This month, we caught up with singer, songwriter, and performer Susan Greenbaum.
These days, when folks want to break into the entertainment industry, they might shoot for the spotlight on a TV show like The Voice or America’s Got Talent. But Richmond favorite Susan Greenbaum took a slightly different route. The petite songstress graduated from Harvard with a BA in English and American literature. After that, she worked as an executive at a Fortune 500 company.
Born and raised outside Kansas City, Susan says she has been performing forever, but it took her a while to commit what she calls the first sin of musicians everywhere: quitting her day job!
“I did always know that I would perform, because I’d always performed. I’d like to say that I knew I would do it professionally, but I’m not sure that’s true. I wanted to perform professionally, but it’s such an odd career choice that my business path seemed a lot more sensible and plausible,” Susan says.
Having discovered over the years that the entertaining world has a wide range of options, “between singing karaoke and being Beyoncé,” Susan offers, “I’m somewhere on that continuum – definitely closer to the karaoke side than the Beyoncé side! But I do write my own songs, and I have recorded five CDs and sold several thousand copies.”
You may have caught Susan performing last month with Robbin Thompson, Donna Meade, and a little band called The Richmond Symphony at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. Another career highlight was a tour with Jewel in 2004, and a CD release concert for This Life at Carpenter Theatre a few years back. As a member of the Susan Greenbaum Band, Susan’s husband of ten years, drummer/percussionist Chris Parker, was already there. But one out-of-town guest made the show especially memorable for the singer.
“One of my brothers flew in with his girlfriend, just to see our show. Knowing that they made all that effort, just to see our concert, was totally uplifting, and I was so thrilled that they got to see us perform in such a beautiful and impressive venue – and that they saw a very respectably-sized audience show up for the concert, too!” And an added bonus? “They were able to report back to the rest of my family, my parents included, that I really am a professional musician!”
When it comes to sharing words of wisdom for future performers, Susan has some solid advice for anyone interested in musical performance.
“Learn how to read music and play an instrument, be prepared to work really hard, and stay in good physical shape – because performance is a very physical job, from schlepping all the equipment to playing for several hours in a row.” And finally, Susan says, “Don’t smoke, and always remember that you can do anything you want to do. Don’t let anyone tell you not to pursue music as a career if music performance is your passion. You can do it!”
Keep reading to learn more about musical powerhouse and Richmond folk rocker Susan Greenbaum.
Mountains or beach?
Dogs or cats?
Yes! I’ve never had a dog, and I’m relatively new to being a cat person, but I adore both dogs and cats.
What book is on your nightstand right now?
Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins
If you were stranded on a desert island, what food would you want to grow on trees?
Same island – what’s the one tech gadget you would want with you?
Laptop computer with WiFi.
What’s the last live performance – musical, play, or concert – you attended in Richmond?
The Oberon String Quartet fall concert, which was part of Daniel Pearl Music Days.
Favorite Richmond restaurant with family?
Anokha, or Zorba’s, or Mamma Zu… I can’t pick one restaurant, because I am a very good eater!
What is your favorite way to spend a rainy Sunday?
Watching golf on TV, which is code in my family for “napping.”
What is your favorite vacation spot?
I have been on only two bona fide vacations in my life: one on a tiny island in Florida; and one in the Outer Banks. I’d like to see what a vacation in Italy would be like!
What is your energy source?
I draw great energy from being around other people – especially enthusiastic people who are passionate about what they do! I also draw great energy from being around little kids, because they have energy to burn, and burn it they do.
Favorite Richmond outing?
I love wandering through Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden at all times of the year. I also enjoy doing the same thing at Maymont. But I also love wandering aimlessly through Carytown and downtown – which just gets more awesome every day.
Finish this sentence: “The absolute best thing about performing for kids and families is…”
Seeing parents and kids dancing and singing along, with smiles on their faces, fully engaged with each other as they share the joy of music – and knowing that I’m the one who has the luxury and honor of providing that music!
Readers will be surprised to know…
…that I’m a very good cook! And I also have an oddly good color sense!