Watch: 13th Floor MusicTalk With Susan Anders

Here is Nashville-based Susan Anders to talk about her new album, 13 Women, featuring songs inspired by 13 pioneering women in US history.

Susan AndersThe 13th Floor’s Marty Duda spoke to Susan about her research and inspiration for writing songs about Helen Keller, Josephine Baker and Amelia Earhart.

Even more intriguing are the fascinating, yet obscure folks such as Sarah Wildes, Peace Pilgrim and Henrietta Lacks, who unknowingly contributed to saving lives thanks to the vaccines developed with her cells (yes, still being used today for Covid).


From the record company:

In response to today’s challenging times, Nashville singer-songwriter Susan Anders looked to the past for hope — and wisdom. Her ensuing search became 13 WOMEN — 13 original songs inspired by extraordinary women from US history.

Often, these were women who loved their work, like war correspondent Martha Gellhorn (“Witness”), the women symbolized by Rosie the Riveter (“Girl You Never Knew”), and astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt (“My Life In The Stars”). Some surmounted obstacles to do their work: sculptor Edmonia Lewis (“Wave That Rocks Me”) was orphaned, expelled from school, and later abducted and beaten for being Black.

The architect Julia Morgan (“Castles”) was rejected several times for being female when she applied to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. A few of these women were pioneers, like Lucy Goldthorpe (“Open Prairie”), a schoolteacher who homesteaded alone in North Dakota in 40 below temperatures, and Maud Stevens Wallace (“Under Your Skin”), the first known female tattoo artist in America. As Anders sings in “Castles”, these were woman who might have said “The world said no, so I made it say yes, yes, yes”. 

Recorded in Nashville

13 WOMEN was recorded at guitar player/producer Tom Manche’s East Nashville studio shortly before the pandemic hit. Anders and her husband Manche spent the initial shutdown mixing the album, grateful for the distraction. Anders’ vocals and acoustic guitar are set off by contributions from several talented Nashville musicians: multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke adds soaring clarinet and flute to the Amelia Earhart inspired “What a Woman Can Do”, and some rootsy harmonica and organ to the Henrietta Lacks-inspired “You Healed Me”. His clarinet weaves through the jazzy “A Little More From Josephine” (Baker, that is), with Mary Rodgers’ accordion making a cameo appearance.

Maggie Chafee‘s cello on the Helen Keller inspired “Just Give Me Everything” sends it in a chamber-folk direction. Anders’ love of vocal harmonies shows throughout the recording: in the collage of haunting voices at the coda of “You Healed Me”, in the funky multi-layered vocals of “Wave That Rocks Me”, in the starkly beautiful parallel harmonies of “Witness”.

The backing singers include Nashville singer-songwriters Kyshona Armstrong, Whit HIll, Phoebe Elliot, Ingrid Graudins, and Barbara Santoro. Susan called on some former bandmates to add vocals as well: Renee Hayes, Shelley Higgins, and Cat Silver came from Berkeley, Chapel Hill, and Atlanta to add additional harmonies. Manche added guitar and percussion and co-produced the album with Anders.

About Susan

Susan Anders grew up in Berkeley, California, amidst peace marches, hippies, and the budding feminist movement. She studied music and performance at U.C. Santa Cruz and S.F. State, and sang in a cappella, rock, jazz, and Motown bands that played throughout northern California. Anders met Manche after moving to Los Angeles In 1990.

They formed Susan’s Room, married, and released five albums of eclectic acoustic pop throughout the ’90s. After moving to Nashville, Tennessee in 2002, Anders recorded three solo albums: Release (2005), Swimmer (2010), and Loop De Loop (2016). Her songs have been recorded by many independent country, soul, and Americana artists.

Anders is also a well-respected vocal coach who has worked with thousands of singers, including Hillary Scott of Lady A, Dierks Bentley, L7, Joey Heatherton, and Rose MacGowan. Her instructional methods and app SING HARMONIES are used by singers worldwide.

Susan Anders’ 13 WOMEN is essential music for thinking listeners, highlighted by what the New Yorker called Susan’s “soulful, commanding voice”. The inventive arrangements, exquisite vocal harmonies, and use of hand percussion instead of a drum kit all combine to make 13 Women an eclectic folk-pop-americana gem.

Marty Duda
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