Interview with Susana Raya
Susana Raya: on stage, one has to be a bit crazy
Energetic and temperamental Spanish jazz singer and guitarist Susana Raya (30) believes that the most important thing in life is to enjoy everything that you do. This is the way she takes her singing and hopes that some day she can live only from jazz. Nõmme Jazz VI International Young Jazz Vocalists` Competition was another step for her in that direction. Winning the first prize gave her an opportunity to perform at three very popular jazz festivals in Europe: Kaunas Jazz, Turku Jazz and Pori Jazz.
Where did you hear about this competition from?
I found it in the Internet while I was searching for opportunities to perform also elsewhere than Spain. I found this competition, recorded some songs with the equipment that I have at home and sent it, so that’s how I ended up here.
Before that, did you have a big experience in performing abroad?
This competition was actually the second time I sang somewhere else than my home country. Three weeks ago I took part in a competition in Italy. I didn’t win, but it was a very good experience for me.
What do you think about competitions in jazz? Are these necessary?
Yes. Competing helps you to test yourself in a bit different and more stressful surroundings. If you have to handle stress from time to time, it teaches you to deal with it better. With me it is so that when I am nervous, the music always calms me down and gives me a good feeling. In life I’m modest, at least I think so, but being on stage gives me a lot of energy. It holds so much power that even the strain of a competition cannot distress me. I think about body and soul and forget everything else. So, in that sense there is not a big difference in just performing in a club or in a competition. Competitions gives more opportunities.
You leave Estonia with three attractive opportunities: invitations to perform at festivals - Pori Jazz, Kaunas Jazz and Turku Jazz. How do you feel about that? Which one means the most for you?
These are all very good acknowledgements, wonderful complement to my portfolio.
It is also a step closer to manage to live only from jazz some day. I have studied economics too, but I don’t feel that this is my calling.
How would you comment on your performance today? Were you satisfied?
Yes. There was a very nice atmosphere on stage. It gave me the possibility to express myself freely. The band was very good, excellent musicians. I felt that they were completely with me.
How did you choose the songs you sang today? Are these by any chance your old time favorites?
This is always a very complicated procedure. Just think, you have only two songs to show what you are capable of. You have to know the audience really well for that. It makes choosing the repertoire for performing abroad very hard. For me, a ballad is always important. It gives an opportunity to be more creative, expressive and emotional. For me it is very important that the song has an interesting arrangement. For instance in the second song I sang, I started a-capella, then slowly came in the instruments – it gave a variety of opportunities to communicate with other musicians.
Do you consider communicating on stage to be important?
Very much. I think this is probably the most important thing. I’m am not that kind of a person that likes to shine alone. For me good jazz is the result of different musicians communicating with each other. There are no stars and background musicians – the stage is equal to everybody – it is a system, an interaction between musicians where they have to feel each other and also have to give each other space and enjoy what they are doing. If the musicians themselves enjoy that, then so does the audience. Communication is very important: with yourself, the band, the audience…
What makes this communicative music that you like so charming for you?
One song can be born over and over again – every performance is different. It is created sontaniously through the cooperation between different musicians, which makes every performance unique, priceless.
Is it something one can learn?
I think that you must learn the techniques, but on the stage you always have to be a bit crazy. You shouldn’t be afraid of putting emotion into your performance. Sometimes when I scream a bit on stage, the notes aren’t always clear and on the right place, but they have the right feeling in them. I don’t think that everything should be exactly according to the book to be perfect.
Is there anything specific that you as a singer want to do in your career for it to be perfect?
My dream is that some day I can live only of making music. Sometimes it seems almost impossible, because in Cordoba – the town I live in – it is very hard for a jazz singer to find opportunities to perform. In Seville for instance there are a lot more of such possibilities and people take jazz a bit differently too. I would like to perform more often than I do now, which is only a couple of times in a month. I think that the most important thing is to enjoy what you are doing, then everything else will come to. My nearest goal is to record a CD with my band Qu Jazz. We’ll see what happens next.
You can read more about Susana Raja from her web page: www.susanarayajazz.com