Susan Bear — “I have a fanbase and if I keep doing shows like this I can continue to build it”
We supported Susan Bear to play an album launch concert in Glasgow
Beginnings in Glasgow
Susan Bear is a musician from Glasgow who started playing in bands and producing music on her family’s computer from a young age. Throughout her teenage years she was completely obsessed with music and always had a drive to pursue it, eventually going on to study a degree in audio technology and multimedia at Glasgow Caledonian University.
After university she was in her first serious band Tuff Love and played at festivals like Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, which Suse reflects was, “an amazing experience and so exciting.” When that project ended in 2015, Suse started working in theatre, doing sound design and composition.
Alongside her varied professional projects, Suse has always in the background continued writing her own music as a solo artist. Her last record Alter (released in June 2022 and pressed on vinyl by Lost Map Records) was the result of, “chipping away in the evenings after work.”
Touring and Live support
Suse first heard about Help Musicians in 2015, when the charity was able to support a friend of hers who was suffering with their mental health. “I am a big fan of the charity’s work. The music industry can be scary but everyone I have met from Help Musicians is so generous and giving.”
She was encouraged to apply for Touring and Live support by her partner and wanted to organise a launch concert for Alter. By this point she had already received messages from promoters asking her if she was up for playing a headline show, so she knew there was a bit of interest.
Having played solo gigs in the past, Suse wanted to have a proper band this time in order to give Alter’s musical arrangements the presence they deserved. She knew that she wanted at least five people in the band but eventually ended up adding a sixth player on bass guitar and didn’t pay herself. With hindsight, she was glad she made this choice because, “feedback from the audience was that the arrangements were fully realised.”
She used the charity’s support to fund rehearsal time with the band in the run up to the show at Glasgow venue Mono and it is fair to say that the decision paid off. Suse recalled that, “working with the calibre of musicians I got to collaborate with for this project, incredibly talented and detail-oriented musicians who understood the arrangements, was a dream.”
Concert at Mono
Going into the live show, Suse had a couple of aims aside from launching Alter officially. Perhaps because of the style of music she writes, she wanted to prove to people she was not, “just a bedroom producer.” The concert was about solidifying the legitimacy of her project as Susan Bear and demonstrating to Glasgow and its promoters that she can and will play gigs as part of a larger ensemble.
Being from Glasgow, Suse believes, “I wouldn’t have been as nervous if I had done the album launch in a different city. I love performing but there is something about having your solo project with your own name on the bill in the place you’ve lived your whole life at a venue you go to all the time — when I got onstage I was nervous.”
In the end however, these transpired to be, “silly little paranoid thoughts” and the gig was a complete success. During the gig Suse looked into the crowd and saw a lot of respected music industry people she knew from around Glasgow – “after the show I was chuffed to bits.”
As well as financial support from Help Musicians for the album launch, Suse also received some business advice sessions. The first was on streaming and Suse found it, “incredibly useful because I don’t have a huge knowledge of how to interpret statistics.”
Suse believes that whilst indie musicians might think it’s not worth bothering to learn about streaming, there can be a lot of benefits. “There are basic things that I need to be doing to give myself a fighting chance to be heard, so the session was so insightful.”
The other session went over Suse’s whole career, a kind of health check for her as an artist. Topics that were spoken about included branding, social media, and longer-term goals.
The impact from playing the concert at Mono is simple to explain according to Suse.
“Compared with before the show, I not only have more gig offers but am being paid more for each show too. I recently did a gig at Edinburgh Summerhall because Lost Map Records had been to my launch show and knew we could do a great job, bring the full band and make an impact”
In terms of the future, Suse is negotiating a few festival appearances for summer 2023 which she is looking forward to and then also has a few gigs on the horizon. “I’m also trying to finish another album and get a single out for September 2023 – it will be good to put into practice some of the lessons I learned during my streaming masterclass.”