Choice Cuts In Depth: Sue Menhart Band
Date: Sunday, August 09, 2009 @ 19:38:42 UTC

Sue Menhart Band - Choice Cuts In Depth
Sue Menhart has an ample portion of that indie wonderment at her success. A mere three years ago, the Connecticut-based singer-guitarist was a computer analyst moonlighting in cover bands. Today, she has a worldwide fan base and a curriculum vitae that includes two solid albums of her own material, live television and radio appearances and clubs that ask her to come back and play repeatedly.

By Barney Quick

"The first order of business when I wanted to take this to the career level was to write a song," she says in that husky, slightly rowdy voice that is the signature of her sound. "Everything else has been a shock to me. I don't understand it, but I'm just gonna roll with it." (She still plies the computer-analyst trade, but now sees herself as mainly a professional blues-rock performer.)

In conversation, she is given to waxing enthusiastic about the rest of the Sue Menhart band. There's drummer Kevin "Octopus" Clark, who doubles as Menhart's husband, and bassist Dave Foret, whom Menhart enlisted based on what he'd been doing around the New London County area since picking up his axe after a twenty-year hiatus. Then there's multi-instrumentalist Bill Quinn. "He's a phenomenal musician," exclaims Menhart. "He also writes his own stuff. He had his own albums in the 1980s. He's brought a whole other level of influences." Menhart particularly likes to tell the story of guitarist John Jeff. "He's one of those guys who sat in his bedroom all his life," she says. "He'd never played professionally. Now he's creating a buzz around here. Other guitarists come to hear him and are blown away."

So the group has become a noteworthy presence in a scene already brimming with fine, active musicians. "New London County has a wonderful network of players who leave for various projects but always come back to the area," she notes. For an upcoming show at Sneakers in Groton, CT, a sax player from Boston will sit in with the band.

The camaraderie among the SMB's members when performing is palpable and is a major aspect of their draw. "We have a blast onstage," says Menhart. "We're always tellin' jokes." She notes that her favorite type of gig is playing outside for bikers. She and her husband are both bikers so they know how to stoke the vibe in that environment.

She does sense that it's time to look at larger venues. "We're getting really loud," she notes.

Fans are becoming familiar enough with her songs that they often sing along at shows. In particular, two anthem-type tunes, "Torn," about the chasm between one's dreams and vision and one's immediate circumstances, and "Coming Home," a tribute to U.S. service men and women, elicit this response. (The band once performed "Coming Home" on the back of a float in a veterans' parade.)

She practices the songwriting craft daily. "People are always giving me ideas," she says. "The song 'If Only' came from a conversation with a woman outside a bar."

Soon after embarking on her songwriting pursuits, she consulted with Eugene Foley of Foley Entertainment in New Jersey. "He taught me a lot about approaching it structurally," she says. "I could write essays up the ying-yang, but at first I didn't know how to write a song." She also credits her master's degree in journalism with teaching her how to "take observations and put them into words."

She credits new-media outlets such as MySpace and Facebook with allowing her to go "automatically global. We have fans in Sweden and Australia, among other places."

So there are two levels of her fan base, in a sense. Among people who come to see her live, "they're very proud to wear the tee shirt with our logo on it," she beams.

While it's obvious from her conversational tone that she is having immense fun with the professional musical life, she confides that "it's not easier now. The more I learn about what it's gonna take, the harder it feels. Also, luck definitely enters into it."

It's as if she still needs some kind of irrefutable convincing that it's all really happening. "People like these songs," she observes, "but in the end, all I have to put into them is me."

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Sue Menhart Band

Sue Menhart Band

Choice Cuts In Depth
is an interview series featuring one of Indie-Music's Choice Cuts Featured Artists. I-M's staff screens Members' music each month, highlighting the 10 best songs for your listening pleasure. One outstanding Choice Cuts performer is chosen for the In Depth interview.

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