July 27, 2006
Host: Bruce Owens
Bruce: Iím very, very happy to welcome our guest this morning to Good Morning Hudson Valley. Last week I was on vacation and I saw Susan Cowsill and her band in New Haven. Susan, of course, is the youngest member of The Cowsills, a family pop music group from Newport, Rhode Island, that had a string of hits in the late 60ís and very early 70ís. At that time they were on about every major TV variety show of that era, including The Ed Sullivan Show. They also had their own TV special, A Family Thing, and, of course, served as the model for TVís fictional singing family, The Partridge Family. Susan Cowsill has a great new CD. Itís called Just Believe It. She is on her first solo tour with her band and this evening in Piermont, in Rockland, sheís be playing at a club. I believe it is called The Turning Point. And weíd like to turn it over right now to Susan Cowsill. Good Morning!
Susan: Good Morning Bruce, how are you?
Bruce: Iím doing great. Iíd mentioned to you when I saw you in New Haven last week that we wanted to have you on this show. And sometimes it takes many phone calls to get an interview together, but we are very happy to have you with us this morning.
Susan: I have noticed that. I have that it Ė it takes a village.
Bruce: Now I guess I have to ask you right off the bat here, now youíve been singing for Ė gosh Ė almost 40 years so why a solo CD and tour at this point?
Susan: Well, it just seemed like the next logical step. I was in a band called The Continental Drifters for about 10 years, my most recent past musical endeavor, and I took a couple years off of that and, you know, Iím almost a serial band member. I find a group of people to hunker down and sing with for long periods of time and I thought Iíd been wanting to make a solo record all my life and itís just never been the right time. I think you have to live the life before you can write about it, you know. So, it was time. Itís just that simple.
Bruce: I guess that it was in The Continental Drifters that you more or less came into your own as a writer, is that pretty much the way it was?
Susan: Absolutely I didnít write or play an instrument in The Cowsills, except for my little tambourine.
Bruce: Well you did play bass occasionally.
Susan: Oh yeah thatís true. But I certainly never even dreamed of writing songs until the late 80ís.
Bruce: Iíd like to play a little clip of Susan on The Ed Sullivan,
Clip: ďAll I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth, my two front teeth. Gee if I could only have my two front teeth, then I could wish you Merry ChristmasĒ
Bruce: Do you, perhaps, a favorite memory of your time back in the late 60ís, early 70ís with the group?
Susan: That was amazing. Was that the Christmas Ed Sullivan?
Bruce: Yeah, thatís not on the commercially available thing. I actually recorded that as you were doing it back in 67. Christmas
Susan: So is that an audio or video?
Bruce: Yeah, thatís an audio.
Susan: Oh my gosh Iíve yet to see that one. I can honestly say that my Christmas Ed Sullivan was certainly one of my memorable, if not only for the fact that that I was terrified Ė the fact that I was up past 8 oíclock on Christmas Eve Ė and that Santa would pass me by for not being in bed ridiculously early like I usually did every other year. And then after the show we went back to our apartment in New York City and there was a big party and that was really freaking me out too. Iím thinking, ďThis guy is never coming to my house ever again.Ē I would love a visual copy of that. I have never seen it and that was such a fun show.
Bruce: I know that part of it is commercially available but that part was edited out for some reason.
Susan: They didnít like me.
Bruce: John and then Bill and then that was it and then they just cut to something else.
Bruce: But unfortunately after quite a bit of fame and I guess it all came just very suddenly. You joined the group I think when you were about seven, right?
Susan: Right and then it was pretty much over in Ď72 and so Ö I donít know if thatís unfortunate or not. Everything has a life-span. And this was a family that stayed together probably Ė on a natural level Ė way much longer than they should have. Just in that, usually a family, the oldest child will grow up and go to college and move out and one after another, you know. We had stuck together like glue and traveled together so I think Ė again everything happens at the time itís suppose to happen. But, um, it was a good run.
Bruce: Well after Ď72 The Cowsills did try to get back together and try to get it going again. One of my favorite, later cuts of Susan Cowsill is actually on a thing that was never released. Iíll play a little clip from that.
Clip: Can I Be With You Iíve Fallen In Love
Bruce: That was the infamous Cocaine Drain
Susan: Cocaine Drain
Bruce: I canít figure out why no one picked up on that song. That is such a beautiful song.
Susan: Well I think Ė yes it is. My brother, Bob, is an amazing writer. I think at that particular time, in the late Ď70s is when we were doing that Cocaine Drain record, with Chuck Polkin. I think it was still too soon after The Cowsills for anyone to give us the kind of musical/artist break that perhaps what was being sold during the Ď60s was maybe somewhat less our idea musically than the corporate machine. So, we were a power pop band, for sure, but they took it to a degree that perhaps on a creative and serious artist level took some validity. At least in the minds of the power that be. It took some validity away from The Cowsills, and so í78, the summer we were recording that, that was pretty soon after and itís a type casting thing. My brothers are amazing songwriters and recording artists and producers and, you know, you get lopped into a certain category and itís up. Iíve not had that trouble on a solo career, at all. Iíve not had that trouble in my musical endeavors beyond The Cowsills.
Bruce: You find people are more open to what you are doing?
Susan: Absolutely Iíve never, ever had anybody go ďOh, keeee, unhuh. Weíre not doing that.Ē And individually I donít think any of us had that. My brother Barry had a solo career as well and, you know, the music is the music.
Bruce: And John is in The Beach Boys
Susan: John is in The Beach Boys. My brother Bob is actually Ė we are getting ready to put out a live record that we performed a couple years ago. We had done a benefit for my brother Bill and itís all of us, except for Bill and so you know, as a group and individually we always stayed musical and now my brother Bob refers to me as the Neil Young of the band. Itís like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Iím the one who goes out and does my own solo thing but Iíll always come back and play with the boys.
Bruce: And I understand that thereís a documentary film being put together.
Susan: There is. There is a documentary film. Itís going to be a little while in the making because Ė to make sure that itís done properly. Itís going to take some time. So, but keep the eyes and ears peeled for that too. And my next record. Iím writing as we speak. And Iím looking to hopefully get into the studio for another record by the end of this year or early next year.
Bruce: I have to ask you about your CD Just Believe It and youíll have to help me with the pronunciation because thereís Ė however you say it Ė Morning and Afternoon and Twilight and Evening.
Susan: Wawona (Y wone a)
Bruce: Wawona They are very brief little pieces that separates some of the songs. What Ė is there a thread that goes through those songs?
Susan: Well there ended up being a thread, but it started out just being a beautiful piece of music, I think, that my husband and drummer, Russ Broussard was writing on the guitar while we were honeymooning in Wawona, California, which is in the Yosemite National Park. And it was a bit of music that he playing Ė when he and I collaborate a lot of times, heíll play some music and Iíll come up with some lyrics. And that wasnít happening, strangely enough. It was a rare occurrence that I couldnít come up with anything. But it was such a pretty piece that we decided to have it as a kind of musical vignette in between all the other songs. And then Ė literally the night before we were done with all the recording and heading into mixing the record, all of a sudden it came into my head what the song was about. And it occurred to Russ as well. We kind of went into our separate corners that evening and came up with the lyrics to Wawona. And they just turned out to be a universal connectiveness that we all have. Whether we know it or not, or like it or not, in my opinion and the universes as well, that we are all one spirit out here. And the sooner we start to acknowledge that and understand it and work within that, I think the better off weíre going to be. That is a bit of a thread in my record, I think.
Bruce: Weíre speaking with Susan Cowsill. Her first solo album, record, CD is called Just Believe It and the title track is probably one of the most optimistic sounding tunes Iíve heard in awhile. About the boulder becoming a stone and the anchor becoming a kite. You werenít watching Dr. Phil when you wrote that, were you?
Susan: No, Dr. Phil watches me. And then went on to make all the money that I should have Ė no Iím just kidding. No, you know I hadnít written an optimistic song in my life until just ďJust Believe ItĒ and it marks a time in my life where I decided the lull was half full and I could actually float to the top and get out of it. I mean life brings you lots of ups and downs and I think you have a choice to remain down. Thatís my opinion only. I mean thereís a lot of people who donít agree with that but even if you got a medical condition that keeps you bummed out all of the time, they do have help for that too. I just think that you can either go through this life dragging the anchor or holding onto the kite. I prefer the kite.
Bruce: Well while you certainly have reached new heights as far as your solo career and your tour, unfortunately for you and your family, the last several months have not been easy ones. Especially since something called Katrina hit your home in New Orleans.
Susan: Yes Since last August itís been quite a struggle to keep the kite up in the air. However, we are managing alright. We lost pretty much all our possessions Ė most all Ė 99.9 in the flood and my brother Barry, I think everybody or a lot of people know Ė he never made it out of New Orleans and then my brother Bill passed away and itís been definitely a challenging year as far as our family life goes. This kind of stuff happens through history to many, many people all the time. Weíre not any different and weíll get through this as well.
Bruce: You know I was up in Newport on February 18th when you scattered Barryís ashes in the park and also at the hotel and it just amazed me that you folks could actually go on and play music with all that on your mind.
Susan: You know I Ė the Bill thing put a little crimp in the party but you know then we thought of it in another way which was that he was not able to come to Barryís memorial or his wake which is what we had later. A good Irish party. And he was really bummed that he couldnít come to it and it turned out he was able to attend afterall on some level and life is going to do what itís going to do, you know. Going on. Thatís what we do. Weíre Cowsills. The show must go on.
Bruce: You wrote a song about Katrina and New Orleans. I donít Ė itís not on the CD copy I have but Ö
Susan: The record was finished in February.
Bruce: But you do do it in your shows.
Susan: Absolutely and itís also available as a free download on susancowsill.com. So if anybody wants to hear it or even obtain it, itís on my website.
Bruce: ďCrescent City SnowĒ is the name of the song.
Susan: Thatís right. Yes
Bruce: Your tour, has that been going pretty well?
Susan: Yeah itís been great. Weíve had a wonderful time and weíve had fairly good attendance. It all just depends on how much press our label is getting us from town to town. And sometimes that not exactly up to what I would like, but the people who come do really have a good time, as do we. And thatís why we are encouraging everyone to come to The Turning Point in Piermont, New York this evening. I think we go on either 8 or 9 but you can call The Turning Point and theyíll let you know the details.
Bruce: Now I believe the act is officially billed as The Susan Cowsill Band. Obviously you spoke of your husband, Russ, whoís your songwriting partner and also husband and drummer. The other two musicians you have with you are fantastic.
Susan: Thanks! Yeah Ted Armstrong and Aaron Stroup are awesome. And itís so funny because technically I donít have a name for my band. The world just keeps naming it so Iím just going to let them run amuck. The Susan Cowsill Band sounded too much like The Keith Miller Band or - thatís OK. Itís what everybody is calling it and Iíve just decided to let everybody call it whatever they want to call it. I call it music. But, Iím thinking of getting t-shirts made. I think Iím caving to the concept. The guys are really amazing. Theyíre out with us for the summer. I hope they continue to stay with us because I really think that they add quite a bit to the music. And evidently you do too, Bruce.
Bruce: I do. Yes they were great. I loved the music, the show in New Haven. Now the night before that, that was I guess what the 17th I think, you were at Fenway Park in Boston and you did something pretty special.
Susan: Yes, I managed to wiggle my way in to sing ďThe National AnthemĒ for the Soxs/Royals game. Weíve become good friends with the Red Sox people after our victorious anthem singing which turned around the entire event. No, Iím just kidding. Only because it worked out so well. I called over there and said, ďLook do you have to be a really famous Ď60s pop band to get to sing, or can you just be anybody coming through?Ē And they said, ďOh you can be anybody.Ē I went, ďAlright, can I?Ē It was really fun and Meatloaf threw out the first ball and Will Farrell threw out a second ball. I guess he was filming something for a movie and they are going to use his coming out onto the field at that game for his movie so . It was a fun day. I mean you have 3 minutes of panic and then you to sit back and watch the game. I was trained well by my brothers, so a Red Sox game is a peak in anybodyís life.
Bruce: Just looking at the cover of your CD, you seem to ah --- you enjoy candles I guess right?
Susan: Oh yeah. Iím an old hippie. Thatís my altar on my chest of drawers that I have. Yeah, you canít take the hippie out of the 2006 woman Iím afraid.
Bruce. Susan Cowsill The CD is called Just Believe It I think, anyway, that itís a fantastic effort. Itís her first solo album. And, again, The Turning Point in Piermont, in Rockland County, this evening.
Susan: Thank you so much for that. I appreciate your compliments.
Bruce: And we really appreciate. Thank you Susan for taking the time to speak with us this morning.
Susan: It was absolutely my pleasure.
Bruce: Thank you
Susan: OK Thanks Bruce
Bruce: Take care
Bruce: Susan Cowsill and I want to play the title song that we spoke of. Weíre going to kick up our heels a little bit. This is called ďJust Believe ItĒ Susan Cowsill from her first solo CD
Song: Just Believe It