Every now and then an artist arrives on the scene and captures your attention not withpyrotechnics, high fashion or cutting edge technology but with an honest voice, an open heart,and songs that touch your soul. SUSAN JUSTICE just might be one of those rare artists whocan speak to a generation. On her debut album Eat Dirt, soon to be released on CapitolRecords/Kite Records, Justice delivers a collage of emotionally resonant songs that are deeplypersonal and reflective, but at the same time connect with anyone who's ever tried to figure outwho they are and where they belong. Eat Dirt is an inspiring story of survival and a wild joyfulride that puts a smile on your face in these most difficult of times.
Justice's story is an unusual one. She was raised by itinerant parents who were members of areligious sect known as The Family. Susan, the second oldest of ten kids, spent her childhoodand teen years on the road with her parents and siblings, performing music on the streets all overthe world. During the course of their travels, the family slept everywhere from a van parked in alot in Germany, to a train station bench in Italy, to a city bus renovated by Justice's father andparked on the street in New York City. "We would drive around for hours looking for a parkingspace for the night," she recalls. "Sometimes we would stay for a few months, but most of thetime, it was a new town every few days."
Justice's parents were strict about their children not consuming anything that wasn't sanctionedby The Family. So in her teens Justice had to hide her books, magazines and music, secretlydevouring albums by Alanis Morissette, Tracy Chapman, Joan Osborne, Prince, The Fugees,Nirvana, etc. Justice was inspired hearing other artists tell their stories through their music.
One day, Justice impulsively decided to strike out on her own. She ran away from her familyand hid in the subway. She watched in amazement as people piled onto the crowded subwaycars. She noticed a pan handler singing for his supper. In short order she was doing much thesame, busking in the subway, drawing large appreciative crowds, and often earning as much as$500 a day. "I felt really connected to people singing in the subway," she says. "It was amazingto play by myself for a change. That's when I really began to blossom as a songwriter." With themoney she earned playing in the subway, Justice recorded a CD and began to sell her music.
In 2007, she released The Subway Recordings -under her given name Susan Cagle-, which wascompiled from two live sets she had performed in Times Square and Grand Central Station. Thefollowing year, Spin Doctors' drummer Aaron Comess caught her act at a club and introducedher to veteran artist manager David Sonenberg -The Fugees, John Legend and the Black EyedPeas- who set Justice up with songwriter/producer Toby Gad -BeyoncÃ©, Fergie, Alicia Keys- andadvised her to write songs about her life. And that's exactly what she did. Toby and Susan wroteand performed every song on the Eat Dirt LP.
"Toby was like my psychiatrist," Justice says. "Because at that time, I was kind of homeless. Ireally didn't know what I was doing with my life. Toby made me dig deep to write about what Iwas feeling. Getting in touch with those feelings was the real breakthrough for me. Toby set meon the path to writing songs that gave people a window into my personal story."
"Susan is a real artist who can do it all," Gad says. "She can simply pick up a guitar andcommand your attention. She moves you to tears of joy and somehow makes you want to standup and cheer. I love her honesty, vulnerability, and inner beauty."
The first song Justice and Gad wrote together was "I Wonder," which Justice calls a magical taleakin to Alice in Wonderland, an empowering journey where Justice questions those who tried totell her how to think and feel. On the title track "Eat Dirt," Justice acknowledges that you mayhave to eat a little dirt in order to learn some hard lessons. But you come out stronger on theother side. On "Bob Dylan" Justice expresses the elation she felt when she realized that shecould be open about her past rather than run away from it.
"I've had a hard time expressing myself because I had so many secrets about my life," she says."It's a relief to engage with people, to attempt to communicate how you are feeling, even ifyou're not the most eloquent person." Justice takes a lighter tone on the upbeat love song "PaperPlanes" and the playful "Forbidden Fruits," which not only describes her delight at theunpredictable adventure of life in New York City, but also cements the album's theme offreedom. According to Justice, "curiosity didn't kill the cat. It saved the cat!"
Although the songs chronicle some of the heavier things Justice has faced, it's clear that she hastriumphed over all her adversities. "My past has made me who I am today. And for that I'mgrateful. I've survived and I'm feeling positive and creative. I'm looking ahead, notbackwards."