Listening to her stripped down and stunning new album, "Close Up, Vol. 1 -- Love Songs," I realized why I've always liked Suzanne Vega -- because I love her. I love Suzanne Vega in the much the same way that I loved every bookishly beautiful girl I ever spied writing poetry in a journal across the room at the college library.
Of course, like me, most of those girls couldn't actually write, while Suzanne Vega has always been a subtle and powerful singer-songwriter, as she demonstrates again on her "Love Songs," the first installment in her larger effort to re-record and revisit her musical past in an intimate and personal style. Highlights include new versions of "Small Blue Thing," "Caramel" and "(If You Were) In My Movie," but not "Luka," which will likely be on a future "Close Up" Volume dedicated to wildly catchy, socially conscious songs about child abuse that somehow became massive pop hits in the middle of the otherwise shallow Eighties.
For the first three months, Vega's new CD is available exclusively at Barnes & Noble and digitally just about anywhere on earth. She's also playing South by Southwest on March 17th. I won't be there, so I recently asked Vega the following questions for all of us, the loving Huffington Post masses.
Suzanne, I love your music, and always have. To clarify things, however, is it fair to say your "Love Songs" are arguably of a somewhat different sort than, say, Air Supply's "Love Songs"?
I am not familiar with Air Supply love songs, but different than most love songs including the best-selling Barry Manilow collection recently released. Probably polar opposites. Much drier for one thing...
Along with artists like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, you've always struck me as being a poet beyond being a singer-songwriter. Do you ever think of yourself that way?
That was what I hoped to be when I began. In my best moments I think yes.
You've started revisiting your work on "Suzanne Vega Close-Up, Vol 1 - Love Songs," and for me the album is full of lovely, stripped-down revelations. For instance, I never realized "Small Blue Thing" was so damn sexy. What has surprised you about the process or recording your past work in this way?
That "Bound" could stand up so well on the guitar being that it was written around a string sample on Garageband. Also that "If You Were In My Movie" stands up well without the full treatment. All the attitude is in the bass line -- similar to "Pump It Up" by Elvis Costello. (It originated with the same bass player -- Bruce Thomas)
You were on a rather cool record label, A&M, and were seemingly treated with considerable artistic respect early on. For you, what are the good, the bad and the ugly of life in what's left of our music business today?
The good -- the direct contact with fans and the continuing thrill of the music itself. The bad -- the out-of-control pirating and lack of respect for intellectual property. The ugly -- the usual stuff. The politics, mind games, image manipulation, smarmy, smutty aspects to the music business.
What do you miss most -- and least -- about big record budgets?
Most? Uh, having cash on hand when you needed it. Least -- the anxiety that you would never earn it back for them, and would eventually be dropped.
What artists in music inspire you -- either from the generation ahead of you, or the one that's followed?
The one ahead of me. Patti Smith continues to inspire, more than ever. Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed. After -- M.I.A. is inspiring. Juliana Hatfield. Radiohead. Sufjan Stevens. Rufus Wainwright.
Finally, can you confirm that Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" was not written about you? Or me?
Yes, I can.
P.S. I didn't marry any of those poetry girls in the library -- I married an MBA from another school.