From sultry vocals on original music, such as the saucy “Watch Me” on her latest release, to covers of “Oreo Cookie Blues” by Lonnie Mack and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Suzie Vinnick can play and sing the blues like a woman who has lived them.
But her voice can also take on a soft, almost lilting quality on tender compositions from her latest album like “Drift Away,” which she co-wrote with Matt Anderson.
“It’s about remembering to take time for yourself when you are going through tough times,” Vinnick said. “A lot of people tell me that that song is like a theme song for them. That’s really rewarding. As artists, we have to express ourselves, but I think we are out there as healers, too, to try and bright light and love and good feelings into the world.”
This Canadian-born singer-songwriter-musician is sure to delight audiences during the South Carolina Festival of Discovery, July 11 through 13, Uptown Greenwood’s huge barbecue and blues event.
Vinnick is an award-winning folk and blues musician.
Vinnick is scheduled to open the Blues Cruise on Thursday night, with a performance from 6 to 7 p.m. at the tent stage. She is also scheduled to perform from 6 to 6:45 p.m. Friday at Arts Center of Greenwood and from 8 to 10 p.m. Friday at Flynn’s on Maxwell, along with a show from 8 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Montague’s.
Be sure to check out the full lineup of who is playing where when.
The Blues Cruise portion of the South Carolina Festival of Discovery is three days, with 45 live music performances by more than 20 artists at more than a dozen different locations in Uptown Greenwood, all free of charge.
Vinnick was recently honored with the 2019 Special Recognition Award, during the two-week Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, for her contributions to that Canadian province’s music culture. Vinnick first performed at that jazz festival some 30 years ago. And, she grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which is where Joni Mitchell spent her formative years.
“I am excited to come down,” Vinnick said. “It is going to be my first time playing in South Carolina, but I have played in North Carolina. This festival sounds like it’s going to be kind of a big party. I met Gary Erwin, (Blues Cruise artistic/music director), in January of this year when he came to Canada. The Toronto Blues Society has a national conference and artists apply for opportunities to showcase. ... He invited me to come down and play.”
Vinnick took guitar lessons at age 9 and learned saxophone for school band. In high school, she picked up the electric bass and “that kind of became” her main instrument for about 17 years.
“I’ve always played guitar and sang,” Vinnick said. “There are always things to learn.”
Vinnick will be performing solo for Festival of Discovery’s Blues Cruise.
“I’ve always liked different styles of music,” Vinnick said. “The blues came to me in the form of an open stage in Saskatoon. ... It was happening in a blues bar, and from three to seven, it operated a restaurant. So, that enabled a lot of young people to attend. I would get up and do three songs and be terrified. ... I still get butterflies when I perform.”
A blues band during one open stage caught her ear and regular blues jams there solidified her affinity for the genre.
“I got a nice kind of education in my mid to late teens,” Vinnick said. “I got to hear a lot of different blues bands and musicians like Ellen McIlwaine. There were only a handful of female musicians coming through. It was inspiring for me.”
Gaining an understanding of the roots of blues music at a young age, it didn’t take long for Vinnick to realize that classic rock from the likes of Led Zepplin, was “totally fed by blues music.”
“I was realizing I had kind of been listening to the blues, though I didn’t know it was the blues,” Vinnick said.
Vinnick said fellow singer-songwriters and musicians have provided her with a wealth of encouragement and support during her career. Among them, Tony Diteodoro of rock band MonkeyJunk.
“Nothing could deter me from doing music,” Vinnick said. “It has always been such a big part of what I do and how good it makes me feel. ... When Tony (Diteodoro) asked me to come play with him, I was working at a gas station and doing odd jobs. If he had not posed that opportunity for me, my life would probably be on a different path.”
Some of Vinnick’s songs have been in film and television and she has sung for some commercials.
“For five years, in Canada, I sang a jingle for Tim Horton’s, which is kind of like the Dunkin Donuts of Canada,” Vinnick said. “I’ve co-written with people. That’s not how I fully make my living. That’s mostly performing, but those bits and pieces really do help. ... When those opportunities come up, it’s a real blessing.”
At one point in Vinnick’s career, she was in seven different bands. These days, she mostly performs on her own and delves into doing blues programs in school settings, workshops and more.
“I don’t do a ton of teaching in music, but I do singing workshops and blues guitar workshops and songwriting workshops,” Vinnick said. “Music sales are very different now. You can’t count on that as a source of income as you could have ten years ago.”
Vinnick said her vocal range has simply come from “mostly doing it.” That is, singing songs from a wide variety of genres and influences. She has received three different Juno nominations in Canada. Two of her previous albums, “Happy Hear” and “Me ‘n’ Mabel” have each received Juno nominations.
“My latest album came out just over a year ago,” Vinnick said. “It’s called ‘Shake the Love Around.’ It’s kind of bluesy and funky and a little bit singer-songwriter. What I hoped to do on it was showcase my different voices as a singer, as songwriter, as a player.”
She plays almost all the guitar on it and all the electric bass on it. She plays some lap steel on it and she sings and does harmony, too.
“It’s songs I’ve written and co-written with people, with a few covers thrown in for good measure,” Vinnick said. “It’s getting a nice response. Especially in Europe.”
Vinnick has a couple of cats and she and her partner, James Dean, live in an 1880s brick church in the Canadian countryside.
“The Sunday School has been turned into a little bungalow,” Vinnick said. “The church is still kind of open. It’s pretty special having all that space.”