Sitting With GianLuca
Song: Talkin' S***
Gianluca: Hello and welcome to Sitting With GiaLuka. From county blue grass to CBGBs here at sittingwith.com. Susan Cowsill started a professional career when she was seven as a member of the family band, The Cowsills. They are best remembered as the inspiration behind that famous TV band, The Partridge Family. The Cowsills had achieved fame and fortune on their own merits and racked up an impressive number of chart hits in the 1960's. There's also a connection with The Cowsills and Brian Wilson from that other family band, The Beach Boys. But you're just going to have to wait and see what that is. Susan has always been a member of bands, most notably The Continental Drifters, an alt-country super group that included Vicki Peterson of The Bangles as well as member of the dB's and Dream Syndicate. About five years ago, however, she decided it was time to her first solo CD. We're in New Orleans, in someone's tiny apartment at the edge of the French Quarter, and Susan and drummer husband Russ Broussard stopped by on their way to a gig. Although this conversation already aired in the UK six months ago, it's only gained in relevance. At the time, Susan was finishing a second solo project. Since then, the CD in question is to be called Lighthouse and set for a June release. So thanks for listening and check in with me on March the 1st for more music and conversation, right here at sittingwith.com
Gianluca: We are happy to have Susan Cowsill
Susan: What a co-winky-dink.
Gianluca: Along with Russ Broussard who drums and husband.
Russ: Hi Gianluka
Susan: I pay him for being my husband, but he doesn't get paid to play drums.
Russ: Oh good.
Susan: So that makes you an escort. eeeuuuuu
Russ: All right !!
Susan: I'm just kidding
Russ: All right !!
Gianluca: It's all prospective. In the interest of full disclosure we are in New Orleans right now on the Cowsill/Broussard home turf. Actually Susan you are from Rhode Island anyways.
Susan: That is correct. I am from Newport, Rhode Island originally.
Gianluca: You come from the family band, The Cowsills.
Susan: Yeah Yes from Newport, Rhode Island. Family band featuring mother and brothers and little sister. (Hair playing in background).
Gianluca: The Partridge Family was based on it.
Susan: It was indeed. We didn't get to ... We didn't have to/get to do that TV show.
Gianluca: You were going to though. You ...
Susan: Yes it was originally made for my family band and they decided that only a couple of us were worthy of acting and subsequently, I think, $5 was exchanged, a slight changing of the story line and voila.
Gianluca: You were having hits before.
Susan: Yeah we were having hits from 1967. We were on The Ed Sullivan Show a couple times and I think that's where they got wind of us. And they were developing this TV show for a couple of years and by the time they got to us, we were already grown up and it was the 60's - and I'll say no more about that - and some of the older guys were older guys and the characters that they had written for us, we were no longer. So ...
Gianluca: Well it was the 60's and you were out in L.A. for awhile, weren't you?
Susan: Yeah, we moved to Los Angeles in 1969, I think. We moved to Brentwood. It was a Beverly Hillbillies kind of situation. We loaded up the truck and landed in Brentwood, fabulous Brentwood.
Gianluca: Yeah, you landed in fabulous Brentwood hanging out with Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon, weren't you?
Susan: Well that came a few years later. Actually I did know Warren when I was a little girl because he played with my brother Bill. But I didn't actually meet Jackson till I was at least 14 (chuckles).
Russ: Who was ya'lls neighbor you were talking about this weekend?
Susan: Oh our neighbor Joan Bennett from Dark Shadows.
Russ: It was very spooky.
Susan: Yeah, we moved to Brentwood. We went from dirty clothes and showering once a week to a swimming pool and tennis court, two bikes each and six cars in the circular drive.
Gianluca: So when you were watching The Partridge Family, did any of it make sense?
Susan: It was rather odd to watch it because, you know, ... But I bought teen mags. I was in love with Davy Jones. So I would tune in and like "How weird is this possibly that I am sitting ..." I want to ... "Mom can I watch The Partridge Family. Wait, what's wrong here? It was very odd, but you know it's what it was. Everything was odd, wasn't it? Back then, although normal to me. I didn't know any different. I found out something very funny recently. In The Partridge Family the father passed away, so they just had the manager guy and I found out from a The Partridge Family - kind of behind the scenes - that my Dad had been so uncooperative with these folks that they killed him off.
Russ: In the story line.
Susan: In the story line, I mean.
Gianluca: Not for real
Susan: I thought that was rather amusing.
Russ: The Partridge Family Dad isn't present. You Rubin Kincade.
Gianluca: We should probably play a - you should play a song.
Susan: Would you like that?
Susan: We've decided we'll do a new song that will be on the yet untitled next record. I'm not even really sure how to play it much yet. But this is a song that I wrote. I lost my brother Barry - we lost him - everybody did in Katrina. I always thought he'd come back as a tree, but I'm under the impression that that is not exactly what happen. He thought he'd come back as a tree and I think they stuck him as being a mere dragonfly.
Gianluca: Uh ha
Susan: So that's what this song is all about. .... You about ready there. I'm a bit crunchy so forgive me. Just come in.
Gianluca: All right !!
Gianluca: We like crunchy
Susan: Yes. Well good thing then.
Gianluca: Well that was Susan Cowsill. Still is Susan Cowsill.
Susan: That's - still here.
Gianluca: And husband Russ Broussard on the tub there doing some snare. You were, I mean you transplanted to New Orleans several years ago - with brothers.
Susan: He and I came at the same time, but we didn't take the same boat. I had actually came here with The Continental Drifters. We had all met in Los Angeles and two of the guys were locally from here and they wanted to come home, so we all split with them.
Russ: Early '93 or late '92
Susan: Late '92 I can't remember. It's all a blur.
Russ: That's when we met too. We met when she moved here.
Gianluca: Cuz you were both in The Continental Drifters.
Susan: Not at the time we met. He was in The Blue Runners and I was in The Drifters.
Russ: We shared ... the bands shared management. Within 5 years I was in The Continental Drifters.
Song: Meet Me In The Middle (part)
Russ: We're working on doing a live release. A release live compilation because we were a great live band.
Song: Meet Me In The Middle (part)
Gianluca: But you didn't do a solo CD until recently.
Gianluca: You were always in bands then
Susan: Yes I'm a chronic band member.
Gianluca: How did that feel like, jumping out into the spotlight.
Susan: It was scary. It was something that everybody - since the time I was 18 - was telling me I really should do. I mean as far back as 1978 Columbia records was wanting to sign me, but I was in the band with my brothers again. We had disbanded in '72 and gotten back together. I'm always in a band with my brothers. I love those guys. And it just never felt right to me, especially at that time. And it's probably a good thing cuz I probably wouldn't be here if I had taken the nice people at Columbia up on the thing in '78. I was a bit of a wild child. So through the years everybody's been "You need to do this" "You need to do this" But I wasn't ready to do it till I was ready to do it. And after The Continental Drifter broke up, Russ and I took a couple years off and got day jobs down on Bourbon Street. Cuz that's a musician's day job. That's where you go - you know - it's a pay check. You got your sets. You play whatever they want. You go home. You see the kids. You know where you are and how much money you're going to make. And that worked out very well for a couple of years. And over that time we just started writing songs and the Bourbon Street gig really put me out front because our friend Jansen Loemeyer who has always been in lots of bands on Bourbon Street ask if I'd front the band and I was like "Oh my God" cuz I don't front bands. But I did and I learned the carnival way.
Gianluca: What's that? Trial by fire - oh carnival.
Susan: That's get every dime out of them - imaginable. For the most ridiculous things. I was charging for them to use the bathroom and they'd do it.
Russ: Every other Friday
Susan: Every other Friday Friday. You know, it's the day we'd be charging. Anyway, so, we were finally through with that break we really needed to take and I don't know. We were on the Algiers Ferry one day and we decided it was time. That I was finally ready. Two years before the storm we got the process rolling.
Susan: It was finally finished a couple months before the storm, is that correct? (about Russ) He's the baro-me-tor.
Russ: It was finished about a year before ...
Susan: Ah! See
Russ: ...it came out. It came out on Blue Rose Records out of Germany
Susan: Oh in Germany, that's right.
Russ: And then it took almost a year to find it's home here in the States. We were in the middle of contract negotiations and then the storm hit, so no contracts were ever signed. But the album still came out in October but ...
Susan: To no a-plume. There was no pomp. No circumstances. Nothing. We were in a van, driving around, trying to decide where to put our kids and to do
Russ: How do you find press The importance of an album coming out when there is so much devastation.
Susan: It took a back-seat.
Gianluca: It's impossible to talk to New Orleans musicians without bringing up Katrina.
Gianluca: How were you two affected? I mean obviously professionally, but I mean home, family.
Susan: Well we lost 99% of our possessions. We had evacuated, but our children we to two different places. My daughter went to live with her Auntie Vicki Peterson and my brother John. Nicolas went to Birmingham and we drove around in our van for four months. Five. I don't remember how many it was. Just trying to wait it out. Meanwhile, looking for my brother who was missing all that time.
Susan: So it affected us personally in a rather large fashion as it did almost everybody here in some way or the other.
Gianluca: Right You lost a brother.
Susan: Yeah, lost a whole human being. Yeah, that sucks. I guess that's the story was going to go, so ...
Gianluca: Actually you lost two brothers back to back didn't you?
Susan: Yes, on the day of my brother, Barry, memorial, my brother Billy passed away.
Gianluca: Oh !!
Susan: He wasn't getting enough attention.
Susan: My brothers are just like that. He said, "I'll be damned. I started this band." (chuckle)
Gianluca: Does having so much success as kids, do you think that has something to do with it maybe? Does that lead to some sort of dysfunctionality?
Susan: Yes, I think. Absolutely. We were crazy mo-fos.
Gianluca: From the real The Partridge Family there's - is it Danny Bonaduce. I'm not real good with names.
Susan: Oh yes he's - Look he's got a contact dysfunction from The Cowsills, bless his heart. I probably have more brothers and sisters out there than I ever imagined.
Russ: Oh my God.
(Playing a TV clip of Dr. Phil) Child star of the '70's on The Partridge Family, now he's known for his bad behavior. Drugs - Prostitutes - and you name it. He's been arrested for drug possessions. He punched Donny Osmond in the nose. He's been arrested for assault. Former child star has a lot of advice to give the young ones. In rehab three times. He's also managed to surprise us by his inexplicability to remain alive.
Susan: Yeah I think he got contact dysfunctional family high and perhaps took the role of playing my brother Barry a bit too seriously. Although, he is still with us, so he won.
Russ: But, his dysfunction, I think, surpassed Barry's.
Susan: Oh come on
Russ: Oh come on
Susan: I wish they were back. We could do a reality show. Was the original bass player Barry more dysfunctional than Danny Bonaduce. Stay tuned.
Russ: The Partridge Family vs The Cowsills (laughs)
Susan: Oh wow! Maybe one of the other brothers would play Barry
Russ: Real TV
Susan: It wouldn't be reality. I'm sorry. I digress.
Gianluca: No, I love digressing actually. And that reminds me of something else.
Gianluca: Was there not a - I read somewhere - talking about dysfunctionality. Fathers pushing their kids. Wasn't Bill going to maybe replace Brian Wilson on the road. Is that true?
Susan: Oh you read a lot of fun stuff. Hum huh, no. Well Bill and Brian hung out together.
Gianluca: Oh all right.
Susan: So I don't think either band would have had either guy replace the other guy in the band. I mean we all knew what was going on there.
Gianluca: Well just for the touring I mean.
Susan: Now, hey, I mean Billy got around. He was an amazing artist. I was - I suppose it's possible, but I want to set one thing straight. My Dad was a son of a b***** but he also did not force anyone to be in the band. He actually took it to where everybody wanted to go. Then became quite the ass.
Russ: The arse
Susan: The arse
Gianluca: There's a record coming out, being written. What's going - a lot has happen since the last .. Like what's
Susan: The theme? I'm thinking there's water involved.
Gianluca: Probably a little water involved.
Susan: Perhaps. We can't help but write about what the last three years have been about so. Not intentionally, but certainly phononatically it will reflect our adventure with Katrina.
Russ: Even if they don't spell Katrina. We have a song called "Could This Be Home" and it's sort of our experience traveling around the country for that four and a half month. And every single city going, "Well could we live here?"
Susan: We had to look at every place we were as a potential new home cuz we didn't know if we were coming home.
Song: Could This Be Home (partial)
Gianluca: Now, now we'll wrap things up because I know you have to go.
Susan: A gig
Gianluca: Thanks so much for your time.
Susan: Oh it's so much fun.
Russ: Thank you Gianluca
Gianluca: My guests here on Sitting With Gianluca - Susan Cowsill
Susan: And we are sitting - by the way.
Gianluca: And sitting at the hub of the tub is Russ Broussard
Susan and Russ: The Hub of the Tub
Song: Isn't This A Perfect Day (short)