What did Bruce Sudano say to President Obama in Oslo? What wine goes well with rigatoni? The Nashville-based singer-songwriter tells PopMatters in this edition of 20 Questions.
Bruce Sudano is jet-lagged. He just returned from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. Only two days earlier, he was shaking President Obama's hand and now he's enduring the seasonal frenzy of holiday shoppers at the mall. All this followed an intense month of travel where the Nashville-based singer-songwriter jetted between Los Angeles and New York. He savored each bite of the pasta dinner he ate last night in the comforts of his own kitchen with a glass of Chianti. After such a whirlwind itinerary, home never tasted so good.
Even before departing for Oslo, Sudano was celebrating an already memorable year. 2009 marked the release of his third solo album, Life and the Romantic, released on his own Purple Heart imprint. The writer of hits by Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Robert Palmer, Jermaine Jackson, and Donna Summer emerged this year with a new set of songs that found the former member of Alive 'n Kickin' and Brooklyn Dreams in a contemplative space, mapping his observations about the details of everyday life over a variety of soundscapes. "Beyond Forever", "Love Is Sacrifice", and "A Glass of Red and the Sunset" folded a shade of jazz into the tunesmith's repertoire while "It's Her Wedding Day" helped Sudano earn two nominations (AC Artist and AC Song of the Year) for the 2009 New Music Weekly Awards. It's a good time to be Bruce Sudano, as the artist ruminates on what he wore to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, what he said to President Obama, and the special place that both his wife and Bob Dylan occupy in this latest edition of 20 Questions.
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
The Proposal (2009). I cry at the drop of the hat because I'm really a sappy kind of guy, so I think that there were moments in The Proposal where I was fighting back tears. In The Hangover (2009), I was crying the other kind of tears, i.e., this is so goofy that I'm crying. Those two films for different reasons. The ying and the yang of it.
2. The fictional character most like you?
Goofy. In his mind, he thinks he has it all figured out and he stumbles along in and out of trouble but at the end of the day, he comes out okay.
3. The greatest album ever?
That's a very subjective thing. I would say Marvin Gaye's What's Going On (1971) because it's vocally amazing, rhythmically and musically amazing, and also lyrically amazing. At the same time, the issues that it confronts are timeless. It's always current. It never goes out of style.
I used to play at the clubs with the band. We'd get off at four in the morning and then we would go to the gay bars and dance, then head back to another friend's house, hang out, and listen to Marvin Gaye until eight o'clock in the morning. Then, I'd stumble my way back home. It was a very interesting time in my life.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
I'd have to say neither but I'd go with Trek because it doesn't have "war" in it. I'm not a Trekkie or a Star Wars guy. I go to girls' movies and cry.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Pasta. It's my comfort food. I always think better when I'm comfortable. Heat up the garlic, chop up the cherry tomatoes, whip up some rigatoni, throw it all together. Add some good Parmesan cheese and a little bit of crushed red pepper, a glass of Chianti, and I'm a happy boy.
6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?
My proudest accomplishment is my children. You do everything that you can but I'm human and I make mistakes. I did things wrong but at the end of the day, through the grace of God, He redeems the situation, and they are just beautiful people that I'm just happy to know. I feel humbled by who they are.
7. You want to be remembered for...?
I want to be remembered as somebody who had integrity, who, in spite of the mistakes or knock-downs, got back up, asked forgiveness, and tried to be straight-ahead honest and truthful.
8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?
Jesus Christ, Bob Dylan, Donna Summer.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
Home Depot (laughs). If there is one place that is the most foreign to me, that would be it. Whenever I go in there, I'm like, "Wow, man. I can't relate to this at all". I have to have a house with a basement because growing up, I lived in the basement of my mother's house and the rest of the family lived upstairs and so typically wherever I live, I have a house with a basement and I just leave the rest of the house to everybody else. I just exist in the basement so I can daydream.
10. Your hidden talents...?
My hidden talent is that I'm a really good dancer. When people see me dance, they think I can't dance but I know I really can! I credit it to having a really great natural sense of rhythm. (Honestly, this is all tongue-in-cheek.)
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Have faith and just enough light for the step you're on. It's like, don't be afraid of the future, don't be afraid of tomorrow, don't project too far in advance, don't think you're supposed to know everything that's supposed to happen next. One step in front of the other. Just keep walking forward.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
I think the best thing that I ever bought was my horse. That's for a couple of different reasons. When I grew up in the '50s and '60s, there were a lot of cowboy shows on TV. My favorite toy was a horse. I could just sit for hours and pretend that I was a cowboy. As I became an adult, I lived on a ranch and I was able to have some horses. My horse was my means of escape and I could just get on the horse and just ride the hills for hours on end. It allowed me time to talk to God and it was a break from the studio. It was a sense of freedom and a connection back to my youth that I really appreciated. My horse became a real good friend of mine because I could talk to him while I was riding and he never complained.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or...?
This is very interesting because I just came back from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Before we left for Oslo, I was in New York and I went to Armani and I bought this black velvet Armani jacket and a pair of black slacks. I went to the President's speech and this is what I wore. My wife said, "You look so great. This is how you should dress all the time." I said, "You may think I look great but I feel really uncomfortable and I'd rather be in my black jeans and black Vans and my black T-shirt", which is my typical uniform.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Joni Mitchell. I always found her to be a very interesting person and a very interesting artist and she was somebody that always intrigued me. It would be interesting to sit down and have a conversation with her. At the end of all that, I'd say to her, "...and Joni, stop smoking. Put that cigarette down!"
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I think I'd like to time travel to Paris during the Renaissance. I would just like to be an artist there at that time, a musician and a writer, and just soak up all that was going on.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?
I'm Italian so I'd have to say a hit man, not necessarily to do a hit but just to go over towards the situation and have the guy say, "Hey -- now do the right thing, alright?"
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or...?
I'm torn between coffee and chocolate. Coffee, for me, gets me up and gets me going. On the other hand, even though I'm not a big chocolate freak, chocolate does contain phenethylamine and phenethylamine is supposedly the feeling that you get when you're in love. If you're feeling void of love and you need to feel kind of warm and toasty, they say if you eat chocolate it can help that happen. I'm somewhere in between the two C's. Personally, coffee is the thing for me. I'm sorry to say this for coffee aficionados but I drink Folgers instant coffee. My house is hooked up with the real extensive coffee maker and you can have any kind of coffee you want from any kind of country. I bypass the machine and go over to the instant coffee and add the hot water.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
I'd have to say New York City. I spend a lot of time in the country but I'm really at home in the city. I think that, essentially, I'm a neighborhood guy. I like things to be instant and in the moment. I like the feeling of walking out of your apartment and being in the middle of stuff, and getting what you need when you need it. Conversely, I appreciate the solitude and the open air of the country. I get itchy pretty quickly.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Well, this is an interesting question because I just met him two days ago. What I said to him was, "Mr. President, I really appreciated that speech". In my mind, I wanted to go on to say -- but of course I didn't because it would have been completely inappropriate -- "Is it really a good idea to try these guys in New York City? Do you really think that you should push the health care bill through just to do something instead of taking some time to make sure we got it right?" Other than that, "Mr. President, I totally respect you. I appreciate the job that you have taken on. I pray for you".
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on now?
Right now, I'm working on getting through Christmas. I'm working on thinking about what I'm going to do next. This time of year, I kind of don't work on stuff. When I was younger, this time of year was the most frustrating time of year for me because I couldn't keep going. Everything was closed. I couldn't accomplish anything and I couldn't move my life further along. Now, I've learned to relax and enjoy it, flow with it, and appreciate the moment that it is. This is the moment to celebrate blessings and family and friends and not be frustrated. Come January 1, I will be wound up and ready to go in some direction. Right now I'm not sure which one it's going to be but I'm confident at that point I'll have just enough light for the step I'm on!