate collection of songs made up of rousing, euphoric anthems with hooky synthpop melodies and thoughtful lyrics which document her teenage years.
Inspired by her fledgling relationships with women, the album explores the uncertainties and insecurities of adolescence, which are often rocked further by the process of coming out. Much loved gay indie gem People Like Us is a soaring, affecting moment which encapsulates Susie’s approach to modern life expressed through her distinctive yearning vocals (sounding not unlike The Cranberries’ dearly departed Dolores O’Riordan at times). The title track is also a firm favourite, sweet and coquettish yet gutsy, with an illuminating video to boot. In an aesthetic of pastels and bubblegum colours that match the pop feel of the tune, it presents a tale of misfits causing chaos in the name of fun. For a video that’s great craic, the often melancholic lyrics make more sense at the reveal.
The blistering nineties retro and heartwarming sentiment of the She Is single followed in 2019. Just the other week she uploaded her latest release to Spotify: Boys Boys Boys isn’t an ironic cover of Sabrina’s busty poolside romp but an impassioned “super personal” quartet of tracks that detail the hardships, highs, loves and losses belonging both to the artist and those around her.
Most powerful of all is the recent single, Daughter, which reflects on the recent passing of her mother and the advice she’d given her offspring when she came out, with many of the lyrics being actual quotes from Sally, such as “Who gives a fuck if you’re gay, you should be proud…” Mum would indeed be proud at the thoughtful, helpful and positive way Susie Blue’s making an impact. You’ll care, for sure. And to put her tastes and influences into context, Susie has chosen her five favourite female singers, exclusively for stevepafford.com.
Suzi Quatro and Debbie Harry are older, but I think for me Joan Jett was the first woman rocker. She was in The Runaways, who just set the stage for every female punk/rock band to come after and that kind of legendary behaviour never leaves you. Joan gave me the confidence to play guitar and I’ll be forever grateful for that.
TEGAN AND SARA
Tegan and Sara are twin sisters and have been performing since the 1990s and they got lots of abuse from the press for being women and being gay women at that. They continued to be true in their writing and adapted throughout the years to become the established artists they are now. Their songs have every theme from MySpace stalking to more complex issues that some lesbians will know all too well, like a girl keeping you a secret. I loved watching them grow and evolve and it makes me hopeful for my future in music.
Sinéad will always be an icon. She was the voice of a nation at one point and I remember hearing her sing with Christy Moore on The Mad Lady And Me and I fell in love. Ireland owes her an apology, no one helped her when she was down and no one believed her. I think she’s one of the strongest people around and an exceptional artist.
The first time I heard Lauryn Hill sing was when I was very small. I heard her on the radio in my godmother’s house — it was a Fugees song, Killing Me Softly. I remember hearing those lyrics and just thinking wow that’s so meaningful, I want to write meaningful songs. Then of course she was also in Sister Act, and that was one of my mum’s favourite films that we watched all the time. She’s just too good to be true.
Janelle Monáe came into my life when I was struggling to find new music that I wanted to listen to. Then I heard Make Me Feel and this Prince-inspired track was exactly what I was looking for. Then combined with her stunning music videos that was it, I was in love. Her songs are so drastically different that I think she will easily adapt and be one of those artists that are around for a long time, I’m very excited to see what she brings next.
Susie Blue was talking to Steve Pafford