Suzanne Vega has been a busy musician - and a busy businesswoman - over the past year. She recently started her own label, Amanuensis Productions, and through that label she's releasing a four-volume set of her re-recorded back catalog titled "Close Up." Each CD in the set focuses on a different lyrical theme; the second volume, "People & Places," came out last month, and it collects such New York City-centric songs as "Tom's Diner" and "Luka." Vega, who plays the Staller Center in Stony Brook on Saturday, answered a few questions via e-mail about revisiting her songs, entering the music business, and remembering days of New York past.
How has the response to the "Close Up" albums been so far?It has been really great, both in the press and especially with fans at the shows.
Have you decided on the themes for the other two "Close Up" albums yet? How did you decide to divide your catalog up in the way that you did?The other two themes are "States of Being" (the freakier, more intense songs) and "Songs of Family." The themes came from the live show where I try to group songs together in a little mini-set - most songs ended up fitting in one category or another.
Were there any songs on these records that you were away from for a particularly long time, or any songs that struck you differently upon revisiting them for these albums?Most are songs that I have done repeatedly over the years, but there were a couple that I dusted off - "Ironbound" from Volume 2, "Solitude Standing" from Volume 3. It was good to hear these songs from a completely different perspective than when I wrote them.
Can you talk a bit about your decision to start your own label? Why do that, instead of going with an indie? Was it prompted in part by your decision to revisit your own catalog, or vice versa? How has it affected your recording process (if at all)?I liked the idea of re-recording the catalog and owning masters of the recordings. I own the songs, but not the recordings of the hits. If I went with an indie, I would have the same issue: Who owns the recordings? This way, I have something to sell for the rest of my life. However, we'll see what happens when it comes to new material.
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"People & Places" is your "New York" collection - what do you think has been the most noticeable change in the city's overall atmosphere over the course of your New York life?I went to high school in Times Square in the '70s. Back then, it was seedy with porn shops everywhere. Now it's seedy and crawling with big businesses everywhere. Don't know which is worse.