Su Z
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Su Z

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2017 | INDIE

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2017
Band Pop R&B




"Finding Her Voice"

If you asked Anne Foster how her daughter Suzanna sounded the first time she took the mic at SawTown Tavern, she wouldn’t know. Anne called the bar earlier that day to make sure it would be OK to bring her 16-year-old there to warble out a few notes at the open mic – they received a couple of side eyes once they arrived at the dimly lit Tacony watering hole, but decided to stay and sing.

Anne had seen her daughter perform before – she mustered the courage to share her voice in front of others when she was 11, and expanded her audience to families of hospital patients and passersby to Sam Ash Music Store since.

But shortly after Suzanna dug into Listen by Beyoncé, a man approached Anne. He was Jim Lopardo, owner of Sandbox Music Group, and he was interested in signing Suzanna to his studio before she’d even finished her set.

“She got up and sang, and the entire bar just got so quiet,” Anne said. Lopardo said the bar owner, who was upstairs and not even in the bar at the time, sent him a text urging him to talk to whoever’s voice he was hearing from upstairs.

“I first went to SawTown in November [2016] and was signed in January,” said the singer, who goes by the name Su Z on stage. Barely over a year after being signed, the teen is gearing up to release her debut album, titled Sixteen after the age she was when she first started working on it.

The album, which contains six original songs and an Aretha Franklin cover, will show off the untrained singer’s voice that scales roughly two and a half octaves. In a set performed exclusively for the Northeast Times, the singer, fronting a full band of a guitar, bass, drum set and keyboard, tore through Aretha’s song before moving on to more age-appropriate lyrics written by herself.

In Cloud Nine, the young singer thankfully reflects on the happiness she’s found for herself. “What if I closed my eyes, took a breath and learned to fly, just let go and believed,” she sings, before crooning up to a big chorus that soars higher than the clouds she’s singing about.

On My Hero, her favorite cut on the album, she sings about love and needing a hero after loss. The song began as a dedication to her brother Patrick, who passed away from cancer at age 11, when she was 6.

“It’s kind of about him and it’s also about, because I lost him, now I need a hero,” she said.

When Lopardo approached Anne at SawTown about signing, her first reaction was the family had no money to support the endeavor.

“We have a large family and it’s hard enough to make ends meet as it is,” said Su Z’s father, Dan. Su Z has eight siblings, including Patrick. She had never taken formal music classes, so working in a studio with a band was a new experience – before, she would just try out different notes and rhythms aloud until she found something that stuck, and the only place her lyrics were documented was in her head.

“If you handed me a piece of sheet music I wouldn’t be able to read it,” she said.

Some of the tracks had previously been written just for vocals and piano, so the band – Paul Deluca on drums, Clint Reid Davis on guitars and trumpet, Ned O’Byrne on keyboards and guitars and Nathaniel Wershulz on bass and keyboards – worked on adapting them into bigger, instrument-laden tunes.

The album’s core message is about the confidence the singer has gained since she started singing for audiences. When she was younger, Anne would record audio of her singing in her room and share it with her friends, much to Su Z’s annoyance.

“As I would sing in front of people, some of the notes I would be afraid to hit, but now go for higher notes,” she said. “Once I started singing out, I found I could go further than what I had written. Now I’m like, I wrote this song.”

Su Z and the band are launching directly into working on the next album after the debut releases. They will also focus on booking gigs like music festivals to help spread the music.

“She has the best voice I’ve had singing in front of me,” Lopardo said.

SandBox Music will host an album release party at SawTown Tavern Feb. 1 at 8 p.m., when she and the band will perform tracks from the album live. - The Northeast Times

"Striking A Chord"

Fairy lights dangle over a 20-seat bar that splits the room in half. One side is drenched in purple light and has a small stage surrounded by artwork. Some singers call it home. The other side is mostly dominated by the bar, where you can watch the performers or talk and enjoy the game.

Welcome to SawTown Tavern, where on any given Tuesday night original acts are able to rule the room on open mic night. Devon Czekaj has just finished up his act. An on-again, off-again performer at SawTown for two years, he improvised his set tonight, while he’s preparing to release his upcoming album in the near future.

Czekaj lives in Doylestown, but finds himself commuting to the city often for events like this.

“The fact that [SawTown] emphasizes original material is so refreshing for an open mic,” he said. “I never have to worry about being subjected to awful renditions of Neil Young and Bob Dylan.”

Czekaj isn’t alone in that opinion — many of the acts who performed Aug. 7 lamented the lack of bars with microphones that don’t emphasize karaoke or cover bands in the area. That’s why they keep coming back to the cramped, art-covered, tomato pie-serving jawn at Princeton Avenue and Vandike Street.

The strange world of SawTown Tavern revolves around community. Most of the 13 acts performing that night have been there before, chatting while smoking cigarettes outside and bantering on stage inside. Local band Adventure Lost hosts the show the first Tuesday of every month. This week is especially busy — acts have to narrow their set to two or three songs instead of the usual four.

Jim Lopardo is the man overseeing operations. He owns Sandbox Music Group, a music production and publication service meant to foster and spread young talent in the Philadelphia area. He runs open mic night and brings a lot of his signed acts to the bar — Czekaj and Secret Base Life are both signed artists who performed that night. Other times, he’s signed artists discovered at SawTown, like young singer Su Z.

“You have to be invested in the creation of something new, and there’s no proven market value,” Lopardo said of the importance of showcasing original music.

“It’s a leap of faith. It’s not a large place so you don’t need a lot to be successful. You just need enough motivated people to make it successful,” he said.

It’s an exciting time for SawTown.

The bar was just awarded a $15,000 grant from the CDC, given to restaurants to expand their businesses. Troy Everwine, SawTown owner for about three years, said he hopes to use it to create outdoor seating and expand the kitchen.

“It’s to take us from bar to restaurant, which has always been the plan,” he said.

As it is right now, SawTown is not a food destination. The only food item offered is $5 tomato pies, which attract rave reviews. Everwine is in the process of rolling out a plant-based food menu that will act as healthy and quirky alternatives to bar food staples.

Items that have been taste tested by crowds include jack’d Italian por’k, which includes broccoli rabe and roast pepper on a baguette, and crab’d stuffed mushrooms drizzled with herbed horseradish sauce. (‘YES!’ was enthusiastically scribbled next to the Italian por’k on the chart). Bartender Tara Gontek’s mini hearts of palm crab’d cake on Romesco sauce also earned enthusiastic reviews.

The sample dish of that night was meatball made from chickpea, seitan, almond, walnut and cashew mixed together with fresh herbs. The easy bite has an appealing texture in the simple form of a meatball.

The bar’s drink menu is much more expansive than its current dining options. Everwine and Mike “Scoats” Scotese of Grey Lodge Pub invented two signature brews. The Sly Fox SawTown Kelemen Pils is exclusively available at SawTown and Sly Fox locations. The Naked SawTown Pink Bunny IPA used real grapefruit and hibiscus flowers to give it its pink color.

The bar also includes a generous cocktail list. There’s even a cocktail named after singer Su Z that mixes lime, cranberry, lemonade and Sprite. (Su Z is the non-alcoholic version. To add Absolut Citron, you have to ask for Su Z’s Mom.)

Sense of family
Open mic night is big, but it’s just one night a week at SawTown Tavern.

Trivia, Cards Against Humanity and other bar games happen in five rounds Mondays, and Wednesdays see two women perform live cabaret.

It’s the only bar in the surrounding Tacony area that Stanford Birch trusts.

“I came here with my mother when I was 7 years old,” said the 55-year-old. He’s been going to the bar ever since because, he said, it’s like the show Cheers.

“I’m starting to know everybody, everybody’s starting to know me, and it’s been like that all the years I’ve been coming here,” he said. “So it’s like Cheers.”

Everwine agreed.

“We’re a community, neighborhood bar,” Everwine said.

But Friday night saw the community mourn a member recently lost. In April, Ghosha D’Aguanno lost her life to a fast and surprising battle with lung cancer. She was a frequent singer and piano player at the bar and other places and events around the area.

A painting called The Key of Change by Ty Derk is mounted next to the stage. It shows a pair of lungs with musical notes where the head would be, surrounded by the lyrics “…And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” from The End by the Beatles.

“That’s how she ended every night, no matter where she played,” Everwine said. “She’s played all over the world.”

Everwine called the 66-year-old one of his best friends.

“She had more stories than time to tell,” he said.

Friday night served as a time to remember her and cherish the impact she had on the bar. As she continued to play piano for the bar, Lopardo and Ben Radcliffe began to play with her, and the trio formed a band. Everwine recalled one night finding her crying and smiling at the same time.

“I was at the bar, and I asked her what was wrong,” he said. “She said, I’d never thought I’d have this again. A band. Thank you.” - The Northeast Times

"Women Of Substance Radio Podcast"

Episode #944 - Bree Noble



Su Z is a young Philadelphia-based songwriter and performer whose powerful voice belies her age.

She just released her debut "sixteen..." on January 29th, 2019. The title refers the the age that these songs were written, and the age at which she decided to pursue music seriously. Possessing a big, soulful voice that harkens back to the great R&B singers of the past, SU Z's songwriting and singing style has touches of gospel, soul and pure pop.

Su Z has been singing her entire life, first singing on stage at the age of 11. Aside from her unique and stylistically varied original songs, Su Z deftly handles songs from artists such as Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Adele, Aretha and more.  

Su Z has performed at several major events in 2018, including the On The Delaware Music Festival and the sold-out Enabling Peace On Earth LIVE! at The Bristol Riverside Theatre. She is a frequent host of The Original Songwriter's Open Mic at The SawTown Tavern in Philadelphia.

She appeared on "Philly Anthem" in 2018, singing the hook for the Marlino Live/ApexP hip-hop ode to The City Of Brotherly Love.

Not resting, Su Z is back in the studio working on her follow-up to "sixteen...", which promises to show the more pop side of this talented new writer.

Su Z's band is comprised of some of Philly's top players, including Nat Werschulz on bass, Clint Reid Davis on guitar and Paul Deluca on drums. Their live sets are high-energy pop/rock with hints of R&B & prog.