Q & A   ::   Susie Pepper

Susie Pepper and Mixology
Susie Pepper and Mixology

Susie Pepper: Vocal Performing Artist ~ Maine Idol 2008 ~ Miss Maine 2009

Debuting “Songs of Celine and Barbra” with Mixology, Deertrees Theatre, Friday, July 29, 7:30 pm

Interview questions by Gail Phaneuf, Deertrees’ Artistic and Executive Director ~ Content produced by McGrath PR ~ mcgrathpr.com

Performing Artist Susie Pepper is a Maine native, courtesy image

Q: Did you train to be a singer?  How did you get your start?

A: I did not train to be a singer! Well, not in the traditional way. I grew up singing in the choir at church which inadvertently demonstrated how to harmonize, blend with other vocal parts, and read music. Around age 10 I started cantering at mass which helped hone my solo skills and overcome the fear of singing alone. I also sang in community theater and in the car, until my friends needed a singer for their group and I thought, “Why not?”! 

Q: How did winning Miss Maine affect your  singing career?

A: Being Miss Maine was a huge help in my performance career. Traveling around the state and singing at so many events prepared me for every type of performance. Whether it was a singalong at a children’s hospital, the National Anthem at a Red Sox game or a fundraising show, I had to be ready to sing at each event. I became very intuitive at foreseeing what would work for each situation. Participating in Miss America was so exciting as well! I am so grateful to have experienced that level of pressure and be able to thrive. 

Q: Did you aspire to go to Los Angeles or Broadway?  Have you ever played a major role in a musical?

A: Honestly, I didn’t expect singing and performing to become my career. I enjoyed performing but never had a plan to try and “make it”. It was always a dream to be on Broadway, but I figured that was out of reach for a small-town girl from Gray, Maine! Broadway seemed like this otherworldly place. Looking back, I think it would have been amazing to try! I do love community theater. I credit my mom with forcing me to perform in Godspell when I was in a tween just when I really started to love to perform. Windham Center Stage Theater gave me so many early opportunities to perform. I played the narrator in Joseph, Julia in The Wedding Singer, Lady Larkin in Once Upon a Mattress, and Mrs. Jefferson in 1776, along with variety shows and a ton of ensemble parts at Point Sebago Resort. 

Q: What is your favorite music to sing?  Do you have a favorite performer that you love to emulate?

A: I love so many different types of music, it usually depends on my mood. I love to belt out some Whitney and Beyoncé but also love singing Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sara Bareilles, and other standards from the ‘40s and ‘50s. I think that is why I love Celine Dion – she does it all so effortlessly and I aspired to do the same. 

A: Developing a show with music by two divas like Celine and Barbra is always going to be difficult because there are too many great songs! Like any show, I wanted to make sure there was a good balance of ballads and showstoppers. This biggest hurdle, of course, is writing the musician charts to ensure a streamlined show. Our band Mixology’s music director is Kelly Muse. I can’t stress enough how important he and the other musicians are in making these shows successful. Kelly has spent hours writing charts and makes sure we make the shows great! 

Q: What do you love about performing at Deertrees Theatre?

A: Deertrees Theatre has been so good to me and Mixology over the years. The building is so unique and the community never fails to come out and support us for each show. We love performing there and hope to perform many more shows in the future! 

Q: Share some thoughts on the successful podcast “Diaries of a Wedding Singer” that you co-produce. 

A: The podcast! What a wild ride that has been! It was my twin sister, Ali, who started the ball rolling. She too is in a wedding band out in Milwaukee, and one day said, “We always talk about the crazy things that happen during our gigs, why don’t we just press record?” I loved the idea and we’ve been recording since last year. I love having a record of what we’ve seen and heard, it really is a live diary! If anything, it will be hilarious for our kids to listen to later in life.

Susie Pepper with Mixology, courtesy image

Q: How long have you performed with Mixology?  How did you meet Bandleader Kelly Muse?

A: I have been performing with Mixology since 2008. We began as the house band for Point Sebago Resort performing on the beach for guests. One year, the resort produced a “comedy wedding” – a wedding-themed dinner theater that featured us as the band. It was an absolute blast! A couple at a show asked, “Hey, do you want to play our real wedding?” The rest is history! Kelly and I have been friends since the beginning of our Point Sebago era, he’s a major factor in making Mixology so successful. Singers always receive the most attention because we are front and center, but I wouldn’t be half as successful without every musician on that stage, especially Kelly. They are more than friends – I love them like brothers. 

A: Starting over is hard! I will always miss the ease of a ready-made fan base and the fans that I count on in the audience. It will take time to get to know the music scene in North Carolina, but I’m up for the challenge! I’m excited to grow our audience in our new state while continuing to perform in Maine. 

Q: What do you want to share with the audience of your debuting show, Celine and Barbra?

A: When I first considered developing a Celine/Barbra show I receive a lot of raised eyebrows, gasps, and comments like, “Do you really think you can do it?” and “That’s very ambitious.” I took that as a huge challenge and a chance to push myself to a new vocal achievement. I never dreamed that I’d get the opportunity to sing these songs, there aren’t many chances to perform My Heart Will Go On at weddings! We’ll have special guests as well, including Violinist Ashley Liberty and Leon Griesbach, who will be assuming the role of Andrea Bocelli for the night. 

This is the most vocally challenging show I’ve ever performed, nothing else comes close. It’s the Super Bowl of diva shows, and yes, you’re not going to want to miss it! 

Maine Idol winner and Miss Maine 2009 Susie Pepper and Mixology present a one-of-a-kind concert, featuring the songs of Celine Dion and Barbara Streisand that will soar to the star-filled sky over Deertrees.  The performance features Mixology bandleader K. Kelly Muse on vocals and keys.  A dynamic and highly sought-after vocalist, Susie was previously featured as soloist in Portland Symphony Orchestra’s Magic of Christmas series and other concerts, as well as more intimate events with The Susie Pepper Quartet jazz combo. Sponsored by Macdonald Motors and Norway Savings Bank.

Vocalist Susie Pepper and Mixology debut “Songs of Celine and Barbra” on Friday, July 29, 7:30 pm at Deertrees Theatre.  Tickets are $34.  For tickets or more information, visit deertrees-theatre.org, email gail@deertrees.org, call 207-583-6747 or follow Deertrees Theatre on Facebook and Instagram. Ticket prices include a $2 Heritage Fee that supports the ongoing restoration and improvements of Deertrees Theatre.

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