Bruce Sudano is a singer-songwriter and music industry veteran who has garnered songwriting credits for songs by his late wife Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, and others. His latest EP, Spirals Vol 2 : Time And The Space In Between was released on Oct 23 and stands as another sterling example of his songwriting prowess. Recently I spoke with him about his songwriting process, his new EP, and his future plans. Our conversation, edited for length and clarity, is below.
Americana Highways : How would you best describe your songwriting process ?
Bruce Sudano: I would best describe it this way. When I’m in a good flow I like to go pick up my guitar first thing in the morning and in a stream of consciousness kind of way just play and sing all the while recording myself. I find that even though when I am just waking up I talk in incomplete sentences, my mind is kind of fertile in a different kind of way and frequently I will stumble onto something. I believe a big part of being a songwriter is being a good listener and assimilating what you hear. I think that I am good at assimilating things in the sense that I process it through my songwriting. When I am in this waking kind of moment that I am referring to, I seem to be able to tap into those kinds of things that are emotionally important to me.
So once I come upon a little bit of something either lyrically or musically speaking, and I say to myself “Aha, that’s a good thing”, I’ll put it down and come back to it later with more of a clinical songwriter hat on. So, that’s how I kind of approach it..
AH: So, when you say it’s a morning ritual, would you say it’s virtually every morning?
BS: I do it every morning during certain periods of time. My life is broken up into threes normally and the threes are – I live in LA, I live in Milan, Italy, and I am on the road. When I get settled down either in LA or Milan I can get into a flow when I do the process that I was just talking about for three or four weeks straight. Obviously, there are times when I don’t do it. Like right now, I am involved with the new record coming out, with the new videos, and it’s a different bag of tricks. In times like these I don’t do things like I do in the process. But that doesn’t mean I am not sitting at the piano or picking up the guitar or doing other artistic things. I like to practice singing my songs especially in these last few months where there hasn’t been any touring. I have been making an effort to find a moment everyday to sing through three songs just so that I keep myself tuned up and getting better. I always want to keep working at improving my singing and my playing.
AH: I love hearing that even from someone like yourself with all of the success that you have and as long as you have been doing it, that it still comes down to the work. It sort of reminds me of the Picasso quote “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” or even Bob Dylan’s lyric in “Mr.Tambourine Man” where he sings about the “jingle jangle morning,” which is a reference to the creative ideas that you have in your head in the morning and about how you have to take the time to record them or risk losing in the distractions of the day.
BS: That’s the other thing about being a songwriter or having the calling of being a songwriter. It really is a calling and you have to treat it that way. For me in a way it’s like “OK, I am going to work” but it’s not really work in a way because it’s the one place where I know who I am.
If there is a period of time where I don’t go to the piano or don’t pick up the guitar and I don’t sing and I don’t write, my personality changes and I feel uncomfortable with myself. Writing songs is something that I love to do and I’m happy when I am in that space. I look forward to going to that space.
AH: What would you say is the biggest connection between your new EP Spirals Vol. 2 : Time And The Space In Between and your EP Spirals Vol. 1 : Not A Straight Line To Be Found which you released earlier this year?
BS: I haven’t really thought about that. You know, it’s all a path. I wasn’t working from the perspective of putting out two EPs where there would be this preplanned beginning and end. I was more like walking down the road and going through the process and as you go through the process, the process dictates certain things.
With Spirals Vol. 1 I like to say that they are songs that are in the middle of dreaming ahead and reflecting back. There was a little hint of a love song with the song “Shelter Island”, but basically it didn’t have the love element in any of the other songs.
When I got to Spirals Vol. 2 , I knew I had “Keep Doin’ What You’re Doin’, “Morning Kisses”, and “The Promise” which did have that love element.
I think ultimately Vol. 2 ties in really well with Vol. 1 because when you include the songs “Walking Down The Road”, “For The Sake Of Humanity” and ”American Sunset,” I think it all comes together in a way that captures me and what I think and feel in this particular moment.
AH: I want to talk to you a little about the magic of creativity and the desire to keep evolving as an artist. With those two concepts in mind, what would you say your artistic philosophy is?
BS: I think the advantage of me doing this for so long is that I get to engage in the magic that I see and feel in my songs a lot more now. I wasn’t always able to do that when I was younger.
As far as my artistic philosophy goes, it is to keep living and to keep writing. Like I said earlier, for me, I feel like it was my calling to be a songwriter. Ever since I was a kid it was something that I was always attracted to and engaged in.
Throughout the course of my career I have written for the band that I was in, I have co-written songs with other songwriters, I have written songs for other artists, and I have written songs for myself. All the while I was doing these various ways of songwriting, I have always worked on developing my skills as a lyricist and as a musician as well. I have always wanted to get better at everything I do as a songwriter and an artist.
AH: You earlier mentioned the song “American Sunset,” a song on the new EP in which you sing about the potential decline of American society. What was your inspiration for writing it ?
BS: This time period that we are living through is a very troubling time and it’s a very interesting time in the world at large. It’s not something that anyone can hide from or escape from so everyone is confronted with it.
As it applies to being here in America, there have only been two times in my career when I have been riled up emotionally in political stuff. It’s not a place where I live as an artist or songwriter and I normally don’t engage in political commentary, whether it be on social media or in my songs. The only other time in my life I went to that place was with Richard Nixon. That’s how far back I go and that’s how long I’ve been writing songs.
With that being said, I feel that with what’s going on now, we as Americans should all be engaged politically. I have a unique perspective in a way because I spend a lot of time in Europe , so I am always being exposed to perspectives from other parts of the world as opposed to someone who just lives here in the United States. Our points of view are largely shaped by our environment. In this country, I have lived in Tennessee, I have lived in New York, and I have lived in L.A., so I feel like I know how where you live influences your point of view on things.
It extends further out even into the whole social media thing when you look at what you are given to read, or the news channels that you are watching. Right now there are basic truths to protect and humanity is at stake.
I feel that, as Americans, we have to get to a place where we can say to each other “Look, we can disagree, but we are all Americans and basically we all want the same things”. We can’t continually be driven to the point of hate and animosity to the extent that is happening today because it is counterproductive and ultimately can bring about the end of this country. A revolution awaits us if we don’t catch this. Any political opinion that I can have with leadership right now is driven by this concept that we need to be brought together. We need healing and we need it politically as well as individually. For instance, we can’t have a Congress that is stonewalling us on the issues.Their job is to get in there and tackle the issues, have a conversation, be willing to compromise, and to move the ball forward. That is not happening right now.
So ultimately I would say the song is a warning. I sent it out as a warning to all who hear it to think about everything we just talked about.
AH: How would you best describe the power of music when it comes to transcending our circumstances?
BS: I would say that obviously music has power in many ways.The essential way that music has power is that it can change the environment that you are living in.It has to do with its sound , its message ,and with its melody. For me those are the three essential elements in creating music and the basis of it being able to change the atmosphere. Putting the right song in front of the listener at the right moment is an intensely magical experience. That’s when I believe music is at its highest power.
AH: What are your future plans?
BS: Because we are all living in a one day at a time situation I think it restricts us from looking too far ahead. We don’t know what is ahead of us and where all of this is leading us, but I’m confident as an artist I will continue to be responsive to the moment and that I will stay committed to writing and speaking what’s in my heart and in my mind in the most creative way that I can. That’s all I know.
Bruce Sudano’s new EP, Spirals Vol 2 : Time And The Space In Between, is now available on his website .