Artist You Need To Know: Susannah Joffe

emilytreadgold #4, Features

I've been obsessed with Susannah Joffe since she came up on my TikTok years ago, she has this knack for relatable songs that feel so poetic. Watching her develop her sound has been incredible to watch and I truly think she's one of the most talented up-and-coming artists out there right now. We talked about growing up in Texas, how her sound is maturing, and dealing with competition.

I love Texans so much. And it's like we get such a bad reputation, but it's like our government sucks, not the people.

Susannah: I think growing up here, I think it just gives you more character. I moved to New York about a year ago, and it's so different. I just noticed I smile at people when I walk by them. And every time I smile at someone in New York, they just seem so confused.

It's a weird issue to have. But yeah, so let's get started with how you got started in music, and then we'll unpack the Texas trauma that we have.

Susannah: I just sang my whole life. You can find videos of me at my talent show on YouTube when I was like 10. Then, my dad writes songs. That's his passion. He was just always writing songs in the house, and we started co-writing a little bit when I was in high school. But at that point, I really didn't want to do music. I went to school for film. It was like my entire life. I was really dead set on doing film. It was my passion. So I went to UT for film, and then COVID hit.

I decided to try guitar and just started writing songs for the first time. I think once I started writing songs of my own, I kind of immediately realized that it was just the best feeling, really fulfilling and meaningful. Then I had a mental health crisis, and one of the things like the tools that my therapist and I had found would calm me down or stop me from doing harmful behavior. And so it helped with intrusive thoughts a lot. It just helped when I was spiraling. Songwriting was just an amazing tool for me at that time. And yeah, I've been doing it ever since, and I love it.

That's so interesting because I do feel like things like that, like playing guitar require complete brain strength, like you're doing something with your hands and you're thinking about it. It takes your mind off of things in a really nice way.

Susannah: No, totally. One of my friends has been struggling with her mental health a lot over the past year, and I told her that you should pick up an instrument. It's so helpful when you're having a breakdown or something to physically have an instrument to distract yourself with.

I feel like someone told me this ages ago, but it's like find a healthy way to release your emotions. Music is the best way to do that. And a lot of your music does, and the main reason I wanted to talk to you is you do have that and, I believe, like a little bit of religious Texas trauma.

Susannah: I have a really kind of unique upbringing because my mom's side of the family is very conservative and very Christian. Then my dad's side of the family is very Jewish, and I was raised Jewish, but I still was kind of like dealing like my cousin on my mom's side told me I was going to hell because I was Jewish when I was like five. My grandpa told my dad that if he wanted to go to heaven, he needed to study the Bible. So it's like I don't have the kind of textbook-like, "Oh, I went to Catholic school, whatever," but I think growing up as a Jewish person in the South with half my family being super fucking conservative that's why I resented Christianity so much because of it because my whole life had people trying to convert me. I kind of started using religious imagery this year, almost like a rejection of Christianity, but also organized religion as a whole.

Well, it's also hard because, in Texas, our government is a Christian government, no matter what people say. And the government that dictates what we can do with our bodies is a Christian-based government, which is a constant frustration. So it's almost inescapable. I lived in Austin maybe six years ago. How has the music scene been for you there?

Susannah: There's a huge kind of DIY-like indie, rock, post-punk experimental vibe here. And I think I wasn't-- I don't know. I've grown so much as a person and as a musician over the last year because I moved to New York. And I think I didn't fit into that kind of indie scene in Austin because I was so limited just by living in Texas. It was the music I was listening to, the music I was making, what I felt like I could and couldn't do.

I think now, with where I'm at and the music I'm making now, would fit a lot better in the Austin scene. I was making indie pop, very strictly indie pop, for a while. I'm slowly kind of shifting away from that. I knew that moving to New York would inspire me a lot. Just walking around New York, I'm constantly inspired. I met my collaborator, Ben Coleman, who basically produces everything for me. He's someone like me, where it's like he's always down to just try something. I think because I found such an incredible collaborator, so much of making my songs now is experimentation.

What song do you think shows that change the most?

Susannah:"Deer in Headlights", for the first pre-chorus, we tried 50 completely different forms for that. And this next thing I'm putting out, I Hate Me Too, we produced completely different genres of this song, so many different ones. I think just like with the community I'm in, it's kind of inspired me to start making stuff that's more rock-leaning and darker. I also think it's really important to me to build a world around my music. It took me a while to kind of figure out what I wanted that world to look like. So I'm catering my music to that. I think, just as a whole, I see the world a lot differently now, and I think I have a bit of a darker view of things, and I think that that's also being reflected in my sound.

What would you say has been kind of the biggest challenge for you in your career in the music world?

Susannah: I think in the past, there was this kind of glamorized idea that people would take a chance on someone because they're talented. And I do think, like in the past, in the music industry, that mindset kind of existed versus now. People don't want to develop artists, they want you to go viral on TikTok, and then they'll take you. I think that's definitely been hard for me where I've had so many conversations with big people being like, "We love what you're doing. We love what you're making. Check back in with me in two years." I think that has been really challenging. I think you just have to get used to rejection, and I'm someone who hates rejection. But at the same time, I think it motivates me so much.

That's fair. I mean, yeah, it's crazy. I feel like the amount that artists have to do now has just tripled in the amount of work you have to do. How do you stay focused on yourself and motivated to work when you feel like there are so many artists right now? Do you ever feel like competitive?

Susannah:I'm so competitive. It's like a problem. My entire Instagram feed is just like other artists. It literally drives me crazy. I don't know. I have to exercise some self-control when it comes to discipline when it comes to not spiraling and comparing my career to other people's. But I think I try and maintain a really genuine relationship with my fans. And I think it's going to affect me a lot because it's really easy to get bummed that certain goals of mine aren't happening yet. But I talk almost every day to people who listen to my music and am able to hear from people that my music helped them through something or they just connect with it. And I think that really helps keep me motivated and reminds me to be appreciative of the fact that anyone listens to my music at all.

I guess my last question would be, what would be your best advice for a young woman who wants to get into music?

Susannah: I think I get a lot of people messaging me asking just that. How do I start? And I feel like my biggest piece of advice is you have to stop waiting for the right song or to get super good or whatever. You just have to start putting songs out. I think that the biggest thing is people are too critical of themselves. And at the end of the day, it's you just need to start putting stuff out regularly. Even if it's a demo that you made on the GarageBand. I mean, I recorded your brother's name and produced. I made that song on GarageBand. I recorded almost everything with my iPhone. You just have to just make it and put stuff out.

Keep up with Susannah on Spotify, Instagram, and TikTok.

Emily Treadgold

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