Local Musician Check-in: Susan Munson

Posted on August 28, 2013 by


susan munsonSusan Munson is a veteran songwriter. She possesses the innate ability to write a song about any and everything. Starting with an idea or image, she converts it into a phrase, and transforms that into song lyrics that anyone is able to understand. THAT, my friend, is a songwriter, and Susan’s songwriting will blow you away.

Not only a great lyricist, she is a great storyteller, and this month she tells us about her connections to Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and childhood reminiscing of Boyd Tinsley.

Susan frequents the Monday Night Songwriter’s Circle at The Local in Belmont where her daily written tunes are showcased. So, mark your calendar for Monday nights at 9pm to grab a drink at The Local in Belmont and catch a couple songs by Susan Munson along with other Local Musician Check-Ins, such as Michael Coleman, Carl Anderson, Sam Cregger and who knows who else will show up!

Tell us a little about yourself: Where you’re from; if not Cville, when did you come here?

I was born in England but I’ve lived in C’ville since I was 3. My dad came to work for a year at UVA but was offered a permanent position so we stayed. I wish we’d gone back to Birmingham, his cousin is a bass player who played in a band with Robert Plant before Led Zeppelin rose! Imagine who I might’ve met there!! What If?

When and why did you start playing music/singing? What instruments do you play?

I started playing the violin in the 4th grade. Boyd Tinsley and I were in the same class but I didn’t like the teacher and I wanted to be in the band and play the trumpet so I quit. Boyd begged me not to quit, imagine what could’ve happened if I’d listened to him! What If?

I starting taking piano lessons in 5th grade so I could read music and I sang in the choir at church. In high school, Aaron Evans asked me if I wanted to come over and sing, he and Craig were starting the band Indecision and they needed a singer. Well I was just too scared I would suck so I said no. D’oh! Indecision is playing at Interlocken Lockn’ Rockn’ Sockn’!!! What If?

After high school I joined a songwriting group with Ralph Rush, Steve Tobias and David Kleiner and they told me I needed to play an instrument to accompany myself. So that’s when I picked up the guitar.

I am also in the band Jeebus where I am able to contribute original tunes along with Tim Ryan and Lon Tate. Marc Lipson and Jim Ralston round out that band and we play funky covers and our original music. We just released a CD Threads.


Most influential artist: Child? Teen? Adult?

I like such a wide variety of music I just can’t pick any one influential artist. I like the blues the best. Growing up I listened to southern rock bands too. So I have been influenced by: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton. My brother had every Beatles album! Many of my songs tend to have a country blues feel to them.

When did you write your first song/what was it about?

The first song I wrote? I don’t even remember! I have one in a folder that I wrote in England when I was 16 about an old woman who lives in an old house of ill repute “moonlight and whiskey are now her only friends”. I used to write poetry and guys in school would ask me to write something for them to give to their girlfriends. Ha ha ha

What influences your writing?

So many things! I get ideas from lines in books: The song “Whiskey, Smoke and Tears” came from the line “My father floats on a bitter river of whiskey and tears.” I love tequila so I wrote a song called “Tequila Smile.” Sometimes I am in a certain mood and a song will flow out of the feelings I am having. I’ve got a song called “What If” about the choices my husband and I have made in our lives. If we hadn’t made those choices we might not be together today.

Most of my songs come from a melody I hear in my head and some words that seems to go along with it. I woke up last Saturday and I could hear a male voice in my head singing “I just want to talk.” That became the first line of my newest song “Talk.”

What aspects of life excite you and stir your affections, fuel your passions? And what about those times do you connect with?

Life itself excites me! My eyes are wide open every day looking all around me to find the fuel for my songs. Everything and anything can become a song, just a look that someone gives you as they’re crossing the street. A little boy walking down the mall holding his mother’s hand. If you can feel emotion from something you see, then you can write about it. Trick is to find the right words!!! Songwriting is very cathartic for me, you piss me off, you might end up in my song. Then I feel better and I can move on, forgive and forget. I’m ok, almost happy b/c I got a song out of it. Still working on a song about the woman who ran into me and then lied to the police and the judge about it.

When did you play your first gig? What emotions and thoughts ran through your head after finishing?

That was awesome!!!! I played a private party with my first band at an FOP lodge and I knew some people there and they were astounded!! I was hooked on that performance high!!

Do you get pumped or nervous pre-show?

I get pumped in the weeks prior to the gig and then a day or two before I start to get really nervous. Day of show it sometimes takes me hours just to figure out what to wear! (Like that really matters!?! – But now I have my 13 year old daughter, Leila, to help with that.)

What does a day in the life of a modern day songwriter look like from your perspective?

You have to go about your day and be involved in every moment of it. Always carry a small notebook with you EVERYWHERE! You never know what will happen in front of you that can be the idea for a song. And you have to write down what comes to mind immediately. Then you have to make time to sit down with it and expand on it. Many times I have the song half written before I even grab the guitar and figure out what the chords are or even what key it’s in. If you have an mp3 recorder – and most new phones do now – mine of course is ancient and doesn’t!!- you can hum the melody or sing some of the words or sing some nonsense words to fill in the spots…. That way you can remember what you originally heard in your head….. Then make the time to work on it!!!

What do you want people to take from hearing your music? As a fan, also what do you want people to take from experiencing your live show?

I want people to hear a song I write and be able to relate it to their life somehow. I want the songs I write to evoke images in their heads. Make them recall something, or even inspire them to go out and do something they’ve been thinking about doing but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I want people to be kind to each other and love one another. Forgive and forget and move on, life is too short…

What does the not-so-distant future hold for Susan Munson, The Queen of Belmont?

Hahaha Michael Clem and his monikers! I am the Queen of Esmont and Ashley McMillen is the Queen of Belmont! Not sure where he got that from. Well, I will continue to play every single new song I write on Monday nights in Belmont at The Local’s Songwriters’ night. Some songs will make it to Jeebus, others only to The Local. I am working on recording my songs now and it’s really exciting, but it’s not easy. I’d like to see if anyone else – like some famous person – wants to record one of my songs, working on that too… hahaha.

Lastly…Describe yourself in 10 words.

Modern day fly on the buttocks of society, that’s me! (JK!)