A Rockabilly pianist, singer, songwriter, international performing artist, Nashville recording artist, and painter, Susan Erwin is an artist whose home is behind a piano. Susan's versatile voice, impressive skills as a mutli-instrumentalist, dynamic stage presence, and rare ability to make every person in the audience feel a part of her show have made her successful in major venues worldwide. Susan has over 250 international performance dates every year and has developed a loyal fan base.
Susan began her professional music career in the Midwestern United States. From Branson, Missouri to Los Angeles, CA then Las Vegas and beyond, she has performed for people all over the world. In 2012, she began a yearly international tour booked in venues in the Caribbean (St. Maarten, Barbados, Aruba, British Virgin Islands), Europe (Amsterdam, Germany, Norway) and Spain.
In October 2015 she started her Pink Piano Show trio which has been a huge success and is the feature at Oaklawn Horse Racetrack and Casino in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Her show showcases her performance artistry in an all-request driven cover and original music 4+ hour long show with multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Cliff Prowse and a nightly featured drummer.
Susan completed her first original self-released 12-song album out of Nashville, Tennessee titled Painting You Gone in 2014. She raised over $50,000 to complete this album through a crowd funding campaign.
Susan released a 3-song EP Ain't My Baby Grand February 2016. Ain’t My Baby Grand was recorded at Beaird Music Group with some of the best session musicians in Nashville. Session musicians on this EP include: Larry Beaird (Producer, Acoustic Guitar), Eli Beaird (Bass), Steve "Prez" Nathan (Piano/Keyboard/Organ), Chad Cromwell (Percussion), JT Corenflos (Electric Guitar), Russ Pahl (Steel)
The 3-song EP includes the following tracks and writers:
Ain’t My Baby Grand written by Brett James and James Slater.
Maybe You Should written by Mike Reid, Taylor Hicks (American Idol Winner), and Gary Nicholson.
Looking For The One written by Tony Arata.
Susan’s paintings have a style of their own using primarily acrylic, watercolor and pen and helped to fund her debut album campaign through art sales. She now has art placed worldwide in home and art galleries with over 100 pieces sold to date.
In 2014, Susan expanded her art and brand with the launch her own fragrance "Diamonds & Denim" with Tijon a French-Caribbean company.
EARLY CAREER & BACKGROUND
Susan discovered her passion for music when she was growing up in Magnet Cove, Arkansas, a typical southern small-town community on her parent's 250-acre cattle ranch. As a child she took classical piano lessons and later began performing in churches, pageants and talent contests. After graduating from high school as Class President, Valedictorian, and 4-sport athlete, she attended the University of Central Arkansas where she was a member of the Honors College, the university jazz band, and was President of Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority-Upsilon Chapter. Susan competed in the Miss Arkansas Pageant as Miss University of Central Arkansas, and again the following year as Miss Saline River.
After graduating with Honors and a degree in Pure Mathematics, Susan took a job as a Radio Frequency Engineer with Alltel Telecommunications. She also completed her Private Pilot's License at Central Flying in Little Rock, Arkansas June 2009. After a few years in corporate world, she made the daring decision to leave her "day job" and devote herself to a full-time career in music. After a few years of working her way up through local piano bars, shows in Branson, Missouri, and finally a lucrative house gig in Los Angeles, Susan made the move to Las Vegas in 2011 where her "calculated risk" (as she calls it) paid off, and her dream of success in the entertainment industry became a reality.
- US Coast to Coast notable venues include Branson, Missouri, Los Angeles, CA, Las Vegas, NV, Washington DC, and many more
- Las Vegas venues include New York New York, Paris, Harrah's, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, The Palazzo, Monte Carlo, MGM Grand and others.
- Caribbean on-island venues include St. Maarten, Barbados, Aruba, British Virgin Islands
- European venues include Amsterdam, Norway, & Germany
INTERVIEW WITH SUSAN - JULY 2015
How old were you when you started playing/singing?
I started playing piano and singing when I was 6 years old. Watching my mother sing and play really inspired me. To this day, she is the church piano player in our little church in Magnet Cove, Arkansas. Gospel music was a big influence. My parents found a private classical piano teacher for me - Mrs. Dorthy Johnson of Hot Springs. I took 10 years of classical lessons from her and I’m so thankful for the theory I learned during those years.
I started practicing at home on our old beat up player piano with some keys that didn’t work. I eventually graduated to the piano that was handed down to me from my aunt and mother - a spinet Acrosonic. I still have it and it feels like an old security blanket when I play it. The action is perfect but she’s beat up.
What made you want to be a performer?
I love to show out and make people smile. When I’m behind a piano I light up. I’m at home back there as if it is just an extension of me. I remember as a little girl I watched an older girl play Bumble Boogie, a boogie woogie adaptation of Flight of the Bumble Bee, and I was hooked. I told myself I’d be a boogie woogie player one day. I entered talent contests and pageants and ultimately found my performance home in piano bars - dueling and solo - where I’ve honed my craft of performance for over 10 years now. I’ll stand on a piano, sit on it, play it with my feet, elbow… you name it I’ll try it.
I added a keytar to my show. It’s like a guitar but it’s a keyboard. People love it. I think it’s silly, but whatever works. Van Halen Jump is my specialty on it, but I can also play it like a fiddle and do Devil Went Down to Georgia. The keytar allows a piano player who is normally stationary to be mobile and wander like a guitar player can on stage. I milk that for all it’s worth and jump up atop my piano and player or wander through the crowd.
Folks should check out my Pink Piano Show I’m starting this Fall. I am the featured act on Fri/Sat in October 2015 at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs.
Who were your musical influences growing up? Family influences?
My dad’s love of 70’s rock and roll and my mom’s gospel piano were my main influences. Dad used to blare CCR and Willie Nelson in the mornings to wake us up for school when I was in middle school. My mom left for work early so he was in charge of getting us up and ready for the school bus. He would pull the CCR greatest hits vinyl out and blare it through our farm house. He’d sing through the halls at the top of his lungs… “I see a bad moon a’risin’” or his favorite CCR song “It’s Just a Thought”. I can hear that bass lick and B3 on that song in my sleep. Willie’s duet with Dolly “Unclouded Day” was a big favorite of his too. We’d drive down the road in his Chevy pickup truck and he’d sing and slap his dash to the beat. To this day a bucket list for me is to play and sing with Willie Nelson and have him look over and shout “play it Susan” like he said “play it Bobby” to his sister who was his piano player for years. Her style influenced me. Willie still moves my soul. Other piano influences were Leon Russell, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elton John.
Who do you listen to when you listen to music these days?
I study the 60’s and 70’s. I think music was best then. Janis, Otis, Linda Rondstadt, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, John Prine, Kristofferson, Willie, Dollie.
What has been the weirdest/oddest gig you’ve ever played? The coolest?
Oddest - On the back of a flatbed trailer to a bunch of cow-folk, or maybe on a multi-million dollar yacht to a billionaire family while celebrating their Jewish holiday.
Coolest - They fork lifted a grand piano to the edge of the Caribbean sea in the British Virgin Islands and I played it for an uber fancy wedding. The bride was 20 minutes late to walk the isle and I ran out of her chosen material so I started adlibbing Beatles songs in a classical style changing them just enough that no one would notice. I even threw in some Metallica and Pearl Jam but no one noticed. ha.
Where all have you traveled to play?
Piano bars have really been a unique niche in the music industry and have taken me all over the world. I have over 200 dates a year. Locations have included Amsterdam, St. Maarten, Barbados, Aruba, British Virgin Islands, Mexico, Norway, Germany, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Branson, Florida…and gosh, countless venues all over the mid-West, and Oregon most recently. I’ve performed on Cruise Ships to backyards to big stadiums.
What are your thoughts on the songwriting process? How does it work for you?
For me, songwriting is therapy. I write to make something beautiful out of something hurtful, and I write to pen in time a happy occasion. I've loved writing since my first journal at the age of 8.
I start with lyrics mainly. I’m actually more of a lyricist when it comes to song writing. Most of the time, the music and melody follows after I write the lyrics or at least have most of the lyrics finished and the structure of the song started. I am honored to have co-written with great songwriters in Nashville. I love to learn and collaborate with them.
What advice would you give to young, aspiring performers who want to be in ‘the biz’?
They say an over night success is 15 years in the making. I think that is very true. It’s a slow burn to the top. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Those who think it’s about going on a reality show and getting that big break need to have a back up plan to really work at making a career out of music. I respect those artists who worked years and honed their craft to “make it”. Don’t give up on your dreams. Remember we all stand on the shoulders of giants. Pull your ego out, stick it in a quiet place and listen, watch and learn from those who you respect and want to be like. Study study study and practice. Don’t be afraid. And don’t forget, use the power of social media to build a fan base!
My manager Butch says, “it doesn’t matter how good your fishing pole is if you can’t get near the water”. When the time was right for me, I pushed forward turning over every rock I could to get the attention of key players in the music industry. Nashville is a good place to start. I’ve always believed if you're talented and have a good work ethic someone will eventually notice.
What is the best thing about the music industry today? What do you hate about it?
I love that I can be self made. With this day and age of the internet, technology and social media, artists can reach their fan base all over the world on their own without the middle man. I was able to help fund my first album through a crowd funding campaign. It’s awesome to reach fans and followers and connect on a grassroots level as an artist.
On the flip side, there are challenges now. The information and technology age has changed the playing field for the music industry for sure. Where labels could depend on mechanicals back in the day, that has gone to downloading and electronic purchases. It’s shifted label's and artist's reliance on merchandise and venue sales to really drive revenue.
Where are you now and what are your goals for your future in music?
My 2nd album releases this October 2015 with presales starting as early as mid-August. I am going to reach out to my fanbase again and sell ahead with cool offerings for my art as purchase initiatives. The title track Ain’t My Baby Grand was selected and pitched to me by my A&R creative director Herky Williams in Nashville. I met Herky through my manager, Butch. Herky was a 16-year executive at ASCAP and has a great ability to develop artists. With him and management, we selected 7 songs for this album and recorded them this month at Beaird Music Group with some of the finest session musicians in Nashville. Ain’t My Baby Grand is a perfect song for me as a bluesy/country singer and pianist. CLICK HERE to read more on the album progress.
My plans for the future? We are looking at tour dates next Spring after my showcase in Nashville in October this year. We’re releasing this album, pitching to labels and planning on touring it and continuing my momentum. It’s about staying the course and following through. I truly hope one day to be on tour with a major act and to eventually be on my own tour in the larger venues.
What do people not know about you? Maybe some fun facts outside of music?
I graduated from the Honors College at the University of Central Arkansas with a B.S. in Pure Mathematics. I worked in corporate world as an engineer and buyer for the Radio Frequency Engineering dept. I eventually jumped corporate ship to follow my music passion but learned a ton at Alltel headquarters in Little Rock.
I have my pilot's license.
I paint and have sold over 50 paintings in the past year. Primarily watercolors and acrylic. See my artwork.
I released my own fragrance line with a French-Caribbean company. It’s called Diamonds & Denim.
All my music, art, fragrance, tour dates and more can be found always on my website www.susanerwin.com