I have to start my review of Damion Suomi’s performance this Friday night with an apology to you, our readers. I am so sorry that I waited until the last of the Florida artist’s shows in L.A. to do a performance review. It feels like I’m about to describe to a friend a delicious meal I just enjoyed and then have to tell them in the next breath that the restaurant has closed down and won’t be open again until…well, I don’t know when. Considering the great response he received from the crowd, I can’t imaging that Suomi will wait too long before making it back to the west coast so maybe we’ll just pretend I’m giving you a really early heads up for that TBD show.
From the minute he stepped on stage, it was clear that Suomi was in his element. Like his music, the artist was open and honest with the crowd, treating each song like a story he was sharing with us over a couple of beers. He occasionally paused mid-verse to explain a lyric and matter-of-factly described how a murder/suicide committed by his uncle in Detroit inspired one of the songs from the album. At times Suomi would lean so closely into the microphone stand that it seemed the sound of his booming voice would knock it over. At other points in the set, he would eschew the mic altogether and stand at the edge of the stage, singing directly to the audience members, many of whom were singing right along with him. I highly suggest you pick up a copy of his album so you’ll be ready to join in with the rest of us the next time he’s in town. I promise to give you plenty of notice.
Before his set, Suomi was kind enough to answer a few questions for our readers.
Tell us a little about your experience in L.A.
I’ve been here about three weeks and a couple of days. It’s been fantastic. I think it’s a great place to visit, there is just so much going on. The great thing I learned from the trip is that although L.A. has a bad rap elsewhere in the country, there are real people out here and real artists and real dreams and people pursuing what they love. I think a lot of the stereotypes are here, but if you want to find something real, that’s also here.
Why did you choose to do your residency while in L.A. at the Hotel Café?
I don’t think so much that I chose it, but it was chosen for me by my team. I think they chose it because everyone in L.A. that I’ve talked to says it’s the venue where a singer/songwriter can make a home. People come to hear songs and not just great bands but great artists. I go back to reputation…it’s just got a great reputation. Also I caught the Hotel Café tour last year, and I was just so impressed by the tour they put together and the artists that they had on. It was just a no-brainer. When we got in, it was a big deal, it was just really cool. Tonight is the fourth show and it’s just been fantastic.
Have you had a pretty good turn out for each night?
Yeah, we have been playing earlier so we are just kind of dealing with that. What I am finding out is that you never know whether the show will be for ten people or a hundred people but every show has been beneficial. The people that I have been meeting and the fans I have been making and then having them turn other people into fans, I can’t put a value on it. It’s just been great. We just came out here to introduce ourselves to the west coast and L.A.
While in L.A. have you had a chance to catch any other shows?
Man that was my goal. I have been at the mercy of rides. I have been taking this time though as time for personal solitude. It really gave me an opportunity to write and maybe deal with some things that I couldn’t deal with at home because there is always somebody there. Where I am staying, the people there are great, but pretty much all day they are gone so I have that alone time to write and work some of these things out. Then they come home, and I have this great group of people to hang out with. It’s just all around a blessing.
What are you working on once you leave California?
Well I am going home and putting a band together. It’s time to bring the live show up. The album is full instrumentation. I have half the band together, and I am still working on the other half. I am probably going to spend a month doing that and practicing while adding the odd show. When I get home, I am going to take a small break and get some things personally together but also get a band together.
Tell us a little more about your team.
My record label is called P is for Panda. It is a satellite label of Hopeless Records, which is based here in L.A. and that is pretty much why they wanted to bring me out here. I am actually staying with one of the guy on the staff at Hopeless. They have been nothing but supportive. They’ve been awesome. The album came out in March. It started a little slow but has recently picked up steam. It’s just great to be with a consciously minded record label, not just on developing artists, but on the charity end. Both labels are into charity work as far as proceeds of sales.
Tell us a little more about your background in music.
I guess I started songwriting in my early twenties. My earliest group was called the Dames, and we released an album on a very small label with very small distribution. I kind of bounced around after that. I ended up doing the bar singer thing. I spent some time in Ireland and I picked up a lot of folk tunes, which is a lot of the influence on this album that’s out now. I got real busy playing in Irish pubs for a long time and I got this “Hey I need to make a career out of music” thought. Then I went and formed a band and wrote pop songs with it in mind that we were writing pop songs. I was with the most wonderful guys in the world, friendship and talent-wise, but it just didn’t feel right for me. It was more dance/electro music but I never felt great playing it. It just wasn’t me. All the while being in that band, I was on the side writing these folksy, kind-of-country, kind-of-acoustic tunes. So when that band ended, I kind of disappeared for a while and bounced around and that’s when I came back to Florida to do something. That’s when this current album came about.
Before heading back to Florida, where were you living?
Well I bounced around and was in San Francisco for a while, and I went back and forth to Boston a lot. So that was mainly the large part of my travel.
What is currently in rotation on your iPod?
That’s a good question because I was making a mix earlier. I have been listening to a songwriter named Micah P. Hinson. He is in Texas, but he doesn’t really tour America. He is on an English label and mainly tours Europe. I listen to a lot of Micah P. Hinson. There is another group called Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers. I am just absolutely, positively in love with her. Those are the two main things I am listening to right now.
For more on Damion Suomi go to www.myspace.com/damionsuomi