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Suzanna Choffel is many things: a rising star, an undeniable musical force and a unique voice (a “honeyed husk,” as it’s been posited) who feels equally at home singing in a dimly-lit, smoky club as she does front and center in front of (literally) millions. So, lyrical protestations aside, Choffel is no hidden gem. She’s already making her mark.
Granted, she’s hard to pin down. Consider her critical praise — she’s “Feist meets Erykah Badu with a hint of Tex-Mex seasoning.” She’s “equal parts Beat poetry, smoky soul grooves and indie-pop eccentricity.” She’s “graceful” and yet, as Rolling Stone asserts, possessing “all the vibe in the world.” Easy to love, difficult to define: credit Choffel’s restless creative spirit.
And also credit the Texas native’s musical upbringing. From birth, there were already hints of future prowess: the singer’s given name was inspired by her mother’s love of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne.” At an early age, the budding star had already taken up piano, saxophone and guitar; she even composed her own songs on a keyboard and recorded them into a karaoke machine.
Choffel’s family and culture were deeply embedded in her music. Partially of Mexican descent, even her earliest work reflected the distinct flavors and rhythms of Tejano music (and why, to this day, you may hear her occasionally sing in Spanish). After her parents’ divorce, the young Choffel moved to South Austin. There, at the age of 12, she had a musical epiphany. “In Austin I was exposed to live music in a new sense,” she says. “Before that, I thought you had to be an uber famous rock god or pop star...in Austin, I found this other path.” Which is why, as a teenager, you could usually find Choffel performing in clubs around town, belting out Bonnie Raitt and Bessie Smith blues jams at venues like Babe's on Sixth Street.
Her musical endeavors followed her to college, where she sang for roots-rock bands and a hip-hop/jazz project. During her time at the College of Santa Fe, she met an unlikely collaborator: Ben Haggerty, a.k.a. platinum hip-hop star Macklemore. “In hindsight, it’s really funny,” says Choffel, whose own hip-hop interests at the time included acts like A Tribe Called Quest and Mos Def. “I would do these slam poetry events on a bandshell in a big common area, and he would come down and rap with us.
Once Choffel returned to Austin, she began to focus on her own recordings, developing a unique sound that mixed elements of all her musical passions, including R&B, reggae, pop, and jazz. Her first album, Shudders & Rings, won accolades (“The Next Fun Fearless Female Rock Star” crowed the Austin Chronicle) and more than a few local and indie music awards. But it was her live show where people really took notice.
No matter the venue, hers was always an intimate affair, one the Austin Chronicle rightly captured: “The graceful confidence of her music,” they noted, “allows Choffel to make every performance feel as if it's late night and she's in a South Austin living room grooving for the pleasure of it.” Headline performances at SXSW and Austin City Limits led to even more festival appearances at CMJ and Voodoo Experience. Choffel’s music appeared in commercials and in film, including one track during a pivotal moment of the indie hit Catfish (a surprise even to her).
Always up for the unexpected, Choffel auditioned for and landed a spot on NBC’s popular primetime singing competition The Voice in 2012, wowing the judges with her renditions of Fleetwood Mac and Bob Marley, and earning singular praise from Rolling Stone as “the only artist you’d want to listen to a complete album from.”
One day when Owen Danoff was fifteen years old, his father (Bill Danoff, Grammy award winning songwriter of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Afternoon Delight”) gave him an 8-track recording device, and by that night he had written and recorded his first song. Since that day, music has been Owen’s life. He moved from his hometown of Washington, D.C. to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music and with refined skills in songwriting, composition, and bass playing, he returned to D.C. to make his mark on the local music scene.
Owen’s music blends the catchiness of pop, the lyrical emphasis of folk, and the energy of rock n’ roll. His influences include John Mayer, Paul Simon, and the Wallflowers, though the resulting style is all his own. Owen’s first full-length album Twelve Stories is a testament to both his songwriting and instrumental abilities. Funded through a 2013 Kickstarter campaign that exceeded expectations, the album features Owen switching between bass and guitar alongside his longtime band and esteemed guest musicians including Rami Jaffee of the Wallflowers and Foo Fighters.
Two of the songs, “I Wish I Knew Better” and “Amsterdam”, won honorable mentions in the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest, with the latter winning an additional honorable mention in a 2013 American Songwriter Lyric Contest.