Rig Rundown: Suzanne Santo
The spunky solo artist/former HoneyHoney frontwoman shows off her “Sweet Baby” Eastman and a sultry 335 that accompany her smoky, impassioned voice—plus reveals how touring with Hozier "leveled-up" her fingerstyle chops.
Facing a mandatory shelter-in-place ordinance to limit the spread of COVID-19, PG enacted a hybrid approach to filming and producing Rig Rundowns. This is the 21st video in that format, and we stand behind the final product.
Suzanne Santo and Ben Jaffe formed their duo honeyhoney in the mid 2000s. She played violin and banjo, and provided the lead vocals, while he played guitar, piano, and percussion. Even though it was just those two making all the music, their diverse moods took shape in forms of jazzy neo-soul, emotional alt-country, energetic Americana, and raspy roots-rock. Every shade felt right and nothing seemed to put them out of their skin.
They completed a trilogy of albums—2008’s First Rodeo, 2011’s Billy Jack, and 2015’s 3 that were produced by Studio A hitmaker Dave Cobb—before unceremoniously entering an indefinite hiatus. (Jaffe and Santo are still great friends and collaborators as he helped her set up a recording rig to pull off this video.)
From there, Santo played violin and sang background vocals all over Butch Walker’s 2016 album Stay Gold. The partnership was easygoing and fruitful, so when it came time to record her debut album, Ruby Red, it only made sense to fan the flames of their musical fire. (If anyone checked out Butch’s Rig Rundown, you probably connected the dots with his studio name to the title of Suzanne’s 2017 debut.) The heart of honeyhoney beats throughout Ruby Red, but the music is darker like a Southern-noir backdrop. Her lyrics are more personal, stinging with sensitivity, proving that swigging whiskey, lusting over lost lovers, and repairing self-inflicted wounds isn’t just a man’s game. And if you need any evidence that a gnarly violin solo can stack up against any 6-string shred, queue up “Blood On Your Knees.”
Promoting the solo effort on the road saw her take on an “apprenticeship” and level up. Not only did she open for Hozier on his 2018 tour, but she became a part of his live band where she played guitar and violin and sang background vocals.
In the weird reality that has been 2020, Santo has been self-releasing songs that will fill up her to-be-titled follow-up to Ruby Red. (She jokes in the Rundown that its working title is Yard Sale, but we think that’s her having a bit of fun in relation to its eclectic influences.) She performed “Bad Beast” with Gary Clark Jr. on Joe Rogan’s podcast, and on 9/18 she released her first official single “Fall For That” featuring Gary Clark Jr. (It’s worth noting that GCJr will only appear in “Fall For That” on the forthcoming album.)
Taking a break from working on her next album, Santo virtually welcomed PG’s Chris Kies into her California apartment. The firecracker fingerstyle guitarist opens up about her pair of ’bucker brutes, explains how Hozier’s idiosyncratic bluesy playing style boosted her fingerpicking game, and reveals what pedal turns her violin violent.