Suzanna Choffel Finds New Beginnings With ‘Hello Goodbye’

by Katy Thorson on June 5, 2017 in Entertainment, Music,

At the bottom of the liner notes for her latest LP, “Hello Goodbye,” Suzanna Choffel concludes thanks for her first album since 2013’s “Archer” with one sentence: “This one’s for you baby bear.” The sentiment’s recipient is Luisa “Lulu” Mina. Born March 23, 2015, she is Choffel’s daughter and the reason why the album, completed in spring 2015, was just released May 12. The Austin native is no stranger to astrology, and she couldn’t help but recognize her daughter’s sign — Aries.

“I feel like, ever since day one, she has been so decisive,” Choffel says. “And just so headstrong, kind of just moving forward.”

Choffel was also privy to draw parallels. A Pisces, she describes herself as more “timid and chill.” So when “Go Forth,” the album’s single and necessary “last touch,” seemingly fell into Choffel’s lap right before finding out she was pregnant, she took it as a message from beyond the womb.

“‘Mom, just make a decision and go for it,’” Choffel infers what Lulu’s thoughts might be. “‘Stop haunting your life, or paralyzing your life, because of your decisions.’”

In “Go Forth,” the listener is met with a bittersweet piano — perhaps not dissimilar in feel to that of Gary Jules’ “Mad World” cover, made famous by “Donnie Darko” — accenting Choffel’s lyrics, equal parts hesitant and assured. The new mom says the act of decision-making is a theme she finds herself revisiting on each of her albums.

“We’re all just constantly choosing A or B,” she says. “And then that leads us to another A or B, and that leads us to another A or B.”

The album, described by the artist as a rootsy, soulful counter to the poppiness of “Archer,” began to take shape after a three-year stint in New York. Choffel says it took leaving to make her more in touch with the blues, soul, folk and Americana roots she grew up surrounded with in Austin.

“I never really fully embraced [it] while I was here,” Choffel says. “I think I was more into the sounds outside of Austin. And then, moving away from Austin — it’s one of those things, I’ve heard other artists say the same, it’s like sometimes you have to leave home to kind of appreciate it.”

Choffel talked to producers outside of Austin when first considering who she wanted to work with, but she ultimately decided to craft “Hello Goodbye” in her hometown with David Boyle, a producer whom she found to align with her love for blues, soul and R&B.

Without a doubt shining through on her roots are songs, like “Keep on Movin” and “Lately For You” — the clavinet on the latter harkening to the funk of one of her influences, Stevie Wonder.

Heavy-hitting opener “Continental Drift,” the oldest song on the album, puts the singer’s voice on full display over a languidly shifty chord progression and weepy violin. By way of swelling “oohs” and “ahhs,” the song’s initial ambivalence is left behind as it reaches a zenith with the line, “And you can visit now and then, like a wild and lovely island, but you’ll never make your home there in the sand.”

The dark, island-esque tune proves as weighty a thing as Choffel’s pipes, themselves, and demands to be sung by no one else but her. The album’s title song, a cheery pop-soul number with a mildly Santana-like guitar interlude, struck Choffel as the perfect summation of her A-or-B conflict.

“You always have to say goodbye to one thing to say hello to another,” she says. “But then, that hello is going to lead to another goodbye, which leads to another hello.”

Though seemingly torn with its name, the album marks a more certain, more mature departure from Choffel’s previous two — and with the arrival of Lulu, it’s no question that that shift exists in more than just the music.

“You definitely mourn this loss of your old life, but it’s almost like it doesn’t matter, because it’s replaced by this incredible joy of this new life — it’s very true,” Choffel says. “You’re sort of constantly mourning this life that you had of so much freedom and so much, just, ‘go where the wind takes you’ — I could leave at the drop of a dime to do anything.

“But it’s replaced by this incredible joy of seeing this human being come to life. And giving this human being part of yourself that you didn’t even know you had.”