Photo: Stephen Drover
Photo: Stephen Drover

Essentials… with Suzie Ungerleider

Each week, Essentials allows Canadian musicians to share the things that have helped them get through the pandemic, and why they still can’t live without them.

If you don’t immediately recognize the name Suzie Ungerleider, it’s probably because up until now you’ve known her as singer/songwriter Oh Susanna. However, earlier this year she chose to drop the name due to its perpetuation of racist stereotypes in early American folk music.

She is now set to return with a new album entitled My Name Is Suzie Ungerleider on Aug. 13, and has just released a new single from it, Pumpkins. Judging by this track and the previous single Baby Blues, My Name Is… finds Suzie and longtime producer Jim Bryson returning to the sparse, folk-rock sound that defined her early success. It seems in keeping with the fresh start the name change has brought, following her previous two records, the guest-star filled Namedropper and 2017’s pseudo-concept album A Girl In Teen City.

Suzie’s greatest strength remains her highly descriptive lyricism, exemplified by lines like, “The smell of smashed pumpkins still fresh in the air, and all the fall colours like streaks in your hair.” Other aspects of the album reflect the wisdom she’s attained through motherhood with songs written specifically for her daughter who, born premature, is now grappling with many of the teenage anxieties Suzie once did herself.

In all, My Name Is Suzie Ungerleider sees her poised for a triumphant return, which begins with an Instagram Live performance on June 17 and a livestream performance on June 26 for the North Shore Jazz Series in conjunction with the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. For more information, go to


Essential Album: Titanic Rising by Weyes Blood from 2019. It is great having a teenager who has excellent taste in music. She puts together long playlists with titles such as Songs to Brutally Murder a Countryside Town To, Halcyon Days, and Queer Bitch Music. So I first heard Weyes Blood on one of these. I love that [Natalie Mering] sounds like a spacey blend of Anne Murray, the Carpenters and David Bowie with orchestral synthesizers and ‘70s Bacharach-style melodies. It is definitely influencing the melodies I am starting to write.

Essential Podcast: Empowering Parents: The Total Transformation 

Did I mention I have a teenager? Man oh man, smart teenagers can work circles around you to get what they want without doing the work. So now I am doing my own work to be a loving, supportive and effective parent but with good boundaries. This is technically an online course, not really a podcast, but it really is essential right now to coach me on how to guide my kid in these strange times.

Essential TV: Pretend It’s A City

This was a fun way to feel like I was spending time in New York with one of my crazy relatives—to the power of 10. Fran Lebowitz is hilarious as the quick-witted social critic she is, with Martin Scorsese chuckling alongside all of her rants. This is one of the things I loved—you don’t see Marty hanging out with women, and his movies are mostly about men and violence, so it is kind of lovely to see him in awe of this intelligent, funny, curmudgeon of a lady. Her criticisms are super sharp, and she can be irritating in her harsh judgements, but she is so brilliant that I was riveted just by listening to her talk for seven episodes. 

Essential Movie: Chef

I just went upstairs and saw that my teenager was watching the movie Chef. She said, “It’s my comfort movie,” and I totally agree. This is a heart-warming film about finding joy, creativity and passion again. A celebrity chef has a meltdown in response to a nasty food critic who has declared him a has-been. A video of the meltdown goes viral and he is out of a job, so he restores a food truck and along the way finds his bliss again. It is kind of a road movie and a father-son buddy movie as well. You fall in love with all the characters in this film and you are left with a warm, fuzzy feeling—and a craving for Cuban sandwiches.

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