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Haitian American Idol Finalist: Su Charles

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Aside from having an exceptional voice, Charles has quite an inspiring story. The child of Haitian immigrants, Charles was born in Boston to a pastor and a school teacher. Raised in Long Island, New York, Charles began singing very early on in the church and by the time she was fifteen, she earned a spot with Grammy High School Jazz Ensemble as one of the only non performing arts school students.

Charles was invigorated by her experience with the Grammy ensemble and sought to pursue a life of singing. Dissuaded by her parents, she ended up going in another direction. "As with most immigrant families," she explains, "the American dream isn't really about following your dreams, but getting a good paying job and achieving stability. I ended up giving up and earned a bachelor's degree in nursing."

 

Well, not exactly in that order. Before she earned those credentials, she completed a degree in Exercise Science at La Sierra University and moved to Chicago with her husband Jodel for a short time. The couple later moved to Denver in 2006 when Jodel landed a job as a computer engineer in the Mile High City.

 

Before embarking on her nursing career, Su worked as a PT aid at National Jewish, but then decided to pursue nursing when she realized the physical therapy field was fairly saturated in Denver. After earning a nursing degree at Regis in its accelerated program, Su worked as a nurse at Craig until 2010.

 

That's when Su and Jodel, also the child of Haitian parents, headed to Haiti for nearly a month-long stint working as first responders after the tragic Haitian earthquake. Jodel's parents, both doctors who still live in Haiti, pleaded with the couple to bring medical supplies, and they of course obliged. 

 

While there, Su experienced the devastation first hand and began to contemplate the fragility and brevity of life. "The loss of life, sheer devastation broke my heart and changed me," Charles says of the epiphany that altered her course. "I realized life is too short for me not to be doing what I love."

 

And what she loves is singing. So with that notion in mind, she started heading in that direction. At first, she began performing at various benefits she and Jodel had organized through Renewal for Haiti, the non-profit the two co-founded. But then, after giving birth to her son Saël Arcani (literal translation: beyond destined for greatness) nearly a year ago, Charles actively began pursuing her passion in earnest.

 

In April, she gave X-Factor a go and made it through the early rounds before eventually being passed over for whatever reason (and they wonder why that show is struggling). A few months later, she attended the American Idol auditions at what was then Invesco Field and received a call back to the Aspen auditions, whereupon she earned a golden ticket to Hollywood with her rendition of "Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin. Evidently, she earned a nod from all three judges, Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.

 

"I told them I was the 'black Barbra Streisand,'" Charles recalls. "They were like, "Um... nah! More like Aretha Franklin, sweetie!' and then proceeded to give me three yeses! Definitely the highlight of my life."

 

Where she goes from here, of course, is anybody's guess. Regardless, Charles has the steely-eyed determination of somebody who's going to make her mark one way or another, with or without some television show. She's so determined, in fact, that's she taken a leap of faith and stepped away from nursing to completely devote her efforts to singing and making music full time.

 

To that end, in the time between her Aspen call back and this week's Hollywood rounds, she's enlisted a vocal coach, been actively working on recording an album and has already filming a pair of videos. So however this thing with Idol turns out, something tells us you'll be hearing a lot more from this talented young lady in the future.

 

Best Actress and Best Acting Debut American Idol Season 11 contestant Su Charles (better known as SuCh) is a singer with attitude, and she shows it in her upcoming debut album, Stretch Marks. “Life is beautiful, not pretty. What makes it worth living are those things that push, stretch us beyond our limits; those things that force us to grow in a short span of time. That’s where Stretch Marks comes from.”  

 

Sue recently won “Best Actress” at the 2013 Theater Awards on Broadway for The Color Purple. HB had the opportunity to have a little chat with Sue:

 

What/who got you into music?

 

I come from a very musical family.  I grew up listening to my parents play instruments as their hobbies.  (My Dad plays the sax and my Mom the clarinet. ) Both of my older sisters also sing (I'm the youngest).  So growing up I heard them sing at church (My father is a Pastor). My sisters would order music every week (remember BMG CD catalogs??) and I would eat it allll up. So 80s and 90s music is in the fabric of who I am. Music was always a part of my life for as far back as I can remember.

 

HB- What's your parents background and were they part of any band since they were musicians?

 

SC- My parents are from Haiti. My dad is a pastor, mom is an early childhood educator, no band

 

HB- How would you describe yourself as an artist?

 

SC- I would say that I'm a storyteller, I get that from my mother.  She is a teacher (a reading specialist) and has always had the incredible knack of storytelling.  I'm glad that a fraction of that gift seeped into me.

 

HB- What drives your style?

 

SC- Honesty. And telling stories from a place of vulnerability and personal experiences. Right now I would say my sound and the music I select / write, incorporates a lot of different genres that I am drawn to mixed with soul.  As long as it stays true to who i am, I'm cool singing it.  

 

HB- How do you think you differ from other artists?

 

SC- I'm a late bloomer. All my life I knew I wanted to sing but never believed I could make a career out of it. So I pursued other careers that all involved making a difference in people's lives (physical therapy, nursing, OBGYN, etc) but since 2012 I've decided that nothing makes me happier than singing and at all my shows I realized by interacting with fans afterwards that I'm still making a difference, just with my voice this time. My music draws from a wealth of life experiences I'm now also a mother, which definitely added depth and a different dimension to who I am as a person and artist.

 

HB- Musical influences?

 

Aretha, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Zhané.  I loved nineties R&B growing up. Also the neo soul movement so Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, etc... 

 

HB- Main issues I think are confronting young women 

 

SC- Body image.  In my first album "Stretch Marks" I discuss that there is beauty in imperfection and to love oneself just as you are.  

 

* Stretch Marks was released in May 2012 and is available for purchase on my website http://iamsuch.com/store-2 and iTunes at https://itun.es/us/lm8sF

 

HB- I see pictures from Haiti on your Facebook page, tell me a little bit more about that visit?

 

SC- The pictures on my FB page was of a trip to Haiti with my non profit to install solar panels on a hospital that is being rebuilt.  I am Haitian-American and have a non-profit/501c3 called Renewal 4 Haiti.  Learn more and contribute and http://renewal4haiti.org

 

HB- Tell us about Sugar Maple?

 

SC- Sugar maple is the leading single off my upcoming album due to be released in the Spring of 2014. The music video was filmed in Long Beach CA and directed by Damon Jamal, released on 11-12-13. 

 

The song itself peaked at #1 for three consecutive weeks on the UK Soul Charts and is currently in rotation on Sirius XM, V103 Chicago, Music Choice, etc. 

 

* Sugar Maple is available for purchase ok iTunes at https://itun.es/us/zncLM

 

HB- What else are you up to?

 

In addition to singing, I had my acting debut as Celie in the Color Purple in the Spring of 2013. It earned me a Henry Award for best actress (http://www.iamsuch.com/2013/11/11/henry-award-for-outstanding-lead-actress/) and two Broadway World Awards. I've been in two different productions since at the Denver Center of the Arts and just filmed my first full length commercial for Honda. (I was featured in the McDonalds spot last year - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXM-cegXZfM)

 

HB- What's the most important item in your music collection?

 

SC- That's a tough question because there are so many prized possessions in my music collection.  Okay, I'm going to say probably the Lion King soundtrack.  I know that sounds silly, but I remember watching that movie and being so moved by the music.  Anytime I pop in that soundtrack it transports me back to being 9, and I'm still moved by it. 

 

HB- What's the last song you listened to?

 

SC- A song that I'm working on for my next album.  I'm living, eating, breathing my music right now!  

 

HB- Who do you think the most influential artist in R&B is?

 

SC-  I would say Beyonce, but only if she is still considered R&B.  

 

HB- What's your guilty pleasure?

 

SC- I'm totally into the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise! Don't judge me lol

 

HB- What's in the pipeline?

 

SC- MORE MUSIC!!! Yes, my sophomore album will be dropping real soon, so stay tuned.  It's gonna be hot, I'm super excited about it, and hope y'all will love it too :)

 

HB- Any Final Shout-Outs?

 

SC- i I want to give a shout out to all of my friends and family who have been extremely supportive through everything! To all my fans, I am nothing without you! To my band and my background vocalists, love you guys and let's keep pressing forward! tHANK YOU HAITIANBEATZ #TEAMSUCH!!!

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